Assemblyman Dennis Brown (R-Los Alamitos) played a central role in 1986 in sending out thousands of phony presidential endorsement letters opposing the reelection of Assemblyman Richard E. Floyd (D-Carson) and was prepared to “take full responsibility” for the mailers, according to grand jury testimony.
Transcripts of the testimony, released publicly last Friday, for the first time spell out Brown’s role in the controversy, which led last month to the indictment of Assemblyman John R. Lewis (R-Orange) for his role in forging then-President Reagan’s name on campaign letters mailed on behalf of six Republican Assembly candidates.
Brown, who was not indicted, on Saturday issued a brief statement, saying that because the case is before the courts it would be inappropriate for him to comment.
But, he emphasized, “when certain individuals are forced to testify under oath, the people of California will see a much different picture than that represented in the grand jury transcript.”
First elected in 1978, Brown represents a district which includes Signal Hill and the eastern half of Long Beach.
After the 1986 election, the White House denied authorizing the mailers, and Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp began an investigation which led to Lewis’ indictment on Feb. 6. The strongest of the letters endorsed Floyd’s 1986 opponent, Republican Roger Fiola, and accused Floyd of caving in “to the powerful underworld drug industry.”
In the 350-page grand jury transcript, Henry Olsen, a former Lewis aide, stressed the importance of the Republican effort to defeat Floyd in his blue-collar, strongly Democratic 53rd District.
“The Fiola campaign was our most secret target,” testified Olsen, who was granted immunity from prosecution. He added that if the Democrats realized that Floyd was a target, they could have pumped campaign funds into his race. In fact, Floyd rallied his supporters and campaign contributors and beat back Fiola’s challenge by about 6,200 votes.
Tim Macy, a direct-mail consultant who was also granted immunity, testified that as the race heated up, Assemblyman Brown was dissatisfied with the campaign mailers against Floyd. “He wanted a stronger letter in that race and had me rewrite most of my mail pieces in that campaign to be stronger than they were,” Macy told the grand jury.
Making of Decision
The decision to mail the letters was made during an Oct. 24 telephone conversation between Macy and Lewis, who was at a leadership meeting with Brown, then-Assembly Republican Leader Pat Nolan of Glendale and Assemblyman Ross Johnson (R-La Habra) in Johnson’s Orange County office, according to testimony.
Macy testified that Nolan told him that when the GOP leadership was deciding whether to send out the letters, Brown said “he would take full responsibility for the letters in his campaigns,” meaning Fiola’s and another contest in Riverside County.
Macy was asked what Nolan meant when he said Brown would take full responsibility for the letters. In response, Macy testified: “That they weren’t authorized and that Assemblyman Brown wanted those letters to be mailed in those races.”
Macy said that around Election Day, Brown told him that the “Reagan” letter and three other presidential endorsement letters had been sent out without White House authorization.
After the election, with the White House investigating the origin and preparation of the letters, the Assembly Republican leadership embarked on a cover-up, according to the testimony. They concocted an “Alphonse-Gaston” story, each blaming the other to hide his own role in the scheme, several GOP aides said in sworn statements.
Richard Temple, who was director of the Assembly GOP campaign committee, testified that the Republican leadership was most concerned about the Fiola letter. “I mean the concern was how do we control politically and PR-wise with this Fiola letter,” he said.
Temple minimized the importance of the other letters, saying the GOP leadership could “write off” those pieces. But, referring to the letter that attacked Floyd, Temple testified: “You couldn’t write off this.”
Floyd, who has urged prosecution of all legislators involved in the case, predicted that the grand jury testimony will be raised as a campaign issue against Brown and other lawmakers. “This should have a salutary effect in cleaning up campaigns in California. People should know they can’t get away with this stuff,” Floyd said in an interview on Monday.