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CAMPAIGN '98

SEE HOW THEY SPIN: Behind the TV Pitch

Seeking the Truth in Attorney General Ad

October 31, 1998|CARL INGRAM

In an increasingly hostile race for California attorney general, Republican candidate Dave Stirling has prepared a new television ad claiming that his main opponent, Democratic state Sen. Bill Lockyer, has misrepresented his own record to show he is a crime fighter.

Stirling's ad, called "Truths," features the following script:

Marc Klaas: "Since my daughter Polly was brutally murdered, I have spent my time trying to toughen California's crime laws. But one man, Sen. Bill Lockyer, has tried to block tougher laws that would put victims ahead of criminals. Now that he is running for attorney general, Sen. Lockyer is pretending to be a crime fighter. He is not telling the truth."

A snippet of television tape appears on the screen. In it, Lockyer, from the podium of the state Senate chamber, advises members: "There is no obligation that any member tell the truth."

Klaas: "Now you know. That is why I'm supporting Dave Stirling. You should too."

Analysis: The Stirling campaign's editing of the television clip of an angry 1997 Senate debate eliminates the context and distorts Lockyer's remarks. At the time, Senate members were battling over whether a member had lied about the contents of a bill. The shouting escalated and threatened to turn uglier in a chamber where there are no rules governing the content of speeches. To cool things off, Lockyer, then the Senate leader, reminded colleagues that in deciding how to vote on an issue, they should evaluate the crediblity of other members. As for requiring that only the truth be told on the Senate floor, Lockyer said: "There is no obligation that any member tell the truth."

The spot offers no evidence that Lockyer tried to block tougher laws at the expense of crime victims or that he has fudged his own record. News accounts and official legislative histories do show that in 1988-89, two bills passed by the Assembly that would have made it a capital offense to murder a child younger than seven were never put to a vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Lockyer chaired. But Lockyer has long supported the death penalty, and he wrote a "Three Strikes" bill long before enactment of the current "Three Strikes" law in 1994.

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