Harman, Brooks Campaigns Trade Charges That Ads Distort Truth

TIMES STAFF WRITER

GUNNING FOR VOTES: Rep. Jane Harman(D-Rolling Hills) and Rancho Palos Verdes Councilwoman Susan Brooks have taken their campaigns to the airwaves.

And-- surprise, surprise-- both candidates accuse the other of distorting the truth.

Brooks' campaign was especially ruffled over a Harman ad that highlights Harman's support of the crime bill and opposition by the gun lobby.

The ad says: "The Daily Breeze reports that South Bay congresswoman Jane Harman has become the target of the National Rifle Assn., which is going to work for Harman's opponent, Susan Brooks."

In another portion of the ad, a narrator says that, "to satisfy the NRA, Brooks opposed" the crime bill, which includes a ban on certain types of assault weapons.

Brooks' campaign, however, said that she opposed the bill because it included $7 billion in what she calls "social engineering spending." Brooks supported the Brady Bill and opposes assault weapons "of mass destruction."

However, about 30 NRA members have been working for Brooks' campaign, and NRA champion Charlton Heston has endorsed her as well.

"No one on the NRA is a paid member of the staff," campaign manager John Perkins said. "They are walking precincts, but they understand Susan's position."

According to a source at the NRA, who asked not to be quoted by name, Harman got an "F" grade from the group while Brooks got an "A." But the NRA has not invested any money to oust Harman.

Harman's campaign, meanwhile, took exception to a series of Brooks' commercials that debuted over the weekend on cable TV outlets in Torrance, the beach cities and the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

In one, a laid-off aerospace worker says: "Jane Harman voted to cut defense by $150 billion. Jane Harman, like her millionaire friend Leona Helmsley, thinks integrity and truth is only for us little people."

Then Brooks says: "Over 50,000 jobs are lost in this district alone since Jane Harman and Bill Clinton gutted defense, and now our national security is at risk. Scary thought! We must restore our core infrastructure in defense and aerospace."

Their job loss figures, according to Perkins, are based on figures from UCLA and other sources, such as newspaper articles outlining companies' downsizing plans.

Behr said Harman never voted for a $150-billion cut in defense. Cuts in defense were begun by President George Bush, he said. "Jane voted for the full amount (of the defense budget) requested by the Pentagon."

As for Helmsley: "Jane Harman has never met Leona Helmsley," Behr said. "It's obviously an attempt at guilt by association."

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FINE LINE: Last week, state Sen. Ralph C. Dills (D-El Segundo) was fighting mad over opponent David Barrett Cohen's mailer that attacked the veteran legislator's pensions.

This week, the situation is reversed. Cohen was fuming at a Dills mailer that took a swipe at his unpaid student loans.

The ad features students waiting in line at a student loan office. At the front of the line is a statement that says: "You'd think he'd have paid back the more than $10,000 in student loans by now. But he hasn't. And thousands of young people are waiting in line because of deadbeats like him." The mailer, sent throughout the 28th State Senate District, is signed by Dills.

At issue is whether "deadbeat" means Cohen missed his loan obligation.

"That's an absolute lie, and he knows it," Cohen, an attorney and educator, said in a statement. "I've never missed a payment. Dills thinks he can say whatever he wants because he thinks I don't have the money to respond."

Cohen produced documents showing that he had already repaid several student loans in full. Of his remaining loans, he has met his $334.96 per month obligation, he said.

"If I could afford to prepay that damn thing early, don't you think I'd do it and save all that interest?" Cohen said.

Dills' campaign, however, said that they were taking issue with Cohen lending his campaign $9,000 rather than paying off his student loan debt.

"The issue is, he chose to loan his campaign money," campaign manager Richie Ross said. "First things first. We don't say he's late. That's not said anywhere."

Cohen responded that he had to raid his retirement fund to lend his campaign money.

He plans to file a cross-complaint in a response to a $1-million suit Dills filed last week. In a flyer, Cohen mistakenly said that Dills accepted a legislative pension while still a legislator, which is prohibited by state law. Cohen apologized and said that his staff has been correcting the error. It didn't matter to the Dills camp.

"His idea of a fight is he gets to slap the old guy around," Ross said.

Tom Shortridge, Cohen's consultant, said, "They realized there was no way for Dills to get reelected without attacking David."

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AND MORE: Libertarian Guy Wilson has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission over campaign finance reports field by Rep. Walter R. Tucker III (D-Compton).

At issue is Tucker's listing of $22,702 in expenses from April 1 to May 18 that were not itemized. That is out of a total of $32,448 during the period. The campaign listed the expenses as "fund raising and office expense."

The Federal Election Commission requires that all expenditures to a single vendor of more than $200 be reported.

Tucker's spending "would have required a minimum of 113 separate and distinct recipients over a period of six weeks," said Wilson's treasurer, Elizabeth Michael.

Wilson's campaign also said that more that 200 contributors to the Tucker campaign do not include addresses, employers and industries. Campaigns are required to make their "best efforts" to find such information for those who contribute more than $200.

Wilson is Tucker's only challenger in the heavily Democratic 37th Congressional District. Tucker, a freshman congressman, is facing charges that he accepted bribes while mayor of Compton.

Tucker said he had not seen the complaint filed by Wilson's camp, but noted that his campaign provided 100 pages of response to a similar complaint from Lew Prulitsky, his challenger in the Democratic primary.

"It goes with the territory," Tucker said. "When people are running, they try to attack you. They try to find fault wherever they can."

Special correspondent Jeff Kass contributed to this story.

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