Tuesday, October 23, 2001
Election Watch Group Says LaBonge ‘Crossed the Line’ And Misled Voters on Mailers Attacking Garfield
By a MetNews Staff Writer
An election watch group said Sunday that a mailer sent out by City Council candidate and City Hall insider Tom LaBonge provided inaccurate information about his opponent, Beth Garfield, and misled voters.
LaBonge and Garfield, a labor attorney and former community college trustee, are vying for a seat today in the council’s Fourth District to fill the vacancy left by longtime council President John Ferraro.
In an Oct. 21 letter to Garfield, the Campaign Watch Commission of the League of Women Voters wrote LaBonge, a former Ferraro field deputy, “had crossed the line into the category of inaccurate and misleading accusations.”
In her complaint to the commission, Garfield charged LaBonge with taking statements made in articles appearing in the Los Angeles Times (Aug. 2, 1998) and the Daily News (Dec. 7, 1997) out of context on a mailer he sent to voters.
The LaBonge mailer accused Garfield of being a “dysfunctional manager” and reprimanded her for “astonishing waste” of $20 million on a district headquarters that was never used, but the commission disagreed. The Times article, which actually appeared on July 21, 1998, included a comment by a citizens’ committee directed at the entire community college district and not Garfield as an individual.
The commission also said LaBonge used the Daily News article, which did not specifically refer to Garfield, to blame her for a building purchase that took place before she became a district trustee.
“We have been disappointed that the LaBonge campaign has been spreading lies and misleading information,” Garfield campaign spokesman Bryan Blum said. “We are pleased that this independent body now verifies this.”
“At this late date it is unfortunate that the League could not have drawn attention to it sooner,” Blum said.
Garfield lodged three other complaints involving the mailer, including that LaBonge misrepresented his mailer as an internal Garfield campaign document.
Garfield also complained that LaBonge claimed she outspent any other City Council candidate in history and ignored the city’s Ethics Commission spending limits.
The commission found the three charges to be invalid.
Last week the commission responded to a complaint by LaBonge against Garfield which accused her of running television ads and sending mailers which “include personal character attacks, as well as false and misleading statements and accusations.”
The commission said Friday that a Garfield television ad “borders on unwarranted character attack,” but the panel stopped short of formally censuring Garfield for misleading voters.
“We are, however, greatly disturbed by the nature of the innuendo underlying the materials,” Commissioner Jo-Ann Grace wrote on behalf of the commission. The commission contended the Garfield campaign could have made its point without using “such dubious words and images,” referring to the use of “a shady deal” and footage depicting cash stuffed in envelopes and shadowy figures behind closed doors. LaBonge had complained that the material accused him of behind-closed-doors deals with the tobacco industry and wrongly charged him with trying to hide his acceptance of tobacco industry contributions.
Grace is the co-publisher of the Metropolitan News-Enterprise.
Blum said there is a critical difference between the commission’s decisions on the two complaints.
“I think there is a clear difference between what we’ve put out and what the LaBonge campaign has put out,” Blum said. “[In the LaBonge complaint] they found no factual fault, here they found factual fault.”
“There were stylistic differences, things the league would have done differently [in the Garfield TV ad], but it did not cross the line,” Blum said. “LaBonge’s campaign crosses the line.”
Blum said that KABC radio host Brian Whitman, who lives in the Fourth District, offered to have both LaBonge and Garfield appear on his Sunday night show to specifically discuss the mailer and both complaints. But LaBonge “ducked the opportunity” by declining to appear, Blum said. Garfield appeared on the show anyway, Blum said.
The LaBonge campaign did not return calls for comment.
Election day is today. The polls close at 8 p.m.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company