As California sues over Bell salaries, a boon for Jerry Brown
Bell, Calif., was the scene of some of grossest government abuses of power ever seen in the US, political observers say – and it could end up helping Jerry Brown in his race for governor.
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For weeks local TV has showcased angry meetings of citizens yelling at Bell city officials, demanding to know more about their salaries and how the people had been betrayed. One positive outcome, say analysts, has been new state legislation to make it easier for residents to learn the salaries of public officials.Skip to next paragraph
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In addition to boosting awareness of government overreach, the Bell scandal may have provided election fodder for Brown, who is in a dead heat in the race for governor with weeks to go.
“What Jerry Brown is doing in Bell is standard operating procedure for him,” says Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies. He's using the scandal "to promote himself but also to solve an important governmental problem.”
One irony, says Stern, is that Brown’s campaign ads talk about returning control to local governments, “yet as Attorney General, he is suing local governments for being out of control.”
Pitney says the lawsuit will help Brown keep public attention on the one key advantage he has over opponent Meg Whitman: he has a real job and she doesn’t.
“Jerry Brown is doing what office-holders usually do: leverage their official duties for maximum media attention,” says Pitney. “It won’t make much difference in November, but at least it diverts attention from his awkward comment about President Clinton.”
“As a candidate by night, Jerry Brown, the attorney general by day, has really picked up this issue and run with it. He is getting publicity for free that Meg Whitman could not buy.” Whitman has outspent Brown by a large margin – contributing some $119 million of her own money to her campaign.