Councilman Gary Adams said he welcomes a review by the district
attorney’s office and hopes the scrutiny will clear him of wrongdoing
in an incident of phony campaign telephone messages.
Adams also said he will propose tightening the city’s campaign
rules to require all scripts for recorded campaign messages to be
submitted to the city clerk’s office.
“I think that could go a long way toward preventing something like
this from happening again the future,” Adams said.
Adams, along with former campaign manager Dave Ellis, is the
subject of a complaint filed with the district attorney’s office
alleging misleading and possibly fraudulent campaigning in the 2002
In the District 4 race, some Newport Beach households received a
phone message containing wrong information about candidates. The
message purported to be on behalf of candidate Ron Winship and
described Winship as a Greenlight candidate.
Ellis later admitted having created the phone message, but said he
never authorized distributing it. Adams has contended he did not know
about the message and he has denounced the tactic.
“I say, come on and investigate to the fullest. I knew nothing
about it. I have nothing to hide,” Adams said. “I told Dave from the
first day to run a clean campaign and that there would be no
exceptions. Why he would think I would approve of or even consider
approving of anything like this is beyond my imagination.”
Greenlight leaders think the message was designed by the Adams
camp to confuse Greenlight supporters, thereby diverting votes from
their real candidate, Rick Taylor.
Ellis did not respond to phone and e-mail messages left Friday and
Adams said he would welcome the district attorney’s office to look
through any documents, computer drives or other property relevant to
It remains unclear, though, what the legal ramifications of the
review could be. A representative of the district attorney’s office
said she could not comment on the case or even on broader legal
issues surrounding the complaint.
Mark Petracca, political science chair at UC Irvine, said that the
phony message likely didn’t break any election laws. Though it’s
possible that it could fall under regulations of the Federal
Communications Commission, Petracca said that there is little in
criminal or even civil law that could serve as legal recourse for the
“What you’ve stumbled into here is the corruption that is Orange
County politics -- no one’s going to go after [Ellis],” said
Petracca, who described Ellis as a “mercenary who works for the
Courts have a long history of being reluctant to allow candidates
to sue each other over campaign falsehoods, Petracca said.
Even if a judge did hear the case, the plaintiff’s task would be a
hard one. Among other things, they would have to prove they were
substantially damaged by the falsehoods. Voting outcomes show that
even if all of Winship’s votes had gone to Taylor, Adams would still
have won the election.
“This is the kind of stuff which, in and of itself, isn’t all that
consequential., Did this make or break the outcome of the election?”
Petracca said. “But taken cumulatively, it shows a profound disregard
for the integrity of the electoral process.”
* JUNE CASAGRANDE covers Newport Beach and John Wayne Airport.
She may be reached at (949) 574-4232 or by e-mail at