It's a strange complaint: A candidate for one of the most important
offices in L.A. County cries foul because his political affiliation is revealed in
robocalls to voters. Registered Republican and District Attorney Steve
Cooley isn't merely complaining, however -- his office is investigating
the person or group behind the calls that were made during 2008's
nonpartisan race for District Attorney. Incumbent Cooley won a third
term with 65 percent of the vote but now, according to a Jack Leonard
story in today's L.A. Times, his prosecutors are tracking down what Cooley campaign manager John Thomas calls "a dirty trick."
the one hand the story shows how radioactive the Republican
Party is in Los Angeles -- it's not as though Cooley had been outed as a
Communist or member of the States' Rights Party. On the other hand, it
demonstrates once more how insidious robocalls, especially those made
by shell groups, can be. This one, writes Leonard, was set up by Conrad
Braun, a convicted blackmailer who spent time in federal prison for
fraud. Braun claims he ran the calls once he got a little envelope with
$2,800 in bills in it for an anonymous emailer whom Braun assumed was a
Cooley supporter. On the surface the ads sounded as though they were
pro-Cooley -- except that they kept reminding the listener that Cooley
is a Republican.
Cooley has "recused" himself from the
investigation, but his prosecutors are busy looking into the case,
since state law requires such campaign ads reveal their purchasers. At
the moment no one's pointing any fingers, but they're all looking in
the direction of defeated D.A. candidate Albert Robles. Not only was Robles
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facing misdemeanor charges during the campaign for illegally sending
out mailers during a previous municipal election, but it turns out Braun was his
robocall guy and pollster during his losing race with Cooley.
Those old charges against Robles were dismissed and he currently serves as president of board of the Water Replenishment District of Southern California. Another possible hint that Robles may have been behind the robocalls: Prior to the June, 2008 election, he wrote a letter to the Times protesting its endorsement of Cooley. Among his own qualifications, wrote Robles: "I am the only Democrat in the race."