Small Donor Names Are Election Issue
Seeking to cast doubt on his opponent’s claims of political independence, Westside Los Angeles school board candidate Mark Slavkin on Monday challenged incumbent Alan Gershman to reveal the names of hundreds of small campaign contributors.
Gershman refused, saying the demand was “another example of Slavkin’s smear tactics” and that disclosure of smaller donors’ names could expose them to harassment from the district teachers’ union, which has targeted Gershman for defeat.
Listing the names of campaign donors who give less than $100 is not required under state law. However, candidates may--and some do--disclose all of their contributors.
In this particular campaign, which many observers believe could tilt political balance of the school board toward the teachers’ union, Monday’s challenge was a strategically important tactic for Slavkin.
The 27-year-old aide to County Supervisor Ed Edelman has had to defend his own strong backing from the 22,000-member United Teachers-Los Angeles, which is embroiled in a long-running fight with the school board over salaries, increased say for teachers over how schools are run and other issues. If Slavkin wins, it could give UTLA the fourth board vote it needs on a variety of labor-management issues.
But Slavkin contends that Gershman is being supported by a less obvious interest group--district administrators and managers who want to protect their own pay, promotional opportunities and power.
Slavkin hopes full disclosure of Gershman’s contributors will show that. On Monday, Slavkin announced that he would reveal all of his small donors and called on Gershman to do the same.
“We are not ashamed to say who is supporting us,” said Rick Taylor, a campaign consultant to Slavkin. “We don’t understand why Mr. Gershman is afraid to show us his contributors.”
Gershman, 49, who is seeking a third term, has campaigned on his record, stressing his integrity and independence.
The latest campaign finance records show that Gershman has raised about $19,000 since the beginning of the year, more than three times what Slavkin took in. More than half of Gershman’s funds came from small, unnamed donors.
Of 54 contributors who gave enough to require disclosure, most are identified only as “educator” in the district. But a check of the district phone directory shows many of those appear to be school district principals, administrators or central office instructional personnel.
Jess Bravin, a spokesman for Gershman, said he had no idea how much of the campaign’s money has come from administrators. But he said the campaign has broad support from parents, non-teaching district unions and “all quarters of the district.”
Bill Price, a spokesman for an 8,000-member union representing some of the district’s lower paid blue-collar workers and classroom aides, said his group is supporting Gershman, in part because it fears a board strongly allied with UTLA could undercut other workers’ jobs and pay.
In interviews, several administrators acknowledged they were supporting Gershman. Sylvia Metzler, an assistant principal in the San Fernando Valley, said she bought two tickets to a Gershman fund-raiser “kind of . . . under peer pressure.” A friend and former boss, Gloria Cox, had called, she said. Cox, now an administrator at district headquarters, acknowledged that she made the pitch after attending a Gershman campaign program at downtown hotel, where Paul Possemoto, one of the district’s top instructional administrators, spoke and urged support of Gershman.
Group Officially Neutral
The 1,500-member Associated Administrators of Los Angeles is officially neutral in the election. But it has strongly encouraged members to contribute to candidates they support, emphasizing in one newsletter that names do not have to be revealed if less than $100 is given.
“If you’re asking me whether most administrators respect Alan Gershman as a board member, I’d say definitely,” said Walker Brown, executive director for the administrators’ group.