Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Situational Ethics Of WeHo/Beverly Hills Dem Club Prez Lillian Raffel

WeHo/Beverly Hills Democratic Club President, Lillian Raffel

Last week, an obscure Democratic club endorsement meeting in West Hollywood made headlines when WeHo Mayor John Duran was caught on videotape screaming obscenities at 50th Assembly District candidate Torie Osborn after the candidate he supported, Betsy Butler, lost the vote 28 - 43.

Apparently, he wasn't the only Butler supporter upset that night. Because Lillian Raffel, president of the club, made a beeline for the media to complain about the vote.

Weho-Beverly Hills club members say their endorsement process was hijacked by way of a slew of new members who allegedly joined the club for the sole purpose of securing the Osborn endorsement....

The organization has about 125 members, 35 to 40 of whom are actively involved, according to the club's president, Lillian Raffel. She said the club received 45 new members on Dec. 29—their memberships all paid for with a single check amounting to $1,125.

Some of those new members live in communities outside the area, including Glendale and Norwalk, which are not in the new 50th Assembly District. Club bylaws do not have any residency restrictions, just that a member voting on the endorsement must have joined within the previous 25 days.

Raffel is certainly entitled to voice her opinion, but there are a few things she conveniently left out of her narrative.

First of all, when Raffel complained to a Patch reporter that Osborn's campaign had "stacked" the room, she failed to mention she not only endorsed supported Betsy Butler she was a Butler delegate for the California Democratic Party. I later learned she didn't even disclose this to her fellow club members. She certainly never brought it up at Wednesday night's meeting.

Secondly, Raffel (and John Duran, for that matter) failed to explain to the media how it was the membership rejected her recommendation that WeHo/Beverly Hills dual endorse both Butler and Osborn.

Jeanne Dobrin
Osborn was prepared to accept the dual endorsement, but long-time club member and Butler supporter, 90 year-old Jeanne Dobrin, objected to the recommendation and called for a vote. That in turn started the dominoes falling - with a series of votes, motions, and counter-motions, which eventually lead to Osborn winning the sole endorsement of the club.

Lastly, Raffel claimed no one had ever paid for multiple club memberships with a single check before - a claim that proved to be untrue when Patch discovered a candidate for the West Hollywood City Council had done exactly the same thing the year before. At the time, some members and other candidates complained, yet nothing was done to amend the rules. So for club president Lillian Raffel to suddenly yell "foul!" because the candidate she didn't support utilized the same rules isn't just hypocritical, it's unethical.

Frankly, the time for Raffel to have voiced concern about a single check paying for multiple memberships was at the time she received the check, not a month later when her candidate lost (perhaps she was hoping the check was for Butler supporters?).

For the record, the Raffel cashed the check.

Look, I get that Butler's campaign and her surrogates need to gin up controversy about club endorsements to inoculate her against both the lack of local support and against what's about to happen at the CDP convention in San Diego.

Assembly Speaker John Perez "stacked" the AD50 pre-endorsment caucus with 42 of the 64 votes Butler received - giving Butler 57% of the vote - enough to send the question to another caucus vote at the Convention. Perez pulled those delegate slots from Assembly members as far away as San Francisco and Yolo County. These same delegates will vote in San Diego, so there's probably no way for Osborn to block the endorsement.

I'm reasonably sure we won't hear a peep about this from any of Butler's supporters who previously complained about Osborn's endorsements.

Lastly, I'll say this - both the club endorsement process and the CDP endorsement process sucks. To the layman, club and party endorsements are assumed to mean that local activists have weighed the merits of each candidate and chosen one through a democratic consensus process. But as we've seen, club and CDP rules often produce the opposite result, with candidates winning endorsements by strategically utilizing those rules, as well as existing political connections to produce the desired result.

With our state's new "top two" primary system, where two Democrats could end up running against each other in the general election, the integrity of the CDP and local club endorsements will be very much in doubt unless the endorsement process is overhauled top to bottom.

Party insiders have refused to deal with this problem for years. Until they take their heads out of the sand they have no right to complain about candidates using the existing rules to gain competitive advantage.

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