By Michael Armijo
Walnut – With the Walnut City Council race nearing Election Day this coming Tuesday, April 8, the registered voters of Walnut are being flooded with not only the usual political advertising from the candidates, but also attack ads that are targeting the three candidates found on the ballot – Councilwoman Mary Su, Councilman Bob Pacheco and challenger Betty Tang.
Two political organizations are sponsoring these attack ads. One of the organizations is Citizens to Protect Walnut, led by long-time Walnut resident, Phillip Bennett. Bennett’s organization has been active in the last three Walnut City Council races. The second group mailing out political “hit pieces” calls itself, “Taxpayers for Quality Leadership.”
According to their information on the Fair Political Practices Commission website (FPPC.ca.gov), Taxpayers for Quality Leadership (FPPC ID1361185) was established on October 7, 2013 and is controlled by Lisa Buchanan of Elk Grove, a suburb in Sacramento. The PAC’s Treasurer is lawyer Gary Crummitt, who has an office in Long Beach. Telephone messages left for Buchanan and Crummitt by our staff, asking why their political action committee was interested in the Walnut City Council election, have gone unanswered.
The campaign literature being distributed by Citizens to Protect Walnut has specialized in negative literature targeting candidate Tang, but it has also been sending out rebuttals to the attacks on Council Member Mary Su that have been sponsored by Taxpayers for Quality Leadership. When asked why he was so involved in this year’s Walnut City Council race, Bennett replied, “I think Mary Su and Bob Pacheco are doing a fine job, and for some reason there seems to be a lot of outside money involved in this year’s election. I want to make sure Walnut remains in the hands of people who actually live here.”
Attack ads distributed by Taxpayers for Quality Leadership have so far only targeted Council Member Su, despite the fact that Su and Pacheco are sharing a campaign office and made it clear they are running as a team. Asked why she felt she is the only incumbent councilmember being attacked by Taxpayers for Quality Leadership, Su said, “I can only assume there is someone with access to lots of money who is determined to remove me from office for their own political reasons, but that person is afraid to be openly associated with it. If my enemy is from the Chinese community they know very well that most of the Chinese community will immediately turn on them if their identity becomes known.”
And a lot of money it appears to be. According to the City of Walnut website, Betty Tang’s campaign contributions are now up to $96,937. This is the current total even after Tang returned five campaign contributions she received illegally (see www.anapr.com for related stories). But interestingly enough, Tang loaned her campaign $15,000, which leaves $81,000 worth of contributions. Of that $81,000, almost 80% are from addresses outside of Walnut. In addition to the $81,000, the outside group, Taxpayers for Quality Leadership, has contributed almost $11,000 in spending against Tang’s opponents.
Other interesting tidbits about Taxpayers for Quality Leadership: According to the FPPC, the committee also filed two 462 “Verification of Independent Expenditures” reports on Oct. 22, 2013, citing their support/opposition for candidates. In the first report, Michael Lewis signed both documents stating “in support of Margaret Finlay, Tzeitel Paras-Caracci, and Sheryl Lefmann for City Council Member for the City of Duarte,” and “in opposition of Phil Reyes,” for the same November 2013 election. The report also states “in support of Cary C. Chen and Lynne Ebenkamp for Board Member for Roland Unified School District,” (http://fppc.ca.gov/form462/2013/city/1361185_10222013.pdf). Why this group has an interest in Walnut remains unanswered.
Election Day is this Tuesday, April 8. Be sure to make an educated decision and vote for those who you feel would best represent you as a resident.