Steve Cooley

Kamala Harris, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, launched an ad last week attacking her opponent, Steve Cooley, for closing down the L.A. District Attorney's environmental crimes unit.

Today, she upped the volume on those attacks, trotting out a former prosecutor in the D.A.'s office who accused Cooley of shutting down the unit in part of a “protection racket” on behalf of the Newhall Land & Farming Co.

The San Francisco D.A. has been increasingly on the attack, as she trails Cooley with less than three weeks to go in the campaign.

This line of attack is based on a 2003 story in the L.A. Times, which alleged that Cooley had transferred prosecutors in retaliation for their investigation of the politically connected developer. Prosecutors were pursuing allegations that the developer had submitted false environmental documents regarding hazards to an endangered plant.

Matthew Monforton, a former district attorney who resigned in protest in January 2006, alleged in a Harris campaign conference call today that Cooley had refused to authorize a search of Newhall's offices because of Cooley's close ties to Newhall's lobbyist, Robert Philibosian.

“Mr. Cooley and Mr. Philibosian have been involved in what amounts to a protection racket involving Newhall and other environmental cases,” Monforton said.

In the 2003 Times story, Cooley denied that the transfers were related to the Newhall case, and said that the office would continue to pursue environmental violations. Cooley attributed the allegations to “disgruntled” employees.

The District Attorney's office has its share of disgruntled employees. Monforton was quoted in a California Watch report in August, which detailed conflicts between Cooley and union members.

Cooley's campaign did not immediately respond to the Harris press call. Below, the ad released last week by the Harris campaign:

LA Weekly