Saturday, February 18, 2012

Trutanich breaks state law - forced to pull illegal campaign advertisment

Barely a week after the sheepish launch of his campaign to fool voters that he is a 'true crimefighter,' the man who claims to be 'the most qualified' to lead the District Attorney's Office was forced to pull his campaign advertisement because it was in violation of state law.

The thirteen minute long advertorial, professionally produced at a cost believed to be in excess of $100,000, was designed to portray Trutanich as a crime fighter rather than a law breaker. Unfortunately the slick cinematography was illegal; the man who thinks he is qualified to run the DA's Office, and the Sheriff who supports him, both violated state law when Baca appeared in uniform singing the praise of the man who probably told him it was 'OK' to do so.

As the LA Times exclusive report stated, state law does not allow sheriffs and other law enforcement officers to make political endorsements while in uniform. Baca initially insisted that he was 'exempt' from the law, something that sounds very much like advice hastily given to him by Trutanich in a panic phone call. However, after Baca contacted his real lawyers, he was told the video was in illegally in violation of state law. According to the LA Times, Baca readily admitted his violation "There's no excuse," Baca said. "I should've known."

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, however, was not so forthcoming. He refused to answer questions about the illegal ad, claiming he was unable to comment because he was "sitting on City Hall property."His statement was reminiscent of his previous question-dodge "I'm at my desk, and I don't talk politics at my desk."

The more likely reason for Trutanich's silence was that there was no innocent explanation. Trutanich had to have know the law, not only because of his frequent claims to be a 'Super-Lawyer,' but because he had dealt with the issue of uniforms in political endorsements before. Trutanich was amongst the most vociferous to condemn former LAPD Chief Bratton's controversial endorsement of  Councilmember Jack Weiss, Trutanich's opponent in the 2009 City Attorney race. As the 'Super-Lawyer' he claims to be Trutanich had to know all the legalities involved in obtaining the endorsement of sheriffs and police chiefs before commenting.

Surely Trutanich knew that Chief Bratton wore a business suit in his endorsement ad for Jack Weiss and not uniform because of the state law prohibition? It's no brainer.

Of course it is entirely possible that Trutanich broke the law because the part-time, night-time unaccredited law school graduate did not know the law, or had forgotten it. However, some might believe that it is more likely that he not care if the law was broken; he might believe that as the City Attorney he is 'exempt' and not subject to the same laws as ordinary people. He might also think the can claim some unnamed volunteer made the mistake. It's a claim he used successfully to dodge responsibility for lies about his police endorsements.

The illegal advertisement is not, of course, the first time Trutanich has openly violated advertising laws. In the BillboardGate scandal, Trutanich was exposed for having illegal off-site billboards outside his former campaign headquarters for over two years, in direct violation of his own citywide ban on permits for off-site advertising.

Trutanich's illegal off-site billboards blighted Ventura Blvd, for over two years
before he was forced to take them down.
When challenged about the billboards, Trutanich claimed that his office "does not determine the legality of billboards" and deferred to a Building and Safety official who said the billboards were 'temporary' and therefore not subject to the law. Trutanich's arrogance or ignorance over the state of his own law was only settled when Dennis Hathaway, president of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight,  said the signs should be taken down.

Just as with BillboardGate, where Trutanich had to remove his illegal billboards, he has been forced to remove the illegal advertisement from his website.

Trutanich's illegal advertisement was swiftly removed from his campaign website

Whether Trutanich or Baca will face criminal charges for the violation is unclear. After being asked to review the video, Jim Sutton, a San Francisco-based attorney who specializes in election law, told the LA Times that "This is exactly what the law is meant to prohibit," Sutton said. "On its face, I have never seen such a blatant violation of state law."Attorney Robert M. Stern, who co-authored the state's Political Reform Act, told the LA Times that the Trutanich-Baca violation was "very embarrassing." adding that it was "... ironic that the chief law enforcement officer in the county and the campaign for the person who wants to be the chief prosecutor doesn't know what the law is."

It is not known whether Baca will re-perform the endorsement in plain clothes, or will perhaps decide that enough is enough when it comes to Trutanich, and pull his endorsement altogether. His involvement in Trutanich's illegal advertisement is believed to be the 'tip of the iceberg' when it comes to questionable conduct regarding Trutanich. With multiple media sources working on numerous issues surrounding 'a campaign born of a lie,' it is perhaps not so much a question of 'if' but 'when' the next Trutanich scandal is publicly reported.

Baca famously withdrew his endorsement of Jack Weiss when his campaign irregularities became public. "I can no longer remain silent about the reckless disregard for the truth that Jack Weiss has brought to this race," Baca said in a statement. "Mr. Weiss' latest television commercial is desperate and an insult to the principles of the American legal system, our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Obviously, Mr. Weiss does not respect the truth or our justice system that guarantees a fair trial for everyone." He told the LA Daily News in April 2009.

