In Partnership with 74

Consultant who helped Kayser win in 2011, now working against him

Michael Janofsky | February 2, 2015

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Bennett Kayser

Bennett Kayser


Four years after playing a major role in Bennett Kayser’s election to the LA Unified school board, an Encino-based political consulting firm is now working to defeat him.

Shallman Communications in 2011 was paid more than $60,000 by the LA teachers union, UTLA, to help shape Kayser’s image. Through the union’s independent expenditures, it produced campaign material that exalted him as an ideal candidate at a time of enormous challenges and dismissed his opponent, Luis Sanchez, as a wasteful bureaucrat and a tool of “billionaires” and Republicans, such as former President George W. Bush and Sarah Palin.

Now, as Kayser is seeking reelection on March 3 against two challengers, Shallman has been hired by a political action committee affiliated with the California Charter Schools Association, which has which has no stronger opponent on the LA Unified school board than Kayser.

In one of its first efforts for the committee, Shallman helped create a flyer that says Kayser has worked against the interests of Latino children, an assertion that some have interpreted as racist.

John Shallman, owner, president and chief consultant of the firm that bears his name, said it was disillusionment with Kayser’s accomplishments that drew him to the other side.

“I have always been proud to work on behalf of classroom teachers to elect candidates who will put our children first,” Shallman said in an emailed statement to LA School Report. “In 2011, I was convinced that Bennett Kayser would do that. He hasn’t. School board members who fail, don’t get second chances because our kids only get one chance at a good education.”

The flyer was part of a $40,000 spend to benefit one of Kayser’s challengers —  Ref Rodriguez — a charter school executive who has since renounced the message of the flyer, saying it was using “race in a reprehensible and divisive way.”

The committee also said on the flyer it was supporting three other board members — George McKenna, Tamar Galatzan and Richard Vladovic. McKenna and Galatzan have also criticized the flyer.

The Charter Schools Association did not respond to a request for comment.

Shallman Communications has worked on dozens of national, statewide and local campaigns, either for the campaigns, themselves, or for political action committees that want to influence the outcomes.

Those who have benefitted from the firm’s work have included included Alan Cranston, Loretta Sanchez, Tom Torlakson, Wendy Greuel, Karen Bass, Steve Cooley, Tom LaBonge, Herb Wesson and seven who have run for the LA Unified board, among them current members Monica Garcia and Steve Zimmer.

While it’s rare that a political consulting firm would represent clients from opposing political parties, it’s less uncommon that a firm would take on non-governmental clients that have opposing objectives. In the LA Unified universe, no two entitles have more divergent aims than UTLA and the California Charter Schools Association.

Nor is the firm’s work for and later against Kayser unique. Several times it has worked against a former client.

After working for Greuel’s unsuccessful mayoral bid in 2013, Shallman took on author and spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson in a Congressional race that also included Greuel.

In 2012, after then-City Attorney Carmen Trutanich‘s lost in his bid to become LA County district attorney and decided to jump back into the City Attorney race, Shallman had already signed on with an opponent, former Assemblyman Mike Feuer.

* Corrects amount paid to Shallman by UTLA.

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