Embattled Rep. James E. Rogan (R-Glendale), fighting for political survival in the most expensive House of Representatives race in the nation, debuted a cable television ad this week that mentions his controversial role in President Clinton's impeachment trial.
That Rogan would bring up his impeachment role in the rapidly changing Sunland/Tujunga-to-San Marino 27th Congressional District is somewhat surprising. His leadership role, as one of several House members who prosecuted the president last year, won Rogan national recognition but turned off some voters in the increasingly Democratic district. And when his main challenger, state Sen. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), outpolled Rogan in the March open primary, most observers said impeachment was a factor.
"My opponent's accused me of some pretty terrible things. He's right that I angered some of my Democrat friends when I supported impeachment," Rogan states in the commercial, which started running this week on cable stations in the district.
"But I've stood up to the leaders of my own party too," Rogan continues, listing such issues as HMO reform, Medicare coverage of prescription drugs and "responsible gun safety laws."
Parke Skelton, Schiff's campaign consultant, said he was puzzled as to why Rogan would bring up impeachment. Before and during the unsuccessful impeachment trial, Rogan often was seen on national television criticizing the president's conduct.
"It surprises me a great deal," Skelton said, speculating that Rogan may have decided that he needed to deal with the impeachment trial, either to remind his Republican base that he had taken on the president or to persuade Democrats unhappy with his impeachment role to consider his record on other crucial issues.
It is those other issues in the ad--and Rogan's claim that he has bucked his party--that has Democrats hopping mad.
"He has marched in lock-step with the right-wing Republican leadership on every single issue he mentions" in the commercial, said John Del Cecato, a spokesman for the Democratic National Campaign Committee.
"I haven't seen anyone attempt to reinvent themselves to this extent, ever. . . . Time and again he has stood with special interests rather than voting his district," said Del Cecato. He cited Rogan's vote against a major HMO reform bill and his opposition to a senior citizens' lobby-favored Medicare prescription drug coverage bill.
Rogan campaign manager Jason Roe said he does not consider the impeachment reference a main focus of the ad, which was intended to address issues important to district voters. For example, he said, the congressman voted for an industry-backed bill aimed at improving health care.
The latest Rogan commercial began airing just as a pharmaceuticals-industry-funded group announced that it would expand its television advertising in several key congressional districts to support friendly incumbents, including Rogan.
Citizens for Better Medicare, formed a little more than a year ago to fight efforts to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare, told a Washington news service that it will expand the television ad campaign it has been running in five congressional districts to 18. The ads are aimed primarily at backing lawmakers who opposed a Democrat-led drive to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare and who have been under attack from AFL-CIO-sponsored ads.
The group also will run ads for Rep. Steven T. Kuykendall (R-Rancho Palos Verdes), who faces a tough challenge in the South Bay from former Rep. Jane Harman, a Democrat who held the seat previously.
Both Parties Target District
The pharmaceutical group's expanded campaign was disclosed by an online subscription-only service from the National Journal, a Washington-based weekly that reports on government and politics.
The group's ad for Rogan features a woman named Ardell who says her mother's family of eight all died from cancer, then says, "Congressman James Rogan has voted to strengthen and improve health care for seniors."
Schiff consultant Skelton blasted that ad.
"Mr. Rogan claims that he is fighting to make prescription drug prices affordable--so why is the industry profiting from excessive drug prices spending a fortune to help reelect him?" Skelton said.
Cable viewers have been seeing political ads in this race, one of the most widely watched in the nation, since May.
The district is a key battleground in the fight between the two parties for control of the House of Representatives, and, between them, Rogan and Schiff have collected at least $7.5 million so far.
Two other ads also are running on cable televisions systems throughout the 27th District.
One, paid for by the California Republican Party, asks, "So what's up with Adam Schiff?" and contends Schiff "voted to hike the paycheck tax" despite the state's fat budget surplus.
The other is an education-themed ad by the Schiff campaign. It shows Schiff talking about his volunteer teaching duties at Glendale Community College and describing his commitment to education.