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POLITICAL BRIEFING

Campaign Photo Makes the Rounds Without Doctor's Consent

October 30, 1998|PHIL WILLON and SUE FOX and JILL LEOVY | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The picture seemed pleasant enough: a happy, bespectacled doctor taking the blood pressure of a smiling hospital patient with a concerned-looking Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) at their side.

Only the doctor wasn't smiling when he found out Sherman's campaign was using the picture in his cable television ads and campaign mailers. The ad even ran during the World Series--on the local Fox affiliate.

Dr. Lawrence Baker threatened to sue unless Sherman pulled the ads. Baker, through his attorney, said the ads caused him "considerable embarrassment and humiliation in the community."

"To make matters worse, his photograph is being used in a manner which strongly implies that he supports you and your reelection to Congress, which he does not," Baker's attorney, James F. Sweeney, wrote Monday.

The campaign staff of Thousand Oaks businessman Randy Hoffman, Sherman's Republican challenger on the Nov. 3 ballot, was happy to let the local press know all about the fracas--and even sent out the letter from Baker's attorney.

Baker also wanted a written apology, and demanded that Sherman send out a news release admitting he used the doctor's photograph without consent.

"We pulled the ad, and complied with everything," Sherman said Thursday.

The photograph of Sherman and Baker was taken at Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks. Sherman said his campaign took a slew of pictures, with the hospital's consent, expressly for his campaign.

The Baker picture was used in a variety of ads, including one that stated, "Warning! Congressional candidate Randy Hoffman refuses to support the Patients' Bill of Rights."

But, it turns out, Baker supports Hoffman--not Sherman, according to the doctor's wife, Bobbi Baker. Sherman and Hoffman are duking it out to represent the 24th Congressional District, which includes the west San Fernando Valley and a portion of Ventura County.

This isn't the first time a campaign mailer in this race has drawn cries of protest.

Earlier this month, Hoffman got in hot water with the University of Southern California for sending out a campaign mailer from the "USC Alumni for a Stronger America" with USC's Tommy Trojan logo.

USC officials demanded he stop sending the mailer, since the university has never endorsed Hoffman or any other political candidate. The USC alumni association in question, it turned out, was made up of Hoffman supporters--and not affiliated with the university.

Last-Minute Complaint

On Thursday, Hoffman's campaign filed a complaint about Sherman with the Federal Election Commission, alleging that the Democratic incumbent failed to disclose $64,000 in interest owed when he filed his campaign finance reports.

The interest was on personal loans Sherman made to the campaign. In effect, Sherman was collecting interest from himself. But, Hoffman campaign manager Todd Slosek, who filed the complaint, said the Democrat is required to declare if the interest has been paid or added to Sherman's campaign debt.

Sherman, a certified public accountant, called the Hoffman complaint "frivolous."

"This is something they've known about for two years, but they're filing a complaint four days before the election," Sherman said.

The congressman said he has complied with all FEC disclosure laws. Details about interest on campaign loans does not have to be declared, Sherman said.

Sherman added that Hoffman has lent more than $550,000 of his own money to his campaign, and is charging 0% interest. Hoffman can afford to: He's a millionaire, Sherman said.

"Hoffman is so rich, he doesn't care," Sherman said.

FEC officials could not be reached for comment.

Speech Was an Earful

Councilman Mike Feuer, an honors graduate of Harvard University and its law school, had a few colleagues scrambling for their dictionaries during a recent speech condemning an anti-gay conference at a downtown hotel.

Sexual orientation, Feuer said, is an "immutable" characteristic.

The word created a bit of a stir in council chambers as legislators consulted each other for a definition.

"Mike, in his eloquence, sometimes uses words that are beyond me and my vocabulary," Councilman Richard Alarcon announced, adding that another silver-tongued orator, Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, had informed him that immutable meant something that cannot be changed.

"I thought that's what it meant," Alarcon said. "Hal Bernson and I were kind of conversing about what it meant."

"Us non-Harvard graduates," Bernson put in with a smile.

Rising to the occasion, Ridley-Thomas let loose a voluble string of verbs, declaring, "Conferences that demean, derogate, deny and demonize people only serve to divide people."

Drawing the Line

The Los Angeles City Council this week passed an ordinance that had particular piquancy for City Councilman Hal Bernson of Northridge.

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