I have covered numerous campaigns and elections during my many years working in television news and now as a freelance journalist/blogger. A last minute attack on a candidate is not unusual, especially if the contender is the front runner or has recently gained some serious ground. Nevertheless, I was surprised to see the Burbank Leader fire a full-blown assault at City Council candidate Bob Frutos with less than a week to Tuesday’s April 12 General Election.
The Leader has become known for its rather, ah, fluid style of journalism; even so, this attack seemed to come out of left field. A series of salvos was launched in three separate pieces: an article by Gretchen Meier “Union spends big to aid candidate,” a column by editor Dan Evans, “Start the Presses: Mail-in ballots and election overtime,” and an editorial, “Union’s support is ironic.” All three appeared on the Leader website with the publishing date of Friday, April 8, 2011.
The Leader’s pieces zero in on the support city council hopeful Frutos has received from local 18 of the IBEW ( International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers). The Leader says the latest campaign disclosure records show the union has shelled out around $42,000 for mailers campaigning for Frutos. The Leader admits this union reps more than 100 Burbank City employees and supported newly re-elected City Councilman, Gary Bric, as well.
Leader reporter Meier’s article points out: “The local chapter of the IBEW also spent $18, 861 on Councilman Gary Bric’s primary reelection campaign — more than five times what he spent. He won reelection outright with more than 50% o the vote.”
The Leader says Frutos campaign receipts amount to around $13,982. So that means the IBEW local has spent about three times as much as Frutos has on his campaign. Hmmm, proportionally the union spent more on Bric’s campaign. No hit pieces from the Leader about that. Perhaps, this is due to the fact that the newspaper endorsed Bric — just as it has Emily Gabel-Luddy. (disclosure: I have endorsed Frutos on this blog). By the way, Council Members Bric and David Gordon have endorsed Frutos, too.
Also, the union may have spent less on Bric’s campaign because he’s an incumbent and more on Frutos’ campaign, a first-time contender for a city council seat. A little obvious to some — but apparently not to the Leader staff.
In an e-mail to me, Frutos responded to the Leader’s attack: “The IBEW represents Burbank City Employees and is a part of our community. As a candidate I do not control who they chose to support or what they chose to do. I appreciate their support of my ideas to balance our city budget and I am very happy they joined me in supporting the idea that our employees should pay into their retirement plans and that employee bonuses must come to an end. From what I have seen the IBEW is not engaged in personal attacks but is asking questions about the source of contributions and endorsements.”
In the Meier article, City Council candidate Gabel-Luddy, a retired Los Angeles employee, gave this reaction: “I am very disappointed to see IBEW bring Los Angeles-style dirty politics into Burbank,” she said. “I think when the dust settles, the voters will easily see through this ploy and I will continue to focus on the issues that concern Burbank.” Gabel-Luddy admits to receiving some campaign donations from well-connected friends and associates in Los Angeles.
Dirty politics? I really doubt that the support this IBEW local has demonstrated for Frutos falls into that category. If you want to talk about dirty politics, how’s about the vandalism against Frutos’ campaign signs? There’s been chatter in B-town about the disappearing yard signs for weeks. These dirty tricks have been mentioned in this blog.
I asked Frutos if his opponent, Gabel-Luddy, has reached out to him to denounce or disavow any involvement in the dirty tricks involving the vanishing campaign signs. Frutos said: “No I have not received a phone call from Emily Gabel-Luddy regarding this.”
The Leader suggests voters should question the support Frutos has received from the IBEW. I don’t see anything suspect in the union’s support for this city council candidate. Yet, I do wonder about the timing and ferocity of this attack against Bob Frutos by the Leader.