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L.A. Times Covered Up Angelides’ Ethical Breach

Sep
12
2006

As many of us suspected, the Los Angeles Times got its copy of private conversations between Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his staff from the Angelides for Governor Campaign.

Although the newspaper, long suspected particularly by Republicans, of having it out for the Governor after their failure to sink his electoral hopes in 2003, has remained silent about its sources – even in reporting a California Highway Patrol investigation into how they got their information – pressure from Internet bloggers has forced the Angelides camp to speak.

It turned out that the IP (Internet Protocol) address of the computer which accessed the files was attached to a computer at the Angelides for Governor campaign. The campaign then acknowledged that one of its people accessed the files and downloaded the tape of Schwarzenegger’s private conversation. This is the tape that showed up several days later on the front page of the Los Angeles Times.

How did this happen? The story traces back to a somewhat different version of the earlier version offered to me by a top Democrat, speaking on background so as not to get anyone in trouble. Here’s what he said:

The audio file in question was somehow linked to a public archives file, not of Schwarzenegger speeches, but of a press release. In this scenario, the press release contained a link to Schwarzenegger’s remarks on Hurricane Katrina. And that audio file on Hurricane Katrina, in turn, contained links to other audio files, including the private Schwarzenegger conversation. Which was taped not in August, but in March.

All this means that the Angelides campaign somehow found a way to gain access to a private conversation and then got that conversation to the Los Angeles Times, which placed it on its front page.

While that may not classify as illegal hacking, anyone who thinks the tape was accessed by purely legitimate means is naive. This counts as a “political hack” in my book: It is analogous to claiming that the Watergate break-in wouldn’t have been criminal if the doors had been left unlocked.

Schwarzenegger’s legal counsel still maintains that the files were ill-gotten. Making things worse for Angelides? The tape hand-off hits the headlines just as Hewlett Packard Corp. is coping with allegations about spying on reporters and its own board members. That heightens the sleaze factor.

Angelides’ camp finally admitted late Tuesday – after published reports had tied their computers to the break-in – that they were the source for the Los Angeles Times. That’s the story the L.A. Times should have written. And as long as they don’t write that piece, the Angelides folks will be able to keep denying they’re accountable for the hack or the hand-off.

Schwarzenegger’s campaign has responded, saying, “The treasurer should denounce the unethical actions taken on his behalf. Phil Angelides has a long history of gutter politics, and it is clear this most recent example was a calculated effort to smear the Governor’s reputation…Once again, Phil Angelides and his campaign have demonstrated the treasurer is not ready to lead the state.”

What’s really is at stake is the would-be-Governor’s ability to manage his staff. If he is unable to control and unwilling to take responsibility for the actions of the people he has chosen for his team, how can we expect Phil Angelides to govern California?

Share  Posted by Scott Olin Schmidt at 10:49 PM | Permalink

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