Weiss's misconduct never rose to the level of directly involving the Sheriff in illegality, as is the case with Trutanich's illegal advertisement. Given Baca's past reaction to association with dirty campaigns, the County's Top Cop may may well be under pressure to withdraw his support of Trutanich if only yo to preserve the integrity of the Sheriff''s Department, let alone his own credibility. To do otherwise would appear to be hypocritical.



Anonymous said...

I hope Baca doesn't come up with some lame excuse like his blood sugar was low so it put him into a trance.

Anonymous said...

This is the perfect example of Baca's and Trutanich's corrupt, "we are above the law" mentality. Trutanich thinks he can get away with anything and doesn't need to follow the same rules as everyone else, just because he's been able to raise so much money from special interests that do business with the city. If Trutanich engages in "the most blatant violation of state law ever seen," while he's just running for DA, I can only imagine what he would do once he has the power of the DA's Office behind him. I would love to see Baca pull his endorsement from Trutanich after this embarassing fiasco like Baca did to Weiss in 2009. The people of this county deserve someone with integrity as their DA and Sheriff -- which certainly does NOT include Trutanich and Baca.

Anonymous said...

The silence from Nuch is both deafening and defining. He cannot admit that he screwed up and posted an illegal campaign ad that was seen by three quarters of a million people (hard to believe, but that's what the LA Times said) and just wait for him to throw someone under the bus because he is too much of a narcissistic egomaniac to ever take responsibility for not knowing the law.

Baca should be ashamed of himself for having such poor judgment as to not only support a liar, but to be conned into filming an endorsement in his uniform while on duty.

It is typical of the way Nuch draws people into his culture of corruption. Once you're in, there's no way out. You have to keep on doing things that in your heart, you know are wrong, but now that you are part of Nuch's crazy world, you have no choice but to go along with the conspiracy, which then morphs into a cover up.

Baca is not the first, we've already seen the way Nuch gets Bill Carter, his chief deputy, to cover up his boss's misdeeds - the billboard scanda is a prime example. Carter ends up having to defend Nuch's illegal billboards by saying the office does not determine the legality of billboards. Then some schlub at Building & Safety says they're "temporary" billboards and not subject to the law. Gime a break, neither statement passes the straight face test.

But do you see how Carter now is dug into a hole and how Nuch now has greater control over him? In his heart, Carter knew Nuch was wrong over the billboards, but he couldn't tell Nuch the bad news. Instead he covers up for Nuch and in doing so puts his credibility on the line.

Take note at the DA's Office. If you don't vocally take a stand against Nuch's culture of corruption, you will be having to do dirty deeds on his behalf, and then get thrown under the bus when the truth comes out.

You all know Nuch is unfit to be DA, so why did your ADDA endorse him or recommend him, or in anyway associate themselves with him? He will take you down with him if you let him.

Anonymous said...

Why are Baca and Trutanich not being prosecuted for this violation. It is a misdemeanor violation and if Trutanich conspired with Baca to violate this misdemeanor violation of the election code then that's considered a felony conspiracy under CA law (conspiracy to violate a misdemeanor is a felony PC 182). This is Cooley's responsibility to investigate and prosecute and if he refuses to do it then the AG should get involved.

Marc Debbaudt said...

Last nite, 2/21/12, only 2 non-directors showed up at the ADDA Board meeting, and they weren't there about the endorsement issue.  At the end of the meeting, approximately 8:45 PM, under the agendized "New Buisness" category, a letter was read that was given to a Director asking the ADDA to repudiate Trutanich. The letter was not written by David Berger.  It basically listed all the reasons that have appeared on this site about why Trutanich should be discredited.  After the letter was read I moved to reconsider endorsements and I argued that if what the letter writer wrote was true, and it appeared to be, we should either send a repudiation to the LA County Federation of Labor befor 2/27/11, or we should endorse a candidate other than Trutanich, which itself would be a repudiation. The President indicated that he did not know if what the letter writer said was true, and others then proceeded to insist that it was true. I then learned that since the endorsement issue lost by those who voted against endorsement, and since I originally voted for endorsement, apparently I did not have the procedural right to move to reconsider.  I argued the urgency that this be done before the Executive Board of the LA County Fed meets on 2/27/12' this Thursday. Then someone who voted against endorsement moved to reconsider endorsing, but no one seconded the motion.  So the effort failed. Why?  The only reason I can offer that I know is true is that this was late at night and everyone wanted to go home.  There you go.

Anonymous said...

Trutanich is a dim bulb as a prosecutor. He does not come close to the intellectual level of any of his competitors and he has backstabbed so many people after taking office that it's no wonder he lost the endorsements of Cooley and others. Baca the wife beater also needs to go.