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In The News

THE PHANTOM: Behind the curtain

Daily News Columnist, 7/10/2010

The South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council wasn't the only special interest behind the attack mailer that targeted state Assembly candidate Yoriko Kishimoto in the weeks before the June 8 primary election.

According to a longtime San Mateo County political consultant, the developer behind the massive Cargill Saltworks project in Redwood City was a driving force behind the anti-Kishimoto mailer that focused on transportation.

Ed McGovern, a well-respected campaign manager who has worked on the Peninsula for two decades, told The Phantom that he and his client DMB Associates brought the idea for the mailer to the labor group and paid $30,000 to help make it happen.

"It was my idea and I told the folks at DMB we should do it and we went to labor," McGovern said.

Kishimoto finished third in the Democratic primary with 26.9 percent of the vote. San Mateo County Supervisor Rich Gordon won the nomination with 39.3 percent of the vote and entrepreneur Josh Becker came in second with 33.8 percent.

Why did DMB want Kishimoto to lose? McGovern said she opposed the developer's plans to build up to 12,000 homes on the 1,436-acre Cargill salt flats in Redwood City. McGovern said other candidates who oppose the controversial project should take note.

"This is our message," McGovern said. "Elected officials certainly have the right to take sides with (Save the Bay executive director and Saltworks opponent) David Lewis and be his pawnmor work with him on his side of this issue, but we also have the right to express our opposition of those elected officials, and we did with Kishimoto, and we're very happy she was defeated. We're going to continue to look for opportunities in November to do the same thing."

McGovern said DMB "funded the polling research to determine the most effective attacks on (Kishimoto)," while the labor councils from Santa Clara and San Mateo counties spent additional money for the mailings.

Kishimoto's concerns about high-speed rail and extending BART to San Jose "were clearly the most troublesome for her with the voters," McGovern said.

"Stuck in traffic again?" the mailer blared, with a photo of a congested freeway in the background. "Thank Yoriko Kishimoto. She campaigned to keep you there!"

But labor council spokesman Jody Meacham denied that DMB dictated the development of the mailer. That was up to the council's Committee on Political Education, or COPE, he said.

"Lots of people give money to COPE," Meacham said, "but COPE makes its own decisions about what to spend the money on."

Kishimoto, who has championed environmental causes, including mass transit, and was known to ride her bicycle to campaign events whenever possible, said in June that the mailer was "just not credible at all."

The fine print on the mailer only showed it was from the labor council, with no mention of DMB. McGovern said DMB didn't do its own mailer because the labor council, which endorsed Gordon, already had its own political action committee.

Asked whether DMB was behind the mailer, Vice President John Bruno confirmed the company contributed $30,000 to the labor council but did not say whether the developer generated the idea.

"We don't control what the labor council spends their money on, other than we're just in alignment with candidates that support housing, jobs and transportation improvements," Bruno said.

Bruno added: "Were we disappointed with the results of the 21st Assembly district? No."


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