Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Republican Nomination, California Attorney General
STEVE COOLEY is our choice for the Republican nomination for attorney general.
This newspaper has not always seen eye-to-eye with the county’s chief prosecutor. In fact, we sued him a few years ago. Cooley’s investigators raided our newspaper office pursuant to a search warrant that failed to comply with a federal statute and was, all-around, a mistake. The case was settled in our favor, with Cooley making changes to the office manual to prevent any such missteps in the future.
We were plenty sore about the intrusion when it happened. However, even if we were still gritting our teeth—and we’re not—we would favor Cooley over his two rivals for the GOP nod.
The truth of the matter is that we know of no other major blunders on the part of the DA during his nine-plus years in office. He runs an efficient, organized office; he has been innovative and dedicated to his job. He was in the vanguard in use of DNA evidence and utilization of other cutting-edge technology, and was on the right track in devising the Public Integrity Division which has uncovered—and prosecuted, with a near-perfect score—corruption in local government.
Contrasted with this outstanding district attorney, who runs a law office with about 1,000 attorneys, are his two competitors: a politician and a former law school dean.
Their antics in the opening days of the campaign have demonstrated that neither possesses the integrity expected of the state’s chief law enforcement officer.
TOM HARMAN is a state senator from Orange County and a former assemblyman.
•He has never been a prosecutor.
Prosecutorial experience is most certainly helpful to an AG, though not essential. As Harman points out on his website, Attorney General George Deukmejian (who went on to become governor) had a background in the Legislature, as did AG Dan Lungren; neither had been a prosecutor.
Our response to Harman is to paraphrase a retort in a vice presidential debate of a few years ago: Senator, you are no George Deukmejian.
It’s not just that Harman hasn’t been a prosecutor; what is most telling is that he has sought to dupe voters into thinking that he presently is one. Brazenly, he submitted the ballot designation of “prosecutor/attorney/senator.”
It is true that he is a senator. Under an administrative regulation, Harman may list himself as an “attorney” if he is an active member of the State Bar—which he is—even if he doesn’t practice law for a living. That regulation might well contravene the Election Code requirement of listing an honest-to-gosh “principal” profession, vocation, or occupation, but there’s no need to delve into that now. The plain fact is that Harman’s claim to being a “prosecutor” was a bare-faced lie.
He sought to justify the designation on the ground that he had enrolled earlier this year in the Orange County Trial Attorney Partnership under which he would perform volunteer prosecutorial chores on Fridays, over an eight-week period. So far, all he had done was undergo some training. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Allen H. Sumner on April 1 ordered that the designation be disallowed, declaring:
“It’s fairly easy to say you can’t claim ‘prosecutor’ as one of your principal occupations, at least until you’ve tried a case.”
Actually, even if Harman had tried a case as of the time he filed his nominating papers, the title of “prosecutor” would have been inappropriate. We’re talking about a program involving short-lived, part-time service as an unpaid volunteer. In 1994, the Court of Appeal held that then-state Sen. Robert Presley could not be listed as “Senator/Peace Officer” in running for the Board of Equalization. The court said that “fatal” to Presley’s claim to being a peace officer “is the fact that the nature of his position as a reserve deputy sheriff is such that, unlike full-time or part-time deputy sheriffs, Presley will never be compensated for his service.” In light of that, the opinion declares, “the position lacks one of the critical hallmarks of a profession, vocation or occupation.”
Harman’s ballot designation will be “Attorney/Senator.”
•He has engaged in blatant campaign deceit.
The state senator responded on Feb. 21 to Cooley’s recent entry into the race with a video on YouTube, with a link to it from his campaign website. It depicts the Los Angeles DA as a “loser.”
The first point is that Cooley is a “liberal,” something most Republicans aren’t, and don’t want to see in the makeup of those in office. Cooley is a career prosecutor, a law-and-order Republican who believes in the death penalty. Harman cannot be sincere in affixing a label of “liberal” to him.
The allegation that he “opposes 3 strikes” was leveled by incumbent DA Gil Garcetti in 2000 when Cooley challenged him (successfully) at the polls, and it is mouthed now by Harman. The fact is that Cooley backed the “Three Strikes” proposal in 1994, the year it was enacted, and bucked a 2004 ballot measure to emasculate it. What he has been against is a mindless application of the law so as to evoke major penal consequences for such offenses as a theft of a gumball.
Harman has failed to provide specifics giving rise to his assertion that Cooley “backs liberal judges.” This is the same Steve Cooley who was active in the 1986 campaign which resulted in Chief Justice Rose Bird and two state Supreme Court associate justices being denied voter reconfirmation based on what was perceived as anti-prosecution decisions. The announcer in the video goes so far as to proclaim that this county’s chief prosecutor “wants to turn criminals loose” and adds that “he routinely endorses liberal Democrats to serve as judges so that they can turn criminals free, too.” Judicial elections are nonpartisan, and Cooley does endorse Democrats. However, there has not been any tendency on his part to favor the freeing of criminals or to support judges who have that objective.
The announcer trumpets that Cooley is behind Harman in the polls by six points. If that was so when the video was posted Feb. 21, that’s not surprising given that Harman had been running for several months and Cooley had just entered the race.
The final point is that “when Republicans are told that Cooley opposes three strikes and supports liberal judges, Harman beats Cooley by—wait for it!—more than 40 points.” It is hardly astounding that a Republican voter would reject a candidate if told by a pollster that he or she opposes “Three Strikes” and backs liberal judges. But it happens that both allegations, as to Cooley, are fabrications.
Based on all of this, we regard Harman as unfit for public office—the office he holds, the office he seeks, or any he might seek in the future—in light of an ethical deficiency.
JOHN EASTMAN is the third candidate, and a pathetic one. The former dean of Chapman Law School in Orange County apparently indulged in the fantasy that he could get by with claiming to be “Assistant Attorney General” based on having been hired to draft a brief for the Office of Attorney General in South Dakota.
Voters would obviously have thought, had the designation been permitted, that Eastman holds a high-level post in California’s Office of Attorney General. Secretary of State Debra Bowen blocked the designation and Eastman, rather than slinking off, went to court to contest her decision, drawing further attention to what he had slyly tried to pull. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy M. Frawley denied his writ petition.
Plainly, Eastman’s effort defied Elections Code §13107 which bars any designation which “would mislead the voter.”
Not only does Eastman not hold the post he claimed in this state, where he’s running, but does not even hold it in South Dakota where he is a “special [that is, temporary, limited-purpose] assistant attorney general.”
He will be listed on the ballot as a “Constitutional Law Attorney.”
Eastman’s bid to hoodwink voters was ill-starred. Any candidate with common sense would have realized that. Eastman obviously did not, reflecting a lack of judgment on his part.
That he would attempt such flimflamming leads necessarily to the conclusion that he lacks honesty and a sense of fair play, disqualifying him for the office he covets.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company