Attack ads gone but not lightly forgotten

Dr. Richard Pan greets supporters at his election night party on L St. in Sacramento on Tuesday.
Dr. Richard Pan greets supporters at his election night party on L St. in Sacramento on Tuesday.

Good citizens that we are, we’ve thrown the dirty, ugly and lowdown campaign mailers into the recycling bin. Good riddance.

Most of us will forget them like a bad dream. But the corporations, trade groups and unions that paid for them, and their lobbyists, will remember them well.

The insiders, who spent millions to sway public opinion and elect and un-elect candidates, will have a direct finance interest when the Legislature reconvenes and starts the conveyor belt of bills rolling.

There is, for example, Caring for Californians, the spawn of $2.5 million from the Service Employees International Union, and $1.5 million from SEIU’s ally, the California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.

Caring for Californians unleashed a dishonest attack claiming that Assemblyman Roger Dickinson essentially countenanced child abuse when he was a Sacramento County supervisor.

The entity came into existence Oct. 21, and proceeded to spend $550,000 to eviscerate Dickinson, to the benefit of his opponent, Assemblyman Richard Pan, another Democrat, who won.

Caring and others of its ilk care little about Dickinson’s stand on child protective services. The issue was his support for the ability of medical malpractice victims to sue.

Dickinson, a lawyer, was funded by plaintiffs’ lawyers. Pan, a doctor, is aligned with physicians, hospitals and insurance companies on the issue of malpractice litigation.

Illustrating the reality that there often is little difference between the parties, Caring for Californians gave $1 million to the California Democratic Party, $500,000 to the California Republican Party, and $500,000 to a group that seeks to limit the right to sue.

In the race to replace Pan in the Assembly, the Coalition to Restore California’s Middle Class spent $520,000 to elect Democrat Jim Cooper and defeat Darrell Fong, another Democrat and a Sacramento city councilman. Cooper won.

The Coalition to Restore the Middle Class is a creature of Chevron and Texas-based oil companies Occidental Petroleum and Tesoro. The oily threesome chipped in $500,000 each. Lobbyists representing those companies might expect a friendly ear when bills affecting the oil industry or climate change come before Cooper.

Sacramento City Councilman Kevin McCarty defeated fellow Councilman Steve Cohn to succeed Dickinson, thanks in part to $200,000 spent by Opportunity PAC. This political action committee receives money from unions representing public school teachers and employees, nurses, state and local government workers.

Among its lowdown attacks, the group claimed Cohn “voted to supersize his own slush fund.” But a majority on the council added $43,500 to each council member’s discretionary account to spend on causes in their districts. McCarty, who like Cohn is a Democrat, received his share, too.

Few mailers contained outright lies. But almost none were honest. They are headed to the dump, where they belong. But the campaign doesn’t end. It merely enters a new phase.

Bills get introduced and come up for votes. Legislators get reminded who paid their way into the Capitol, or who might pay to defeat them the next time.