Sunday, February 27, 2005

 

The inner circle

I just started to follow the political playground here in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, mostly because I'm still coming down from the national race. All in all, this race is getting mighty dirty, and it doesn't look too good for Mayor Hahn.
Mayor James Hahn's re-election bid has suffered _ along with the image of honesty he worked hard to cultivate _ amid accusations he let corruption and fraud flourish at City Hall.

County prosecutors have been investigating allegations that Hahn supporters shook down companies that wanted to do business with the city by tying public contracts to political contributions. Federal prosecutors have opened their own inquiry.

Hahn has not been implicated and denies knowledge of any potential wrongdoing, but the investigations touch whole segments of city government _ from members of Hahn's inner circle to Los Angeles International Airport and the water and power department.

No city official has been charged, though several have resigned.

But with prosecutors issuing subpoenas for Hahn's office e-mails and summoning some of his aides before grand juries, the investigations have become a popular topic for his four main challengers in the March 8 primary.

"He's the pinata. The question is the whether the pinata will survive," said Bob Stern, president of the nonpartisan Center for Governmental Studies in Santa Monica.

Critics have cast Hahn's administration as the most corrupt since a scandal-plagued mayor was recalled nearly 70 years ago, and some of his supporters have withdrawn their endorsements.

"It's more than a scandal. It's crippled his administration," said Councilman Bernard Parks, a former police chief whose ouster was backed by Hahn and who is one of the mayor candidates.

Hahn has been reminding voters of his reputation for personal integrity.

"There's no factual basis for any of these charges," said Hahn's campaign consultant Kam Kuwata. "It's always rhetoric and hot air."


This is a tough situation for Hahn. While I'm not a supporter of his, I would like to give this advice to his public relations team, who is most likely reading this blog. First of all, don't be like Martha Stewart. She made the fatal mistake of blaming everyone else when things really got bad, while smiling and attempting to evade the charges until that point. As of right now, a majority of the people in Los Angeles who are following the race are under the assumption that Hahn's administration is dirty, whether it's true or not. Frankly, I don't know enough about it to make that assertion, but the cards definitely aren't lining up in his favor. Owing up to it right now will allow him, and the administration, to move past it. The sad fact is that voters live for the day; most voters in local elections don't base a vote on recent history, but pick and choose between the good and the bad. Hahn can gain a sympathy vote if he comes out and states where he made mistakes, and how he plans on fixing it.

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