Three-time Congressional candidate Justin Fareed is once again taking aim at his opponent, U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, calling on the congressman to return $20,000 in donations from a political action committee currently chaired by a Los Angeles lawmaker accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl.
Carbajal said he won’t return the money, saying the committee is associated with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, of which he is a member.
The freshman Congressman will face off for the second time against Santa Barbara businessman Fareed on Nov. 6, two years after Carbajal defeated the Republican and seven other candidates to succeed longtime 24th Congressional District Rep. Lois Capps.
Fareed’s campaign issued a press release Wednesday calling on Carbajal to return donations totaling $20,000, accepted in June 2015 and March 2017 from the BOLD PAC, the fundraising arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
The BOLD PAC currently lists 31 congressional members on its website. The committee has a decision-making board of directors and a rotating chairmanship, Carbajal said Thursday.
Its current chairman, U.S. Rep. Tony Cardenas of San Fernando Valley, is facing a civil lawsuit filed by a young woman who alleges she was sexually assaulted by Cardenas in 2007.
According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, the unnamed woman alleges that she collapsed after drinking a cup of ice water Cardenas gave her during a golf tournament and awoke to him fondling her while driving her to an emergency room.
Cardenas has strongly denied the allegations. His attorney said the young woman “may be the victim of manipulation” by a parent who is also a “disgruntled former employee.”
Fareed called the allegations “credible” in his news release.
“The bottom line is that accepting funds from BOLD PAC shows Salud’s tolerance of the alleged despicable acts committed by its chairman,” Fareed’s campaign wrote.
While he would not comment on the civil case against his Democratic colleague, Carbajal said any allegations against a member of Congress “needs to be fully investigated, and if the evidence shows that such crimes have been committed, that person should no longer be a member of Congress.”
“Including Mr. Cardenas, in this case,” he added.
Carbajal took issue with Fareed’s premise, saying the BOLD PAC raises money to support a diverse House of Representatives.
“This is not an individual PAC. The goal is to promote diversity and focus on the Latino community,” Carbajal said. “When you consider this important time in history when the president demagogues and goes after the Latino community, it’s more important than ever to ensure we have Latino representatives in Congress, and I am proud to be one of those individuals.”
Carbajal also noted his early support of a bill currently hung up in the Senate to require that members of Congress reimburse taxpayers for sexual harassment damages or assault settlement awards.
Austin Stukins, Fareed’s campaign manager, said “Cardenas is the power behind Bold PAC’s rise and key to Dems’ hopes for re-taking the House this year.”
“Though Bold PAC might state that diversity is their mission, they are donating and supporting two California Dems who are not Latino,” Stukins added. “They’re clearly partisan, and it’s naïve to think Cardenas isn’t pulling the strings.”
This is not the first time Fareed has accused Carbajal of poor moral standards for his acceptance of campaign contributions. In June, Fareed accused Carbajal of being “funded by a Nazi collaborator” for taking a $1,000 donation in 2017 from Jonathan Soros, son of Democratic mega donor George Soros.
In February, Fareed’s campaign falsely accused Carbajal of accepting $7,500 in “oil and gas money” after The Tribune published an article about Fareed’s family ties to the industry.
But Fareed has accepted campaign donations directly from a lawmaker currently facing criminal accusations. In March 2015 and February 2016, Fareed accepted a total of $6,500 from the individual political action committees of San Diego U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, who was indicted in August for allegedly misusing campaign funds for personal expenses.
Stukins on Thursday wouldn’t answer whether Fareed will return Hunter’s donations but called any comparison between allegations against Hunter and Cardenas “absurd” and “pure whataboutism.”
The 24th Congressional District includes San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, as well as a slice of northern Ventura County.