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PAC attack: New mailer hits Kayser challenger for missing paperwork

Michael Janofsky | February 11, 2015

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Ref Rodriguez

Ref Rodriguez

The battle of the political action committees is heating up.

A new mailer sent to voters in LA Unified District 5 accuses one of Bennett Kayser’s opponents in the March 3 board election, Ref Rodriguez, of failing to disclose personal financial information as required by law.

The mailer, paid for by the PAC for the teachers union, UTLA, comes two weeks after an anti-Kayser flyer paid for by a PAC for the California Charter Schools Association accused Kayser of taking positions on issues that were harmful to Latino students. Kayser supporters branded the accusation as “racist.”

The charter PAC responded to the new mailer in kind late today with a statement charging the teachers PAC with using “racial undertones” in its mailer by referring to Rodriguez by his full first name, Refugio.

“Dr. Ref Rodriguez has for decades used ‘Ref’ professionally,” the charter PAC said in a statement. “And while he is undoubtedly proud of his full given name, we are concerned that Kayser and his allies are using it as a campaign tactic in the same way President Barack Obama’s conservative opposition insisted on using his full name, ‘Barack Hussein Obama,’ as an attack in 2008.”

The charter group called on Kayser to denounce the mailer.

It’s all pretty routine stuff in a school board election with so much at stake. A victory by Kayser, who is seeking a second term, would keep in place the teachers union’s strongest ally on the board. A victory by Rodriguez, a charter school executive, would diminish UTLA’s influence on key policy initiatives.

A third candidate in the race, Andrew Thomas, has managed to stay above it all, defining himself as someone who with strong ties to neither side.

The anti-Rodriguez mailer says he “lied & violated the law” while he “lined his pockets” with more than $800,000 since 2009, an average of $133,333 a year. It also says one of the groups he heads has been “Delinquent” in required filings.

A tagline in big red letters says, “Refugio Rodriguez: The more you search, the worse he looks for School Board.”

While the charter PAC statement repeated the assertion that Kayser has acted against the best interests of Latino students and charged his allies of “a history of nasty attacks against his opponents,” it does not refute the allegations that Rodriguez failed to file proper financial paperwork.

A message left for Rodriguez was not returned.

The mailer includes citations that purportedly confirm the allegations although it is misleading in suggesting how the PAC found the information. The top of the mailer shows what appears to be a Google search address that include the words “refugio+rodriguez+financial+disclosures.” But there is no such internet address. 

It appears, too, that the teachers PAC may have skirted a law. According to the City Ethics Commission, a PAC must file independent expenditures within 24 hours of being made or incurred.

As of late today, the commission said the teachers PAC had not done so with its new mailer. 

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