April 7, 2005
False Endorsement Allegations Continue
The campaign to re-elect Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn is struggling to contain damage from newly emerging allegations that it falsely claimed endorsements from local Jewish leaders.
Four more community members have inspected Hahn endorsement letters and declared their signatures on them to be forgeries, bringing the total of alleged forgeries to eight since the issue first came to light last month.
The total of bad endorsements may well surpass 30, said community sources, but this claim has not been independently verified.
The Hahn campaign has denied any wrongdoing and continues to insist that the forms were provided by the late Joe Klein, a longtime Hahn backer who served as head of the city's Planning Commission. Another community member, Alan Goldstein, has stepped in to repair the harm, urging angered Jewish leaders to reconsider supporting the incumbent mayor.
The furor arose out of Hahn campaign ads that listed more than 100 Jewish endorsements. The ad ran twice in The Jewish Journal prior to the March primary. In the primary, City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa placed first and Hahn finished second, just ahead of challenger Bob Hertzberg. Villaraigosa and Hahn will meet in the May 17 runoff. Hertzberg, who is Jewish, was the candidate favored by most of the Jewish endorsers who said their names were misused. The matter did not surface publicly until a March 18 article in The Jewish Journal.
The latest development is that four additional Jewish community leaders, when shown their Hahn endorsement letters, insisted that their signatures were obvious fakes.
The four are Joseph Kornwasser, chair of National Bank of California; Irving Bauman, president and COO of Sunmar Health Care; Rabbi Baruch Kupfer, executive director of Maimonides Academy; and Rabbi Nachum Sauer, rosh kollel of the Yeshiva of Los Angeles.
"Someone has scribbled my name here," Bauman said. "I've never seen the form to begin with."
"This document is not authentic. It is not my signature," Sauer wrote in an e-mail to The Journal after seeing his name.
Kupfer also wrote in an e-mail he had never seen the form before and never signed it, but believes Klein may have mentioned it to him at some point.
A sore point in this saga has been the Hahn campaign's insistence on blaming any problems on Klein, a beloved leader in the Orthodox community who has been universally praised for his integrity (even by the Hahn campaign), and who died in June 2004.
Several individuals incorrectly named as Hahn endorsers say Hahn supporter Goldstein, a local businessman who owns the Shalom Retirement Home and was a close friend of Klein's for decades, contacted them.
One person who says he got a call is Rabbi Steven Weil. Weil said he was contacted shortly after he complained about his name being used in Hahn ads without permission. At the time, Weil knew only about the published endorsement; he didn't realize that his signature appeared on a Hahn endorsement form until The Journal showed it to him -- and Goldstein didn't tell him, Weil said.
Goldstein apologized about the published endorsement, telling Weil, "We had the names from years ago and we just assumed," according to Weil.
In an interview this week, Goldstein confirmed that he spoke with "one or two people" after the endorsement controversy began.
"I was curious to see if they changed their minds," he told The Journal.
Goldstein denied that he was acting on behalf of the Hahn campaign.
"Nobody asked me to do anything," he said.
Goldstein added that he remembers Klein collecting endorsement forms in 2003 and early 2004. In fact, he signed such a form himself. He insisted that nobody in the Hahn campaign could possibly have forged them.
"The mayor's campaign did not know these people or have access to them," he said.
Hahn campaign consultant Kam Kuwata would not discuss Goldstein's specific role with the campaign, adding his view that there was no reason to write anything more about the issue. Kuwata had provided The Journal with copies of the questionable endorsement forms, but last week called The Journal a "tool of the [Villaraigosa] campaign."
Hahn's campaign suffered a widely anticipated setback this week when former mayoral candidate Bernard Parks, who lost in the primary, endorsed Villaraigosa. Support from the African American Parks, an ex-police chief, could sway some black voters.
Meanwhile, both campaigns continue an aggressive play for the Jewish vote that went with Hertzberg in the primary. Hahn and Villaraigosa each appeared at last week's fundraiser for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills. Neither candidate spoke at the event for the pro-Israel lobby group. The candidates competed only in the applause meter, and in that category the edge went to Villaraigosa. The same thing happened at a San Fernando Valley event honoring Rabbi Harold Schulweis.
But Hahn had the spotlight to himself during an event at the Museum of Tolerance. There he joined Jewish leaders in accusing London's mayor of anti-Semitism for remarks he made in February likening a Jewish newspaper reporter to a German concentration camp guard (see briefs page 28).
At a press conference, Hahn released a letter to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, in which he wrote, "Unless and until Mayor Ken Livingstone of London apologizes for his comments ... he will not be accorded or offered any official welcome to the city of Los Angeles, and I am urging my fellow mayors to do the same."