The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said Wednesday it was investigating whether or not a fundraising video made by Alex Villanueva, and apparently sent to Sheriff's Department deputies, had violated campaign finance laws.
"The video has come to our attention," DA's office director of communications Tiffiny Blacknell said in a short statement.
"We take this matters seriously and it is currently under review. A formal investigation by our PID unit has been initiated. We cannot comment further at this time," Blacknell's statement said.
PID refers to the DA's office Public Integrity Division, which investigates political issues and allegations of wrongoing among public officials.
Villanueva later released the following statement to NBCLA:
"Our campaign team has worked diligently to run an effective campaign in compliance with all applicable laws. To date, we have no official communication from the DA. We will work with the DA’s office to address any concerns they may have."
Sheriff's policy prohibits employees from soliciting political contributions, and state law makes it illegal for government employees of any state or local agency from soliciting political contributions.
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Two deputies, who were not authorized to speak to reporters, confirmed that they had either received or had seen the message, one of which included a URL for a fundraising webpage.
The video, which is less than one minute long, was first shared publicly by LA Times reporter Alene Tchekmedyian November 4.
In it, Villanueva said he was calling on his employees to give him money for his reelection campaign.
"This message is for deputies," Villanueva begins.
"Four years ago I got the endorsement of ALADS and they created an indepenedent expenditure committee and spent a significant sum that supported my historic election," he said, referring to the union that represents most LASD deputies that spent more than $1-million on Villanueva's 2018 campaign.
In the 2022 campaign ALADS did not create an independent expenditure committee, and according to campaign finance documents, the union has donated $1,500 to Villanueva.
"Which means they've left the membership high and dry, and me to the fate of fighting George Soros and Jeff Katzenberg all by myself," he said in the video clip.
Then Villanueva asks deputies for donations.
"If you want to help, anything will help us get our message out there, get our ads online."
"I'll leave it up to you, any donation is great, 20 bucks, all the way up to 15-hundred bucks, your choice," Villanueva said.