Latest anti-Johnson attack hits odd note

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson announces he will not seek a third term as mayor during a press conference last month in Oak Park.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson announces he will not seek a third term as mayor during a press conference last month in Oak Park. rpench@sacbee.com

The Los Angeles-based Courage Campaign has agitated for some laudable causes. Its attempt to strong-arm Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson out of office is not one of them.

On Thursday, the online advocacy group released a video ad that reiterates old sexual misconduct allegations against Johnson – who, for the record, has never been criminally charged and has denied claims about him.

Allied with the Courage Campaign is another obscure group called the Sacramento Collective for Womens’ Rights, whose dozen or so members say they were inspired by a nearly two-decade-old police video in which a Phoenix teenager accuses Johnson of molestation.

Unlike the groups’ funding, much of which is not known, the charges against Johnson are not secret or new. The ad’s accusations became public when Johnson ran for office and didn’t dissuade voters from electing him twice as mayor.

But neither that, nor the fact that Johnson has announced he won’t be seeking a third term next year, has stopped the demands for a forced resignation by what appears to be a small cadre of detractors.

Or maybe it’s a large cadre. Because the Courage Campaign is tied to the state’s powerful teachers’ unions. Teachers’ unions long have had it in for Johnson, who, with his wife, Michelle Rhee, has long been a powerful advocate for charter schools. Johnson’s St. Hope organization runs Sacramento High School as a charter.

As The Sacramento Bee’s Ryan Lillis reported, about half of the money the Courage Campaign’s political issues committee has raised since 2013 has come from the California Federation of Teachers. Money used to fund its nonprofit advocacy arm is not public, though Courage Campaign lists the California Teachers Association as a partner on its website.

Along with the teachers unions, the Courage Campaign helped push for the Proposition 30 tax increases in 2012, and likely will advocate for another tax increase in 2016. No doubt the group has some constructive aims, but it damages its credibility with the weirdly timed attack on Johnson.

Why these groups, or any group, would pick this moment to hammer a lame duck with a year left to serve in office is anyone’s guess. Though some local Democratic Party executives have also called for Johnson’s resignation, the local party leaders have been feuding with the mayor since 2003, when St. Hope was awarded control of Sacramento High and began hiring nonunion teachers. Other than the handful of detractors in the women’s collective, this ad gambit doesn’t appear to be locally based.

But it’s distasteful. And doubly so if California teachers are behind it. All may be fair in politics, but enough already. If they believe the mayor of Sacramento truly is a child molester, they should step out of the shadows and call the police.