Eric Garcetti's chief campaign strategist, Bill Carrick, accused… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)
A top advisor to Los Angeles mayoral hopeful Eric Garcetti accused the city councilman's rival Wendy Greuel on Thursday of concealing her role behind a TV attack ad in violation of federal disclosure laws.
Garcetti's chief campaign strategist, Bill Carrick, said Greuel, the city controller, saved her campaign as much as $300,000 by deceiving eight TV stations into believing that her most recent attack ad qualified for their lowest rates under a federal law that mandates discounts for candidates running spots before an election.
The spot did not qualify for the discount, Carrick said, because it failed to comply with a federal rule requiring that a candidate's voice or image be included in such an ad.
"It is cheating," said Carrick, who also complained of what the Greuel campaign described as its "inadvertent error" in running a written disclaimer at the end of the ad for less than the legally required five seconds.
"They have gone to great ends to try to keep voters from knowing who's behind that spot," he said. "Why? Because they're afraid of the backlash."
John Shallman, Greuel's chief strategist, said it was ironic that Garcetti was suddenly interested in ethics laws after his history of paying thousands of dollars in fines for ethical transgressions.
"Obviously he accepts the commercial — which highlights his self-dealing, conflicts of interests with billboard companies and big oil companies — as 100% factual since his only quibble is over the disclaimer," Shallman said in an email.
Shallman said it was up to the discretion of the TV station selling ad time at the discount rate to decide whether to require the face or voice of a local candidate. Carrick, however, said it was a legal requirement.
The discount rate saves candidates large sums of money on advertising. On Monday, for example, the Greuel campaign paid KABC the discount rate — $1,920 — for two 30-second spots during its local newscast between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. Without the discount, that same ad time would have cost $4,500.
The Greuel attack ad started airing heavily a week ago. Carrick estimated that the Greuel campaign saved between $250,000 and $300,000 by getting the discount rate for an ad that didn't legally qualify for it. He suggested that was, in effect, a large campaign contribution by the stations.
Garcetti's campaign lodged complaints with eight stations Thursday, asking them to pull Greuel's attack ad, stop offering her the discount rate for advertising without the legally required disclosure, and demand reimbursement for discounts already provided.
"Thank you for bringing this to our attention," NBCUniversal media counsel Amanda M. Leith responded to Garcetti's campaign in an email. "We are no longer airing the spot at issue and have passed your concerns on to the advertiser. We are informed that they are submitting a revised spot to address these issues."
Shallman said Greuel's campaign has sent a revised ad to any station that requested further disclosures.