Democratic elected officials’ recent and predictable endorsements of Hillary Rodham Clinton — now her party’s overwhelming front-runner for the 2016 presidential nomination — haven’t been generating many headlines.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti proved an awkward exception to the rule Thursday, when his office issued a written endorsement of Clinton and then an hour later followed up with a puzzling, one-line news release reading: “Today’s statement on Hillary Clinton was sent in error.”
A Garcetti spokesman later clarified that the endorsement wasn’t being retracted, but that the mayor’s office shouldn’t have used government resources to distribute the campaign-related announcement. The error message came after The Times asked mayoral aides if the original Clinton endorsement constituted an illegal use of city staff and equipment.
While minor on the scale of possible ethical transgressions, the blunder by Garcetti’s aides quickly became an embarrassment for the mayor. The endorsement stumble went viral on social media, turning a routine political ritual into a national punch line. It also created widespread confusion over Garcetti’s support for Clinton as she was in L.A. fundraising.
Bill Carrick, a consultant for Garcetti’s 2017 reelection campaign, said he had planned to issue the initial endorsement and was unsure how the mayor’s government press office had become involved.
“It was supposed to go out from me, and someone in the [mayor’s] office inadvertently sent it out from the — I don’t really know what the explanation is,” Carrick said. “They obviously know that was a no-no, so somebody decided to send out a thing saying it was an error.”
The first endorsement announcement, sent by an assistant in Garcetti’s communications office, listed that office’s phone number as a contact for media inquiries and included links to the mayor’s official Twitter and Instagram feeds.
On Thursday evening, Carrick sent out an email re-endorsing Clinton in the same language Garcetti’s press office had used earlier in the day.
“Like mayors across the country, I am working hard to bring shared prosperity to every corner of our city,” Garcetti said in the statement. “And in Hillary Clinton, mayors will have a partner — someone who is ready to stand up for our mainstream economy, and the people who need help the most.”
Both city and state law prohibit the use of government resources — including email accounts and the time of staff members — for campaign purposes. A brochure distributed to city employees by the Los Angeles Ethics Commission explicitly forbids the issuing of political endorsements from city computers or even government buildings.
“I think that city and state law is pretty clear that you don’t use the taxpayer dime to send out campaign endorsements,” said city Ethics Commission President Jessica Levinson. “And the taxpayer dime includes both workers and infrastructure.”
Levinson declined to comment specifically on the mayor’s presidential endorsement, saying the incident could come before her panel for consideration of possible sanctions.
David Tristan, deputy executive director of the Ethics Commission, said he could not comment on whether any complaints about the matter had been received.
The botched endorsement represented the latest twist in Garcetti's uneven relationship with one of America's preeminent political dynasties.
As a councilman in 2008, Garcetti was an early supporter of then-Sen. Barack Obama, Clinton's opponent in the Democratic primary. In the 2013 mayoral election, former President Bill Clinton endorsed Garcetti's opponent, former City Controller Wendy Greuel.
Garcetti’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton comes several weeks after Vice President Joe Biden announced he would not challenge the former first lady and secretary of State for the Democratic nomination.
Garcetti and Biden have allied on efforts to raise the minimum wage. In September — when speculation surrounding a potential Biden presidential run was at its height — Garcetti hosted the vice president for a private dinner at the mayoral residence in Windsor Square.
Last week, Clinton’s campaign announced her endorsement by big-city mayors including Bill de Blasio of New York City and Rahm Emanuel of Chicago.