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Consultant cops to phony phone message

June Casagrande

Campaign consultant Dave Ellis has admitted creating a recorded

campaign telephone message that Greenlight leaders call a deceptive

tactic to benefit Ellis’ client, Gary Adams, the councilman who won

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reelection in District 4 earlier this month.

The recording, received by a handful of Newport Beach households,

touted District 4 independent candidate Ron Winship as a Greenlight

candidate. The only candidate endorsed by Greenlight in that district

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was Rick Taylor.

Adams, whose campaign was run by Ellis, was the third candidate in

that race. Greenlight leaders believe that the message was designed

to confuse voters as to who the Greenlight candidate was, thereby

splitting Taylor’s vote enough to give Adams the advantage.

“We put that message in the queue with the instructions to the

vendor not to execute it,” Ellis said. “Apparently, the vendor messed

up. For that, I apologize.”

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In phone interviews this month, Ellis twice denied having anything

to do with the message. But after Taylor discovered a connection

between Ellis and the message, Ellis acknowledged that he had created

the message, but that he never approved sending it out.

“We created it just in case we needed it, but we decided we

didn’t,” Ellis said. “We didn’t know how strong a campaign Winship

was going to run ....In the end, it didn’t matter, because Taylor

would have gotten whomped anyway.”

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Taylor got 9,046 votes in the election, which, combined with

Winship’s 1,634 votes, would not have beaten Adams’ 12,473 votes.

In the days before the Nov. 5 election, Greenlight leaders said

four residents reported having received the messages at their homes.

Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former Mayor Tom Edwards, confirmed that

she received the message on her home answering machine.

Taylor said he discovered the connection between Ellis and the

campaign message after learning that fellow Airport Working Group

member Aaron Elder was asked by Ellis to record an airport-related

message attacking Linda Dixon, Costa Mesa mayor and City Council

candidate.

Taylor said he called the phone messaging company, Sound Media

Group in Irvine, and with the help of an investigator obtained the

pass codes to four voice mailboxes thought to belong to Ellis. One of

them contained the Winship message.

An employee at that company confirmed to the Daily Pilot that the

four mailboxes were leased by Dave Ellis. The company’s voice message

service is used by telemarketers and telephone campaigners to

automatically dial and play the recording.

Taylor, who was once an ally with Ellis in the fight for an El

Toro airport, said he is outraged by the message.

“I didn’t have the money they had, so I had to walk the streets,

campaigning in front of stores, everywhere,” Taylor said. “To be

damaged by a bunch of slipshod phone calls -- that’s a blow. It makes

you wonder: Why bother?”

Greenlight Committee spokesman Phil Arst on Wednesday filed a

complaint with the Newport Beach Police Department and said he may

take other legal action on behalf of Greenlight. A spokesman for the

California Fair Political Practices Commission said phone messages

are not regulated by the Political Reform Act, which the commission

enforces.

Ellis said he was angry with Taylor for accessing account

information for the voice mail boxes without permission.

Ellis was not manager of Winship’s campaign; the two had no

professional affiliation. Winship said in early November that he had

nothing to do with the message, which Ellis’ comments confirmed

Wednesday. Winship could not be reached Wednesday.

Adams said he had no knowledge of the message and that he did not

pay for it.

“To say I’m angry is a gross understatement,” Adams said. “Anyone

who knows me knows that I would never have any part in such a thing.

“If the election outcome had been such that if a significant

amount of Winship votes would have pushed Taylor over the edge, I

would call for a reelection,” he said. “That’s how much I think this

is not right.”

* JUNE CASAGRANDE covers Newport Beach and John Wayne Airport.

She may be reached at (949) 574-4232 or by e-mail at

june.casagrande@latimes.com.


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