Los Angeles District Attorney Ira Reiner announced today that he does not have enough evidence to pursue a political corruption charge against Rep. Bobbi Fiedler (R-Calif.) and will not oppose her attorneys' motion for dismissal.
But the delight among supporters of the three-term member of Congress and her campaign for the U.S. Senate was muted by Reiner's insistence that he will follow through on charges against Fiedler's top aide and fiance, Paul Clarke.
Clarke is accused in an indictment of offering Republican state Sen. Ed Davis $100,000 to withdraw from the U.S. Senate race.
"I am absolutely perplexed at why they are continuing with this thing," Fiedler said in an interview from Washington. "You've got two innocent people here. I am absolutely perplexed that they are still wasting the people's money."
Reiner told reporters that his office "will not oppose the motion to dismiss, simply because the evidence [against Fiedler] is not sufficient."
His office had originally recommended that a county grand jury indict Clarke but not Fiedler. After several votes, the grand jurors ignored the recommendation and charged both with violating an obscure state law that carries a maximum three-year prison sentence.
John Yzurdiaga, an attorney for Clarke, said the decision not to prosecute Fiedler is no surprise because secret tape recordings of her conversations with Davis' campaign manager, Martha Zilm, showed that Fiedler made no offer of any kind.
Yzurdiaga said that, even without Reiner's help, he thinks that he can persuade Superior Court Judge Robert T. Altman to dismiss charges against Clarke.
Although Clarke can be heard on the tapes offering Fiedler's help in retiring Davis' $100,000 campaign debt, "all the guy is talking about is an endorsement" of Fiedler's campaign in return, not an offer to drop from the race, the attorney said.
In court papers filed Tuesday, attorneys Yzurdiaga and Herbert Steinberg argue that Clarke thought that Davis had already decided to drop out of the crowded Republican primary when Clarke began discussions with Zilm, who cooperated with prosecutors and carried a recording device.
The attorneys also cited an opinion by Steven R. Ross, general counsel to the clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, asserting that federal election law preempts state law in U.S. Senate races and that Reiner had no right to use the state law.
Reiner, in an interview, said his staff thinks that the federal law allows state intervention in bribery cases. He said Clarke knew the deal was for Davis to drop out of the race, not merely endorse Fiedler, because Zilm said so on the tapes.