Calling this year’s gubernatorial contest the “dirtiest kind of campaign” in modern California history, Gov. George Deukmejian lashed out Friday at Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley for running “negative” commercials attacking the governor’s record on toxic waste cleanup.
Deukmejian, clearly stung by Bradley’s charges that campaign contributions from the toxic waste industry affected his actions on toxic wastes, said the mayor is vulnerable to similar accusations for receiving campaign contributions from Occidental Petroleum Corp. before and after approving the company’s plan to drill for oil on the coast at Pacific Palisades.
Taping a television show in Los Angeles that will be broadcast Sunday, an obviously confident Deukmejian leveled a sweeping attack on Bradley and portrayed his Democratic rival as a victim of “panic” who has chosen the “low road” as a way to rescue his campaign.
Bradley Aide’s Answer
Bradley spokeswoman Ali Webb responded later that Deukmejian was engaging in “name-calling” in an attempt to deflect scrutiny from the issues raised by his acceptance of $248,000 in campaign contributions from companies that handle hazardous wastes.
Although neither candidate has been formally nominated, the campaign is already in full swing as both candidates, lacking primary opposition, focus their attacks on each other.
Deukmejian, buoyed by a strong showing in recent polls, appeared well rehearsed Friday as he criticized Bradley on virtually every issue that has surfaced in the campaign, ranging from the mayor’s reversal on gun control to pollution of Santa Monica Bay by city sewage.
“This is the dirtiest kind of campaign I think that we’ve seen in modern times in California,” Deukmejian volunteered. “They’re just trying to shore up a very sagging campaign and divert attention from the very bad start that they’ve had.”
This week, the Bradley camp began running two hard-hitting radio ads that focus on Deukmejian’s receipt of campaign contributions from the hazardous waste industry and his veto of 21 bills that would have aided toxic cleanup.
Role of Lawyer
The advertising campaign points out that Karl Samuelian, the governor’s chief political fund raiser, has represented toxic waste handlers as a private attorney. Both commercials say Bradley is a politician who is not “for sale.”
Deukmejian did not dispute receiving the contributions and acknowledged that Samuelian had represented a toxic waste firm. But he vehemently denied Bradley’s suggestion that his actions as governor were affected by campaign donations.
“They just make irresponsible untruthful charges,” the governor said. “And there’s absolutely no basis that we ever have done anything in exchange for contributions. If he had any basis for it he would take those charges to some appropriate agency.”
Webb said the Bradley campaign was not alleging a violation of the law but was attempting to point out the governor’s links to the toxic waste industry.
“We are simply raising the issue and what we see as a significant conflict of interest,” she said. “I think he’s just embarrassed by the fact that he’s been caught with his hand in the cookie jar and he’s engaging in name calling to try and deflect the public’s attention from the real issue.”
Webb also charged that the Deukmejian Administration has done a “miserable” job of cleaning up toxic wastes and pointed out that investigations of the state’s cleanup effort are being conducted by the FBI and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Deukmejian told interviewers on the KCBS show “Newsmakers” that Bradley’s attack will not harm the governor’s reputation of “honesty and integrity” and will backfire by drawing attention to contributions the mayor himself has received.
The governor said Bradley accepted $15,000 from Occidental before reversing his stand on the drilling plan and another $11,000 afterward. (Bradley returned the $11,000 gift after it became public.)
“We could turn around and say that he changed his position on permitting the drilling for oil in Pacific Palisades because of campaign contributions that he had received from Occidental Petroleum Co.,” Deukmejian said. "(But) we aren’t saying that. We’re not going to. We aren’t conducting a campaign that way.”
Governor in the Lead
Deukmejian attributed Bradley’s “negative” tactics to the mayor’s poor showing in the campaign so far. Deukmejian has raised seven times as much money as Bradley and last week The Times Poll showed the governor held a 17% lead over his rival.