The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN H. PRATT
Before the Court are plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, and defendants Soon Kojima, Bank of Trade, and Topanga Plaza Limited Partnership's motions for summary judgment. Each of these motions seeks to establish a claim on the interpleader funds currently held in the Registry of the Court.
For the reasons cited herein, the Court denies plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and grants in part the motions of Bank of Trade, Soon Kojima, and Topanga Plaza Limited Partnership.
This action arises from the complaint in interpleader filed by plaintiff, The 1992 Republican Senate-House Dinner Committee ("1992 Committee"), claiming ownership of $ 500,000 in political contributions received by plaintiff from Michael Kojima and International Marketing Bureau, Ltd. ("IMB").
Defendants are various purported judgment creditors of Kojima who allege superior rights to the monies in question.
The 1992 Committee is an unincorporated association registered with the Federal Election Commission ("FEC") and established to solicit and collect political contributions for the 1992 election campaign. During 1992, plaintiff solicited money nationally, including in California where the interpleader funds originated. The 1992 Committee conducts no ongoing business at this time and continues in existence solely to adjudicate matters such as this action.
During the campaign, Michael Kojima was approached repeatedly by the 1992 Committee between March and May 1992. Part of plaintiff's solicitation strategy involved holding fundraising dinners at which large donors were seated in close proximity to major Republican officeholders. The then Republican president and vice president were scheduled to attend one such dinner on April 28, 1992.
In March 1992, the 1992 Committee received two $ 200,000 checks drawn on the bank account of IMB, a corporation of which Michael Kojima is president and one of three officers. As a result of these donations, Mr. Kojima was listed on the dinner invitations as a sponsor of the April 28th presidential dinner. See Bank of Trade, Ex. 11, p.9. Also as a result of these donations, Michael Kojima was notified by facsimile on April 20, 1992, that he would be seated at the Vice President's table and would be able to bring 23 guests who would sit at three private tables. Bank of Trade, Ex. 5. The 1992 Committee facsimile listed the donations of each contributor at the main tables and indicated that Michael Kojima was the highest contributor who would not be seated at the President's table.
The flurry of notices to contributors like Michael Kojima exhorted them to increase donations. Kojima, apparently taking the notices to heart, contributed another $ 100,000 to the 1992 Committee via a personal check dated April 22, 1992.
Michael Kojima then qualified to sit at the President's table. It is undisputed that the monetary value of the dinner was nominal in comparison to the contribution. Attendees received no other monetary consideration for their contributions.
Prior to the dinner there appeared to be some, but not much, concern within the 1992 Committee as to the source of Kojima's funds.
The director of the Dinner Committee telephoned Kojima and relayed these concerns and questioned what his occupation was. Although it appeared from California records that Kojima's only business was as a restaurateur, the 1992 Committee accepted without verification Kojima's statements that he was involved in international marketing and the organizing of telecommunications consortiums. Bank of Trade Ex. 12.
More damaging information came to light in May 1992 when a Los Angeles Times article noted that Kojima was the biggest contributor at the April 28th dinner. See Bank of Trade, Ex. 9. The article continued:
Id. This interpleader action was instituted that same month.
Defendant Soon Kojima was twice married to Michael Kojima. Their first marriage ended in divorce in 1978,
while their second marriage lasted from 1984 to 1990. Soon Kojima claims that she loaned her husband $ 100,000 in late 1989 with the understanding that the loan was necessary for a business venture and that it would be repaid by February 1, 1990.
On August 3, 1990, the Clark County Nevada District Court entered a judgment dissolving the second marriage and ordering payment of $ 100,000 plus interest and child support. Kojima Ex. 2. This Nevada judgment was registered in California but remains unsatisfied.
In her counterclaim, defendant Soon Kojima seeks $ 100,000 under the Nevada judgment and $ 22,300 in total child support owing under both judgments.
Defendant Bank of Trade, a California bank, also lays claim to the disputed funds presently controlled by the 1992 Committee. On December 31, 1990, the Superior Court of California granted Bank of Trade a creditor's judgment in the amount of $ 586,000 against Michael Kojima. Bank of Trade seeks to have its state judgment accorded full faith and credit and to have its claim given priority over the claim of the 1992 Committee.
Defendant Topanga Plaza Limited Partnership ("Topanga"), a California partnership, is also a judgment creditor of Michael Kojima. Topanga's claim stems from a creditor's judgment issued by the Superior Court of California on January 6, 1989. That state judgment was in the amount of $ 119,975.81.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) permits a court to grant summary judgment when the evidence in the record shows that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).
A. Application of Fraudulent Conveyance statutes to Political Organization
The Court deals initially with the constitutional issues posed by plaintiff. The 1992 Committee argues that because its fundraising activities are designed to support political candidates, "the First Amendment has its 'fullest and most urgent application'" in the case at bar. Plaintiff's opposition, p. 14 (citing Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 15, 46 L. Ed. 2d 659, 96 S. Ct. 612 (1976)). While the Court recognizes that fundraising is needed for the effective dissemination of a political message, we conclude that fraudulent conveyance statutes do not significantly impinge on the right to free speech and no heightened showing is ...