Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Angelides Campaign Gaffe Appropriately Highlighted By Michael Finnegan

L.A. Times political writer Michael Finnegan very appropriately points out in a story today that State Treasurer Phil Angelides' gubernatorial campaign "hit the shoals," to quote the headline, when staff members, apparently without his knowledge, circulated a tape of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger making racially off color remarks that they had obtained through sneaky means from the governor's Web site.

Finnegan said the Angelides campaign was "reeling" from the uproar over the tape and went on with the campaign's rather lame excuse. When things go wrong in a campaign, and impropriety becomes manifest, the candidates often blame it on the staff. But it is hard to believe Angelides could have been so stupid as to generate these leaks himself.

As a political writer for the L.A. Times, I found on numerous occasions that campaign shenanigans were major stories, with their fallout often overcoming any positive impressions of the candidate. Truly embarrassing information fascinates the public, and these stories are among the best read of the often humdrum political coverage.

To give just a few examples:

1--When then Los Angeles City Councilman Arthur Snyder circulated letters to Democrats the day before the election, claiming he was more liberal than his GOP primary opponent, Assemblyman Newton Russell, after claiming publicly for weeks that he was more conservative than Russell, the trickery formed the basis for a front page story I had the day of the election. Poor Arthur lost by a few hundred votes.

2--Alan Robbins took a hit, and his winning margin fell, in what should have been a one-sided 1973 State Senate special election after his opponent divulged that Robbins' campaign had plagiarized a letter from Joseph P. Kennedy to John F. Kennedy during a 1946 congressional run, reprinting the same letter, in the same format, as coming from Robbins' father to him. The Times ran this story prominently on Page 3, picturing both letters. Robbins blamed it on his staff, but this was the beginning of various lamentable acts which finally landed Robbins in federal prison at the end of his political career.

3--Donald Segretti's antics on behalf of Richard Nixon to sabotage the 1972 McGovern campaign for President, when revealed in the newspapers, came back to haunt Nixon during the Watergate scandal. I interviewed Segretti, who turned out to be a naive and unscrupulous young man, which the Nixon campaign should never have hired.

4--Sen. Joseph McCarthy, during his heyday, was shown to have falsified a picture of Democratic Sen. Millard Tydings of Maryland in 1950 to make it seem like he was standing next to Earl Browder, the head of the American Communist party. The picture hurt Tydings, but later, when the trickery was revealed, also McCarthy, who died, prematurely, a drunk. I was not in on this one.

5--One of the most devastating stories I ever wrote ran way back in Section Two, and concerned Malcolm Mackey, then a municipal court judge running for a superior court judgeship in Los Angeles. When I was tipped off by an attorney representing Filipinos in L.A. that Mackey had gotten a young woman pregnant, but rather than pay child support, had gotten the INS to deport her to the Philippines, I went to see Mackey about it, without a tape recorder. Well into the interview, however, I heard a click and discovered that Mackey was tape recording our conversation. I demanded the tape and when I transcribed it was able to quote Mackey as saying, "If this woman had been white, this never would have happened." As I say, the story did not run prominently, but from then on Mackey's campaign sunk like a rock. He was not elected then, and he did not finally make it to the Superior Court for a decade.

Now, in the Schwarzenegger case, yes, the governor was embarrassed when he appeared to have made a racial remark in a closed door session with his executive secretary, Susan Kennedy, but the more lasting fallout may hit the Angelides campaign.

Congratulations to Finnegan for writing a telling story about the episode.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's Finnegan.

9/13/2006 8:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ken - I guess you've finally come to accept Arnold's victory (and probable re-election). You wrote an entire post without calling Schwarzenegger a Nazi!


9/15/2006 10:29 AM  

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