In response to April 12’s press conference by candidates excluded from the May 1 Los Angeles Mayoral Debate, already riddled with lies and fake criteria to engage in voter suppression, Pat Brown Executive Director was caught lying again and again.
First, in The Los Angeles Times, Brown defended his decision saying “that room on the stage was limited because of a 90-minute time limit.” Yet time and again, debates in California and nationally have included more than 5 candidates in the same time limit, including a former porn star debating Arnold Schwarzenegger.
More damning, however, is Sonenshein’s claim that inclusion was based on four criteria: “publicly available polling data, media coverage, endorsements and fundraising.” Yet Sonenshein did not request any of that data from the excluded campaigns. The last public fundraising totals date to December 2021, and publicly available polling when the decision was made dated to before the race even began. Sonenshein is simply lying, and the Times is wrong to not call him out for it.
In talking to a different news outlet, the LA Daily News, Sonenshein shifted to another lie. Seeing that his reputation is taking a beating for his dishonesty, Sonenshein claimed the decision for inclusion was not his alone, but a collective decision between ABC7, the League of Women Voters, and himself at the Pat Brown Institute.
Yet, in an undated memo issued to Greiwe’s campaign on April 8, the League of Women Voters and Sonenshein said specifically ABC7 “does not participate in these decisions.” In an email to Mayoral Candidate Craig Greiwe on April 6, the League of Women Voters said that they had deferred completely to Sonenshein and were “confident” in their partnership with him, and deferred all questions about criteria to him.
Thus, Sonenshein is lying yet again. The decision to exclude was his alone. The real reason for Sonenshein’s exclusion of candidates? A focus on who “needs” to be on stage (as quoted in the Los Angeles Times) versus who the public should hear from.
In direct counter to Supreme Court precedent in AETC v. Forbes (1996), Sonenshein also said that it was simply his “judgment call” about who belonged. In that opinion, Justice Kennedy made it very clear that publicly funded institutions—like Cal State LA and the Pat Brown Institute—must have “reasonable regulations” for exclusion, just judgment calls.
It is clear from the undated after-the-fact memo from Sonenshein and the League of Women Voters that no criteria existed at the time of selection except for Sonenshein’s own personal preferences, violating the law. Even in their after-the-fact memo, Sonenshein and the League of Women Voters reference criteria around “significant support” which fails a basic constitutional test for being over broad and lack of specificity.
Furthermore, their claimed criteria of fundraising, polling, endorsements, and media coverage, even if not fake, is so outdated as to be unreasonable, failing the AETC v. Forbes test. Debate organizers were relying on fundraising data from 12/31/21 for a 5/1/22 debate; requested no endorsement list or any data from excluded candidates; and relied on an invalid poll that was conducted before the race even started, released on February 11, 2022, again months before the debate.
Lastly, there’s plenty of media coverage of candidates, but relying on privately-owned biased media outlets who have a demonstrated track record of willfully ignoring candidates in order to suppress their candidacy can hardly be deemed reasonable.
“Raphael Sonenshein and the League of Women Voters are contorting themselves in lies and fake cover memos in an effort to badly conceal what everyone knows: their debate is rigged to suppress the voter turnout in Los Angeles and control the outcome of the election,” said Mayoral Candidate Craig Greiwe. “Even Rick Caruso, one of the leading candidates in the race, is calling for these corrupt organizations to reverse course and include all candidates.”
Greiwe continued, “You can’t vote for someone biased press and failing civic institutions do their best to make sure you don’t know. The system is built to feed parasites like Sonenshein, who lean on taxpayer dollars to wield their power to perpetuate corruption. It’s just wrong, and no amount of lies will make it ok. It’s also illegal and unconstitutional.”
Greiwe’s campaign continues to call for the inclusion of all 10 candidates running active campaigns to be included in the May 1 debate. If Sonenshein and the Pat Brown Institute don’t allow candidates on stage, Greiwe says that all options are on the table, including legal action.