Plea for ‘Howard’s Last Initiative’ : Jarvis’ Consultants Enlist Widow’s Help for Mailer

Times Staff Writers

Two weeks after the death of Howard Jarvis, the political consultants who managed his landmark 1978 tax-slashing campaign have mailed a black-bordered fund-raising appeal to 350,000 Jarvis supporters in which Jarvis’ widow asks for money to help “pass Howard’s last initiative.”

“My Howard lived a good, full and long life,” said a letter, signed by Estelle Jarvis, which was included in a mass mailing by the Newport Beach consulting firm operated by William Butcher and Arnold Forde.

“His only regret is that he knew he could not protect Proposition 13 (the 1978 property tax initiative) forever. His only fear was that the enemies of Prop. 13 would triumph in his absence,” the letter continued.

The mailing also includes a photograph of Jarvis, with a note from his widow saying that she has enclosed it “as a remembrance.” The photo is inscribed on the back: “In Memoriam Howard Jarvis 1903-1986.”


A separate “message of support,” bordered in black, asks for contributions of $10, $15 or $20, payable to the “Howard Jarvis Memorial Fund.”

The money is needed, the solicitation says, to campaign for Proposition 62. That Jarvis-sponsored initiative, which is on the November ballot, would overturn a 1982 state Supreme Court decision that Jarvis supporters believe seriously weakened Proposition 13.

The Proposition 62 campaign, known as the California Tax Reduction Movement, had more than $223,000 in cash on June 30, the end of the last campaign reporting period, said Joel Fox, its executive director. Supporters hope to raise an additional $500,000 from this mailing and others before the election, the letter from Estelle Jarvis said.

“I think we did what Howard would have wanted us to do,” Fox said, when asked who came up with the idea for the mailer.


“There were questions right after Howard passed away, not only is the California Tax Reduction Movement going to go on, but is the campaign for Proposition 62 going to go on. . . . We wanted people to know, ‘Yes,’ and we wanted to run a full-scale campaign.”

Fox said the mailing was written and assembled by the Butcher-Forde consulting firm and submitted for approval to Estelle Jarvis, who made only minor changes.

She was unavailable for comment Wednesday. However, Peter Kaplanis, an attorney who spoke on her behalf, said she authorized the mailing and was aware of its contents. “Obviously, she believes what Howard believed,” he said.

Not Thought Inappropriate

Fox said he did not think it inappropriate that the solicitations were mailed less than two weeks after the 83-year-old Jarvis died of a blood disease on Aug. 12.

“I have not had one phone call on that, one phone call or letter,” Fox said. “It was Mrs. Jarvis’ wish that we go on right away.”

Neither Butcher nor Forde, owners of BFC Direct Marketing, was available Wednesday to discuss the mailing.

Since they first teamed up in 1970, Butcher and Forde have managed political campaigns for both Republicans and Democrats, as well as several Jarvis initiatives. They repeatedly have become embroiled in disputes over campaign ethics.


Worked for Sen. Garcia

In the 1982 Democratic primary, Butcher and Forde worked on behalf of then-state Sen. Alex Garcia, who was fighting off a challenge in his Los Angeles district from then-Assemblyman Art Torres. Garcia literature mailed the day before the primary falsely suggested that Torres and his wife, Yolanda Nava, were not really married and that Nava was not the mother of the couple’s two children.

A former campaign consultant who worked with Butcher and Forde on the Garcia race, roared with laughter when told Wednesday about their firm’s latest mailing.

“Bill Butcher never ceases to amaze me. . . .,” said Jerry Zanelli, who now is a Sacramento lobbyist. “No pictures of the funeral? Well, see, that’s good taste.”