An increasingly bitter battle to replace termed-out Assemblyman Mike Eng (D-Monterey Park) spilled over into a Pasadena courtroom on Wednesday, with the wife of Republican candidate Matthew Lin winning a temporary restraining order against the campaign of her husband’s opponent.
Joy Lin is suing Democratic hopeful Ed Chau for invasion of privacy over political ads that published her Social Security number, which was displayed on a tax lien notice reproduced in campaign literature and an Internet video.
Lin said Chau, an attorney and Montebello school board member, crossed the line by dragging his wife into the fray and putting her at risk of identity theft.
“It’s not ethical at all. They’re running a totally nasty campaign,” said Lin, a healthcare executive and former mayor of San Marino. “I never knew this would get so ugly. I’m angry about it.”
Chau’s campaign manager, Josh Pulliam, accused Lin of trying to use the situation to his benefit.
“It’s all a bunch of political theater,” said Pulliam, who has headed many state Democratic campaigns. “We didn’t know there was a Social Security number on there. You wouldn’t know unless [the Lin campaign] told you. He’s clearly putting his wife out there on a meat hook.”
Lin said he and his wife received several calls about the mailers. Joy Lin’s attorney, John Chang, sent a letter to the Chau campaign on Oct. 20 demanding they apologize and stop disseminating her Social Security number.
A series of mailers by the Chau campaign, some containing doctored images of Matthew Lin appearing alongside Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, attacked Lin as an ultra-wealthy “corporate profiteer” and “tax cheat.” Some contained images of tax lien notices addressed to Lin or his wife.
Lin said liens related to business interests in the 1990s resulted from administrative errors and were quickly resolved. The 1997 lien against Joy Lin was issued in error and canceled a short time later, according to county documents released by the Lin campaign.
Joy Lin’s lawsuit alleges that the Chau campaign ignored the resolution of the liens to malign her husband’s candidacy. The suit also claims Chau violated her privacy rights by publishing aerial photos of the couple’s homes in San Marino and Laguna Beach in ads drawing attention to Lin’s personal wealth.
Pulliam countered that the Lins had previously allowed a journalist to tour their San Marino home, which was featured in the 2009 Pasadena Showcase House of Design.
Lin has fired back at Chau with mailers describing Chau’s missives as “deceitful.” The literature includes photographs of Lin interacting with several prominent Democratic officials, including Rep. Judy Chu (D- Monterey Park), Chau’s most prominent supporter.
On Thursday Chu sent Lin a cease-and-desist letter demanding the campaign stop using her name or image.
Lin and Chau have each raised more than $1 million in their bids to win the 49th Assembly District, according to records filed with the Secretary of State.
Despite a Democratic voter majority in the San Gabriel Valley district, Lin defeated Chau 52% to 35% in a June primary race that also included Monterey Park Mayor Mitchell Ing, a Democrat who has since endorsed Lin.
Amber Maltbie, an attorney for the Chau campaign, said Wednesday’s order by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge C. Edward Simpson to stop distributing Joy Lin’s Social Security number was not necessary because the campaign has edited the video and is not using the document in any additional mailers.
Follow Joe on Twitter @JoePiasecki.