April 23, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Ethics Commision: Give Us the Truth

Mike Feuer isn’t happy with all the attention being given to his “fishy†(according to the LA Times) contract with his campaign consultant, Shallman Communications.

The way the original contract was written, Shallman would receive a big bonus if Feuer won the City Attorney race, nothing if Feuer lost.

The Trutanich people say that by under-reporting his campaign’s true expenses, Feuer was able to inappropriately qualify for public campaign financing funds – and that the consulting fees should have been listed as an in-kind contribution.

Mike Feuer insists that, early on, he talked to David Tristan, Executive Deputy Director of the Ethics Commission, seeking advice on whether Feuer’s contract with Shallman was OK.

Feuer says Mr. Tristan consulted with the Executive Director of the Ethics Commission and got back with Feuer a few days later, saying Feuer’s contract was permissible.

Feuer says he proceeded on that basis, never thinking this would become an issue.

As we all know, the Trutanich side has made it an issue.

But because of an Ethics Commission policy that doesn’t allow Mr. Tristan to comment on any of this, he can’t confirm or deny he ever even talked to Feuer.

This is a ridiculous policy; the taxpaying voters should be able to easily find out what’s really going on here.

The Ethics Commission should allow – insist, even – that Tristan be allowed to speak up on this matter.

But because of this “forced silence,†according to those close to the Feuer campaign, the Trutanich side has been given a “free pass†to keep questioning whether Feuer ever even talked to the Ethics Commission (quite unfairly, in the minds of Team Feuer).

If Feuer had done something wrong, ask his supporters, then why would the Ethics Commission release the campaign funds to him?

Ironically, according to Mike Feuer, Carmen Trutanich himself paid a “victory only†bonus to a political consultant in the general election of 2009, when Trutanich ran for city attorney and won.

One of the reasons campaign consultants are willing to do bargain basement deals is that they make a lot of money from markups and even direct commissions they receive from TV stations and direct mail companies.

As a newspaper guy, I’m a little biased, but I’m always amazed at how much campaign money goes into mailing pieces and TV.

How much can really be said on a postcard or in a 30-second spot? Most of these messages are pretty mindless and only intended to create doubt about the opponent.

In a big, full-page ad, a candidate could truly spell out his or her policy positions.

But campaign consultants don’t get paid commissions by newspapers, so they steer their candidates away from newspaper advertising.

Besides, these consultants figure (rightly) that newspapers will give plenty of free coverage to the campaigns anyway, so why pay anything more if they don’t need to? As a result, our political debates are reduced to sound bites – often nasty ones.

To be fair to consultants, some say they offer cut-rate deals because they actually believe in a candidate. Or maybe they’re trying to break into the business.

But it seems as if it’s time to review the entire system, from top to bottom. If “win bonuses†are a bad thing, let’s ban them. If providing services for no pay is an in-kind contribution, let’s tighten reporting requirements.

But in the immediate situation (Trutanich vs. Feuer), at a minimum, the Ethics Commission should say – now, before the election – what really happened in the Feuer vs. Trutanich case. Did Feuer really talk to Mr. Tristan? If so, what advice was given Feuer? If Feuer didn’t talk to Tristan, we should know that as well.

But Mike Feuer, in court proceedings, has sworn under penalties of perjury that his conversations with Mr. Tristan really did take place. Knowing Mike Feuer as we do, it’s impossible to imagine this isn’t true.

I see no public benefit in having the Ethics Commission not revealing what it knows here. They know the truth and they should reveal it.

In the interests of fairness, transparency and accountability, the Ethics Commission should say what it knows — before the election May 21.

in News
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