|I want the readers of Calitics to understand something perfectly clearly. As the Editorial Board made clear before I joined it, the editors on this site did not have it as their objective in any way to influence the upcoming election in CA-32 one way or the other, given what was surmised as the quality and depth of the Democratic field in this race. But Gil Cedillo's campaign changed that. We first got a hint of the tack that campaign was taking when his team responded to Mayor Villaraigosa's endorsement of Judy Chu, and we've seen it continue in the negative campaign strategy and apparent sense of entitlement that have been profiled on our site's coverage of this race.
Now, it seems, Senator Cedillo is pulling out all the stops in this effort. If you thought it was ugly before...now it's really ugly.
First, Cedillo's campaign has dropped yet another negative mailer against Emanuel Pleitez. According to sources in the Pleitez campaign, this mailer was sent to Latinos in the San Gabriel Valley--and apparently the Cedillo campaign is expecting the targets of this mailer to be English-speakers, because the mailer is not bilingual. To be sure, I completely understand why the Cedillo campaign would seek to suppress and persuade Pleitez' home turf of unincorporated East LA, but it's a different matter to be sending out an English-only mailer to the San Gabriel Valley. There are two ways to look at this: one is that Cedillo's campaign is bleeding educated Latino voters in the SGV. The other is that the Cedillo campaign has so much money left to spend in the days before election day that they figure they may as well. After all, the mailer is basically a carbon copy of the previous attack against Pleitez--without, of course, the Rosario Dawson photo that gave the campaign a black eye--except with new text, as you can see below.
Click to view attack mailer
Now, last time I checked, Pleitez has been representing himself as a member of the Obama-Biden Treasury Department Transition Team who took that gig after leaving the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs. I didn't know he was an unpaid mail room intern!
Well, in something that should come as no surprise, Gil Cedillo's campaign is lying, and he's hoping that the voters he's targeting don't pick up on that fact. See, anyone who knows how to use Google would be able to find out relatively quickly that Emanuel Pleitez is listed on change.gov, the official site of the Obama-Biden Transition, as a member of the Treasury Department Review Team, along with 22 colleagues. Something makes me think that the unpaid mail room interns aren't listed on change.gov.
As a matter of fact, some of Emanuel's fellow team members who are listed on that page include some big names in the financial sector, including some who have provided quotes in support of Pleitez' work on the team as well as his candidacy. Names like Ed Knight, who used to be General Counsel for the Treasury Department in the Clinton Administration. As a matter of checking the veracity of the full statement, I contacted Emanuel Pleitez to get the story about whether he was paid or unpaid as a member of the Transition Team. Pleitez informed me that owing to a budgetary problem with the Transition Team, he was in fact not paid for his work, and left after finishing the performance of his duties to run for CA-32.
The mailer also scorns Pleitez as being merely Mayor Villaraigosa's driver--and it is hardly a coincidence that a mailer associating Pleitez with Villaraigosa would appear in the mailboxes of voters in the San Gabriel Valley, where the mayor is hardly a popular figure (see the aforementioned response to the endorsement of Chu by Villaraigosa for a taste of that rift).
As part of my conversation with Pleitez, I asked him to provide me the full record of his paid work for Villaraigosa. According to Pleitez, he worked as a Council Aide in his neighborhood of El Sereno for then-Councilmember Villaraigosa during the second half of 2003, and also worked as a Personal Assistant whose duties included driving, scheduling and advance work for Villaraigosa during his second mayoral campaign culminating in April 2005.
Bottom line is this: the accusation that Pleitez was nothing more than a driver and a "mail-room intern" is atrociously false and misleading. But we have come to expect nothing less from the Cedillo campaign.
And as much as it pains me to say it, I'm just halfway done.
If the Cedillo campaign has one fatal flaw, it's one of exaggeration and overkill. When they attacked Mayor Villaraigosa, they went too far. When they questioned Pleitez' character, it backfired. When they questioned Pleitez' experience, they distorted the truth in a fashion that would embarrass Baghdad Bob. The mailers accusing Judy Chu of pay-to-play were misleading, to put it kindly. And now, the Cedillo campaign is doing its best to cast doubt on the Judy Chu's loyalty to the United States. Check out the latest mailer from Cedillo's camp against Judy:
There comes a point at which you just don't know what to say. The backstory here is that this Helen Leung character donated a certain amount to Judy Chu's campaign in 2001 and 2002. In 2003, she was indicted on suspicion of passing classified documents. So far, we're in accordance with the mailer here.
But what the mailer doesn't tell you is that, according to the Chu campaign, her BoE campaign at the time returned the contribution as soon as they found out it came from a tainted source. But what's particularly disgusting about this particular piece is that the narrative it builds in attempting to question Chu's patriotism is itself based on a narrative that has already been debunked. I reference in particular the second page of the mailer--in particular the last two paragraphs that imply that if Chu was playing pay-to-play with corporate contributors, then she might owe something to Chinese spies! Problem is, of course, that as has been documented over and over, the pay-to-play allegations are demonstrably false, according to the L.A. Times and the Board of Equalization itself.
The Cedillo campaign must not have much negative to go on against Judy Chu if the best they can do is build a narrative of suspicion of treason based off a returned campaign contribution from seven years ago. But even richer is the back of the mailer--viewable at link 4 above. The endorsement quote, from American Liberty Foundation PAC, goes out of its way to further question Judy Chu's loyalty to the United States. But what exactly is American Liberty Foundation PAC?
If your first thought was, "wow, that sounds like one of those right-wing think tank groups!", well, consider your suspicions correct. If you google "American Liberty Foundation" you'll get a bunch of links to sites and spinoff organizations that are relatively minor and all support the policies of Ron Paul--such as this one, which used to be a libertarian organization devoted to eliminating the income tax, getting guns for everyone, and documenting the pre-emptive war in Iraq.
The problem is, of course, that "American Liberty Foundation" changed its name to "Downsize DC" in 2004, and the actual search in Google of "American Liberty Foundation PAC" yields no results--though the closest is former Republican Ohio Congressman Bob Ney's "American Liberty PAC" which funded Republicans in Ohio in 2004 and 2005. Given the multiple disclosures that are required of PACs who donate to federal campaigns, it is quite surprising to see an official PAC name not return any results on Google, which suggests that the PAC either doesn't exist, or, if it does, it was very recently formed, given the fact that the FEC's list of Committees who have contributed to Cedillo's campaign does not mention anything having to do with "American Liberty Foundation"--as a matter of fact, searching the FEC database for American Liberty Foundation PAC yields no results.
So, the Cedillo campaign is using what is at best a paper PAC to provide a quote for the purposes of impugning the patriotism and loyalty of its chief opponent.
Just when I think that Cedillo's team can't stoop any lower into the dregs of moral reprehensibility, there they go. And, of course, the irony of this campaign using what sounds like a right-wing group to attack the patriotism of a competitor is very rich in irony, given the reputation Cedillo has in certain circles owing to his support (which I agree with, by the way) for rights and protections for the undocumented.
For the record, some members of the Chu campaign are also upset with Emanuel Pleitez for attacking along the same lines at a recent town hall event, using a Ciceronian-style praeteritio to reference the same allegations (cue the 17:00 marker).
Either way, the Cedillo campaign mail strategy is among the most ugly and dishonest I've had the misfortune to observe up close. I can't wait for this to be over so he can stop destroying his reputation, win or lose.