GOP candidate Richard Sybert has sent a political mailer this week to thousands of 24th Congressional District voters as part of his campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. Anthony Beilenson (D-Woodland Hills). The 24th District race has attracted national attention, including visits from top Republican leaders to raise funds for Sybert, a former top aide to Gov. Pete Wilson.
* THE SYBERT MAILER: In a sendup of the popular 1982 movie "E.T.", the cover of the four page Sybert mailer shows a photo of the moon with the caption: "T.B. Phone Home!" Page two consists of a photo of Beilenson and the following quote attributed to the congressman: "I love being a member of Congress . . . I would be really sad if I were not." The mailer continues on the third page, saying: "Liberal Congressman Tony Beilenson used to live in California. But after 18 years in Congress, he's lost touch and now 'prefers spending his time in Maryland.' No wonder he says 'to be honest with you, I don't think about California's problems very much.' " The mailer attributes these two quotes to a Los Angeles Times article from June, 1989. The mailer goes on to contend that politicians who have been in office as long as Beilenson "start thinking they're a cut above the rest of us. They flip-flop on issues and change their positions to fit the latest polls." To prove its point, the mailer cites an October, 1990, Times article that quotes Beilenson as saying: "I do not support capital punishment." But now, the mailer states, the incumbent says he supports the death penalty. Hypocrisy is the next target of the mailer. Although Beilenson has pledged for years that he would not take special interest money from political action committees, the Sybert piece cites a 1992 Times inquiry that found that Beilenson--during his congressional race that year--was "benefiting from at least three special interest groups." Beilenson also is quoted as saying in 1988 that the answer to the nation's budget deficit was higher taxes, not spending cuts. Later, the mailer observes, Beilenson voted for the Clinton Administration deficit reduction plan and a $285-billion tax hike to fund it.
* ANALYSIS: Two of the quotes attributed to The Times are incomplete or have been taken out of context. A June, 1989, Times article included an observation that Beilenson leads a quiet social life in Washington and "prefers to spend his time gardening (emphasis added) at his home in Maryland." On capital punishment, the quote attributed to Beilenson by Sybert is incomplete. What Beilenson actually said was: "In general, I do not support capital punishment--but I have voted for imposing it in a limited number of cases, including punishment for persons convicted of being kingpins in illegal drug operations . . . and for several other categories of heinous crimes." Finally, a 1992 Times inquiry did find that Beilenson was getting help from an abortion rights group, CARAL, that might have been construed as a political action committee contribution and that two other groups, the Sierra Club and United Teachers of Los Angeles, were making independent expenditures on Beilenson's behalf. Beilenson later asked CARAL to cease its activities. Beilenson did vote for the Clinton deficit reduction plan.