In a sharp turnaround, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley launched personal attacks against his major rival, Councilman John Ferraro, in television commercials criticizing him for accepting campaign contributions from a cable television firm and buying a condominium from a major developer with close ties to City Hall.
At a press conference previewing the commercials, a top Bradley aide accused Ferraro of "impropriety."
Despite polls showing the mayor with a commanding lead, the Bradley campaign injected new controversy into the mayoral race contending that Ferraro had voted for a cable television franchise in 1983 after receiving $17,500 in campaign contributions.
The television ads also claim that Ferraro, who represents the 4th District, had pushed for a Hancock Park condominium conversion project in his district--over protests by local tenants--and bought a unit from the builders of the project only months after the council had approved the project.
Bradley's campaign chairman, Tom Quinn, said the fact that Ferraro moved into the condominium after taking part in approving it "raises questions about the propriety of his actions."
He added: "I have no evidence of anything more than impropriety."
When first told about the charge involving United Cable, Ferraro called it "sleazy gutter-style politics" by the mayor and reacted angrily to the claim that he had been influenced by campaign contributions from the firm, which was awarded an East Valley franchise.
"That's an outright lie," he said.
Ferraro could not be immediately reached for comment on the conversion project, which involved the Daon Corp., a Canadian company active in real estate development. But his campaign manager, Ron Smith, said that Ferraro paid full market value for the condominium.
"I can't believe Bradley did this. This is total fabrication," he said.
Several polls, including one done by The Times, shows Bradley with a sizable lead over Ferraro for the April 9 primary election. But Ferraro campaign manager Smith suggested that the mayor's attack was prompted by a Bradley poll of likely voters showing Bradley leading only 45% to 36%.
Quinn denied that, saying the Bradley campaign completed a poll Wednesday night showing the mayor ahead by about the same margin as in last week's Times Poll, 62% to 22%.
Still, the latest Bradley commercials are in sharp contrast to his earlier television spots.
On one commercial, two women are talking about Ferraro. One said Ferraro took $17,000 from a cable television company and then voted to give it a franchise and "pushed through a law to help a campaign contributor convert apartments into condominiums." The other person said, "You mean people lost their homes?" "Not Ferraro," she was quickly told by her friend, who said Ferraro had moved into one of the condos.
As outlined by the Bradley campaign, in February, 1978, the Daon Corp. had sought to convert the Hancock Park Terrace Apartments in the 600 block of North Wilcox Avenue into expensive condominiums. However, the tenants, who could not afford to buy the new units, protested to the Planning Commission, which deadlocked over the issue.
After pressing their case before the City Council, Ferraro--then the council president--defended the project and urged his colleagues to approve it. In September, 1978, the council gave its final approval to the Daon project.
Less than a month after Daon began selling the condominiums, Ferraro purchased one of the units for $160,000, apparently with a $110,000 down payment. A friend, Margaret Hart, who is now married to Ferraro, also acquired a condominium valued at $180,000 and reportedly paid cash for the full amount.
About five months after Ferraro had purchased the condominium, he sold it back to Daon to buy a larger unit--valued at $185,924.
According to the Bradley campaign, Ferraro "repeatedly failed to report the existence of either condominium on his 'statement of economic interests' as required under state law."
Sees No Requirement
But Ferraro campaign manager Smith said there was no requirement for Ferraro to list the property because it was his principal place of residence. He said the councilman also was checking his own financial records involving the condominium before replying further to the Bradley charges.
The 1984-85 manual from the state Fair Political Practices Commission states that public officials are not required to disclose "your principal place of residence" unless it is also a place of business.
Meanwhile, Smith said Ferraro had paid $129,950 and not $160,000 for his first condominium and that Hart had paid for her unit through the sale of her house. Randall Stoke, an attorney who represents Daon, said Ferraro "paid the list price for the first place, and I can assure you he got no deal."
Both Stoke and Smith said Ferraro moved from his original condominium to the second one because the first had cracks in the wall and was in bad shape.
In the cable television controversy, United beat out seven other cable television franchises, although another company originally had been recommended by city staff--and the City Council's Industry and Economic Development Committee agreed with that in February, 1983.
Four Contributions Alleged
During the next four months, Ferraro, a committee member, reportedly received four separate contributions--totaling $17,500--from United Cable officials, lobbyists or their representatives. The last contribution allegedly occurred in June, 1983, and in August the committee reversed itself and recommended that the franchise be awarded to United. Ferraro joined in that vote. And the council went along with that recommendation in September, 1983.
Ferraro then received another $2,500 contribution from United in May, 1984, with the Bradley camp pointing out that United Cable has yet to connect a single home or apartment to the system.