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CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS

Angelides Camp Says It Is Source of Gov.'s Audio

The campaign says it got the recording of a meeting from the governor's website.

September 13, 2006|Nancy Vogel | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — State Treasurer Phil Angelides' gubernatorial campaign on Tuesday said that it was the source of an audio recording of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger published last week by The Times, and said it was acquired from the governor's website without a password and without hacking.

Schwarzenegger's campaign accused its rivals of acquiring the recording improperly. His administration acknowledged that security was lax on the website where it stores audio, but said the information could not have been accessed without a password.

Schwarzenegger spokesman Adam Mendelsohn said that on rare occasions, reporters have been e-mailed a link to recordings stored on the site.

A day earlier, administration officials had said that accessing the tape was "a breach of one or more security protocols." The California Highway Patrol, which is responsible for safeguarding state property, is investigating.

Angelides campaign manager Cathy Calfo said her camp came by the audiotape easily. She said an Angelides campaign researcher who downloads documents daily from government websites got the material by backtracking from a link sent out Aug. 29 by Schwarzenegger's press office.

The link connected visitors with a recording of Schwarzenegger discussing Hurricane Katrina and other topics at Cal State Long Beach. By shortening the Web address, the researcher was able to reach a cache of various audio clips, including the one at issue, Calfo said.

"They're, I think, trying to distort the issue, make this an issue about someone 'hacking,' when no one hacked," Calfo said. "They made a mistake, and now they're trying to cover it up."

She said the researcher used the link in the Schwarzenegger press release to download four hours of recordings, including six minutes of Schwarzenegger bantering last spring with his chief of staff, a speechwriter and a speech coach. In that casual conversation, the governor described Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia (R-Cathedral City) as "hot" -- a fiery personality -- and attributed that temperament to a mix of "black blood" and "Latino blood."

On the recording, the governor and his staff comment on Republican Assemblymen Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield and George Plescia of San Diego, referring to McCarthy as "Bakersfield boy" and comparing Plescia to a startled deer.

After The Times published the recording last week, the governor apologized and said that reading a transcription of his comments on the tape made him cringe.

Calfo said she did not know until Monday afternoon that campaign workers had obtained the recording, and she added that she was "not happy" about it.

"The information was accessible on a public website," Calfo said. "I can say I would have handled it very differently. I think that I would have directed reporters to that public website."

"I feel like a decision like that should have been made at the highest levels of the campaign and it wasn't," she said.

She described Angelides as "surprised" and "disappointed" by the workers' actions.

Angelides spokeswoman Amanda Crumley identified the two campaign workers as researcher Sean Sullivan and press aide Dan Newman.

Schwarzenegger campaign manager Steve Schmidt, in a conversation with reporters Tuesday, offered no evidence that the audio had been downloaded from a password-protected site. He referred to a statement issued Monday by Schwarzenegger legal affairs secretary Andrea Hoch that described the site as private and requiring passwords. And Schmidt questioned why the Angelides campaign would leak a tape if it was publicly available.

David Garcia, director of media relations for the Los Angeles Times, reiterated Tuesday that the newspaper "does not reveal its confidential news sources."

Schmidt said law enforcement officials would determine whether the downloading was illegal.

"This was an attempted political dirty trick and they've been found out," Schmidt said.

At a bill-signing ceremony in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Schwarzenegger was asked what he thought about the Angelides campaign taking the recording from his website.

"I think that the minimum wage issue is so important that I don't really want to interfere with all these little trivial things, to be honest with you, right now," he said. "I mean, it's like, to me what is important is that we put the spotlight on the hardworking people of California."

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nancy.vogel@latimes.com

Times staff writer Michael Finnegan contributed to this report.

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