A Mysterious Inquiry
by Jim Newton
Los Angeles Times
June 20, 2011
Public officials across L.A. County have been asked for
information on the advocacy organization by a firm that
specializes in "opposition research." But who's paying
Last month, scores of public officials across Los
Angeles County opened their mail to find nearly
identical requests for information: Members of the Los
Angeles City Council and the county Board of
Supervisors, the Community Redevelopment Agency and
Community College District Board of Trustees, the city
of Long Beach and untold others were asked to produce
records relating to the Los Angeles Alliance for a New
Economy. It was the first blow, silently delivered, in
what could be a nasty fight, of a sort that is becoming
increasingly common in American and California
LAANE, as it's known, is an 18-year-old advocacy
organization that seeks to fashion and influence public
policy relating to jobs, the environment and community
development. The group, widely perceived as having a
strong liberal slant, has a staff of 45 people and an
annual budget of $4 million, and it is headed by a
shrewd executive director, Madeline Janis. Housed in a
tiny suite of offices just west of downtown (LAANE
rents the space from the union UNITE-HERE), its modest
quarters give little evidence of its impact, which is
profound. In project after project -- from winning
passage of the city's Living Wage Ordinance to
revamping the way the Los Angeles port handles truck
traffic to reimagining the region's approach to
recycling -- LAANE has shown itself to be one of
Southern California's most potent political
That has made it plenty of enemies, and one of them is
now quietly but unmistakably striking back. The group
that filed the requests for information under the
California Public Records Act is called MB Public
Affairs, a Sacramento-based operation that specializes
in "opposition research," the art of ferreting out dirt
on one's enemies. MB Public Affairs is headed by Mark
Bogetich, a garrulous operative known to his friends as
"Bogey," who has helped a number of Republican
candidates neutralize their opponents. In recent years,
MB Public Affairs has worked for Altria, once known as
the Phillip Morris Cos.; the state Republican Party;
Arnold Schwarzenegger; Meg Whitman; and California's
Indian tribes, whose gambling receipts give them an
intense interest in state and sometimes local politics.
When MB Public Affairs filed more than 50 public
records requests for information on LAANE, it was not a
casual act. It was almost certainly intended to find
something damaging, and it's costing someone serious
money. One operative who knows this business well
estimated the price of such a digging campaign at
The requests submitted by MB Public Affairs sought
calendars, details of any meetings between public
officials and LAANE representatives and information
about payments made to LAANE, among other things. LAANE
heard about the requests from some of those who
received them, and the group then made a public records
request of its own in return, asking for copies of any
information given to MB Public Affairs.
Those documents are trickling into LAANE, and there
are, Janis acknowledges, a few potentially embarrassing
but insignificant tidbits. There are, for instance,
exchanges between LAANE and Councilman Eric Garcetti in
which a LAANE representative urges Garcetti to support
union efforts at Hollywood and Vine and at airport
hotels (its critics often charge that LAANE is a tool
of organized labor; Janis makes no apologies for
LAANE's alliances with labor but stresses that only
about 15% of its money comes from unions). Janis also
is concerned that LAANE's critics may charge that it
exceeds federal or local limits on lobbying, an
argument she's heard before and firmly denies.
Some of the documents are just plain puzzling. In the
batch that came from Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who
has tangled with labor and Janis, there is a cryptic,
handwritten note on the back of one page: "Janis
Commissioner, unethical, illegal in tampering with
What's most intriguing and unsettling at LAANE,
however, is the anonymous nature of the probe.
There's a possibility that it's being bankrolled by
business interests on the opposite side of an issue
LAANE has taken on. Or it might be motivated by
ideology, something akin to the attacks on labor in
Wisconsin or on community organizing as practiced by
ACORN: "Is this connected to a right-wing
infrastructure??" Janis asked rhetorically. "That's
what scares me and is keeping me up at night."
I've known Janis for a decade. We haven't always agreed
on everything, but she's nothing if not open; in
response to my requests, she turned over volumes of
material, even a private audit of her organization.
LAANE's tax returns are on the Internet, as is Janis'
salary and the organization's donors.
MB Public Affairs, by contrast, is much more private.
Bogetich told me last week that the firm was checking
the accuracy of some of LAANE's claims, possibly
including its lobbying reports, and is "looking at the
extent to which LAANE has influence." But he declined
to answer questions about who has hired his firm or
what it is charging.
Meanwhile, materials are piling up in MB Public
Affairs' offices, to be released -- or not -- depending
on what it finds. And Janis is left to wonder when that
shoe might drop.
"We're used to a barroom fight," Janis said last week.
"What they're doing is a mugging in a parking lot."
Help Fight the Right 's Attack on LAANE
by Madeline Janis
Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy
June 20, 2011
Last month, one of the nation's top conservative
opposition research firms initiated a massive public
records search, requiring more than 60 elected and
appointed officials to turn over all correspondence
related to LAANE over a period of many years.
We don't know who hired MB Public Affairs, but their
former clients include Karl Rove, Arnold
Schwarzenegger, Carly Fiorina, the Yes on 8 campaign,
the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and Altria
(formerly Philip Morris), among others. One of the
firm's key personnel is Andrew Davis, a top advisor to
Sarah Palin who also worked for the Bush-Cheney
reelection and assisted in the Supreme Court's
confirmations of Samuel Alito and John Roberts.
Here's what one GOP strategist had to say about MB
founder Mark Bogetich in a San Jose Mercury News
article: "Mark basically sits in the factory and
manufactures the laser-guided precision munitions, and
guys like me are the F-16 pilots that point them and
In other words, MB and its patrons are on a giant
search-and-destroy mission, and LAANE is the target.
The attack against LAANE is consistent with the broader
effort by the right to cripple progressive causes and
leaders. And as the recent assault on Planned
Parenthood reminds us, they are willing to do almost
anything to achieve their aim.
LAANE will not be distracted or deterred from its
mission of forging a new economy for all. But every
attack, no matter how scurrilous, requires a strong
defense, and part of that is letting our friends know
that we may see the same kind of factual distortions
and outright lies that have propelled similar attacks
against other groups in the past.
Here's what you can do.
1) Spread the word. Please forward this email to your
friends and colleagues right now and encourage them to
do the same. Posting to your Facebook page would also
2) Comment. Write a short letter to the LA Times in
response to today's column (see below) and comment on
their web page.
3) Contribute to our $25,000 Fight the Right Fund.
LAANE will incur significant costs to defend against
this attack. Your contribution will help ensure that we
do not have to take precious resources away from our
core work of creating good jobs, thriving communities
and a healthy environment for everyone. To make a
donation, please click here.
On our special web page you will find more on MB Public
Affairs as well as today's LA Times column by Jim
Newton about the attack on LAANE and other right-wing
The time has come to fight back. As Bill Moyers has
said, "What's right and good doesn't come naturally.
You have to stand up and fight for it -- as if the
cause depends on you, because it does."
PortsideLabor aims to provide material of interest to
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