Robin S. Rowe, Why I Don’t Seek Endorsements

Signing the Declaration of Independence

Signing the Declaration of Independence

As the other candidates pen an open letter objecting to shoddy local journalism, I agree it’s not good but I can’t join them

BEVERLY HILLS, CA (robinsrowe.com) 2020/10/22 – This personal email came to me tonight from another candidate in the BHUSD School Board race:

Much like the Weekly, the Courier decided to endorse only [the trial lawyer candidate] and [the real estate developer candidate] for the school board election. The fact that both publications chose the same two candidates, gave the most cursory explanations for their choices and neither was willing to choose a third candidate out of five other highly qualified individuals is shameful.

The email goes on to say that some of the candidates feel so slighted they are planning together to draft an open letter calling out our local newspapers for their lack of journalistic integrity. I was asked if I’d like to add my name to that letter and to share my thoughts. I typically publish my thoughts here, so…

Doesn’t everyone know the City Council Incumbents control or perhaps anonymously own the local newspapers?

What with the Incumbents buying all those Beverly Hills BOLD marketing ads and so forth with our tax money, they are the newspapers’ biggest customer.

Last year, six months before the March election, a local newspaper was bought by anonymous hedge fund investors. The Incumbents penned a press release endorsing the new publisher and editor. Months later, the newspaper endorsed these same Incumbents for re-election. Coincidentally, one of the Incumbents is the wife of a hedge fund investor. Wonder if he owns any newspapers?

During the March election for City Council, a local newspaper held interviews with all of the candidates. Each interview was one-on-one and took an hour of each candidate’s time at the newspaper’s office. Two hours for me, I was kept waiting an hour while one of the Incumbents ran long in his interview.

The newspaper didn’t run one word of any of the City Council election challengers’ interviews, including mine. A total news blackout. Instead, the newspaper endorsed the Incumbents in a huge front page headline. Gushed that the incumbents are great. Didn’t offer a specific reason why except their “experience”.

Interestingly, the newspaper didn’t publish the Incumbents’ 1-hour interviews, despite endorsing them. Would their words have hurt their chances of re-election? It certainly seemed so during our debate. One Incumbent in a surprisingly frank moment said there would be affordable housing built in Beverly Hills “over my dead body”. Makes sense politicians think that considering who backs them.

Where Campaign Money Comes From

Political campaigns are bankrolled by luxury real estate developers. Even for the President of the United States. His biggest donor is a billionaire real estate developer of gated communities who lives in Beverly Hills.

While it’s nice of the other School Board candidates to offer to include me in their open letter expressing outrage against shoddy local journalism, I’m more annoyed that elections can be bought by rich donors.

Those glossy fliers stuffing our mailboxes, the annoying yard signs that I find planted in my yard without permission, are paid for by politicians selling themselves to the highest bidder. Let’s not vote for them.

During a March City Council election debate, the Incumbents got a tough question from the audience, about how it is that their campaign had raised over $200,000 from donors. The March election only had about 10,000 local voters. Serving in the office of City Council pays a stipend of less than $10,000 a year. Who is funding $200,000 to win this?

The Incumbents said they didn’t know who their backers are. I was perhaps the only person in the room to believe them. Taking money no questions asked is how the game is played.

Just before the March election, a prominent Beverly Hills real estate developer, a local political campaign contributor, was arrested by the FBI. Reportedly, he was recorded in a wiretap paying $1 million in bribes to a Country planning commissioner. The commissioner plead guilty, is in prison.

Our local newspaper did not report the developer’s arrest. However, the newspaper did run a nice article noting that his plan to build a new luxury hotel in Beverly Hills was unanimously approved by Beverly Hills planning commissioners.

When I first ran for election, someone very wise at City Hall cautioned me about endorsements. She pointed out that endorsements are reciprocal. I don’t seek endorsements from anyone. I don’t want endorsements from the local political machine because I don’t endorse them.

Although I’ve said before that I disapprove of shoddy journalism, I can’t join the other candidates in their open letter complaining about not being endorsed. For the simple reason that I don’t seek endorsements.

I don’t take campaign donations either. I don’t want to wake up later to discover that I have unsavory backers.

Epilogue

The Incumbent posted an open letter on Beverly Hills Patch objecting to how unfair and opaque local newspaper endorsements are.

My response posted on Patch:

They invited me, but I couldn’t join the other candidates in their letter complaining that endorsements seem rigged. Not because I disagree, but because I’m the candidate who does not seek endorsements.

Is it beyond ironic that the Incumbent, after using the endorsement system for ten years to get and stay in office, is the one to lead the objections when it has turned against him?

The other candidates in the Beverly Hills School Board election have someone in the Establishment endorsing them: the local newspapers, the current president of the school board, the past president of the school board, 10-year incumbents on the Beverly Hills City Council, the Teachers Union, the Chamber of Commerce.

Beverly Hills public schools have a decade of falling academic ranking and enrollment. Millions of dollars in financial waste and improper diversion of education funds. The backers who endorsed the politicians who made our schools a broken education system haven’t changed, are at it again giving endorsements.

How can anyone vote for candidates endorsed by these backers when this is their record?

Robin S. Rowe is running for BHUSD School Board in the November 2020 election. Please vote.