CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS: THE AD CAMPAIGN

Elements of the Smith ad, with analysis by Times staff writer Paul Feldman

The race: Attorney General. Whose ad?: Democratic candidate Arlo Smith.

Elements of the Smith ad, with analysis by Times staff writer Paul Feldman:

Ad: The 30-second spot gives a series of reasons "why Ira Reiner can't be attorney general." The first of these is "violating ethics."

Analysis: While the ad's narrator supplies no details, a headline in the video refers to Reiner's 1986 censure by the State Bar for violating conflict-of-interest rules on two occasions while he served as Los Angeles city attorney. In one instance, Reiner publicly criticized members of a Los Angeles Police Department secret intelligence unit while defending the city in a lawsuit alleging illegal spying by the unit. Reiner has said the Bar misinterpreted his professional obligations to the city. He asserts that his first duty is to the public, not government officials.

Ad: The spot attacks Reiner for "plea bargaining with convicted criminals."

Analysis: Virtually all district attorneys, including Smith, enter into plea bargaining arrangements with defendants in order to win guilty pleas. The purpose is to win convictions without clogging the court system. Smith's camp says the ad refers to arrangements that Reiner's office has made with jailhouse informants in which letters have been sent to judges or parole authorities detailing their testimony in criminal cases. The letters, Reiner's office has acknowledged, can sometimes help open jail doors for the informants more quickly.

Ad: The spot claims Reiner is "losing the battle against crime."

Analysis: District attorneys do not arrest criminals; they prosecute defendants who have been arrested by police agencies. Of the people arrested and prosecuted in Los Angeles County in 1988, Reiner had a felony conviction rate of 94.6%, just below Smith's rate of 95.4%. Reiner's overall 1988 conviction rate--which also includes misdemeanor convictions--was 84.6%, compared to Smith's 72.1%.

Ad: The spot asserts, "It was Reiner who totally mishandled the McMartin case."

Analysis: After the longest criminal trial in American history, McMartin Pre-School teacher Ray Buckey was found not guilty last January of most of the child molestation charges in the highly publicized Manhattan Beach case. Subsequently, Reiner decided to retry Buckey on eight counts. Reiner has drawn fire in some quarters for allegedly keeping the case alive for political purposes. More recently, Reiner was criticized by the current trial judge for having had a district attorney's investigator attempt to contact the judge by phone on Reiner's behalf. Reiner has defended the retrial as "a matter of justice" and has said the case has been flawed by "serious evidentiary problems" since it was originally filed by his predecessor. Reiner says the current judge "misunderstood" the nature of the recent call, which he claimed was only meant to lay the groundwork for a meeting with attorneys for both sides.

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