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L.A. County drama: LAANE vs. MB [Updated]

June 22, 2011 | 12:13 pm

Madeline-JanisThe Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, an advocacy agency on the left, is duking it out with MB Public Affairs, an "opposition research" firm hired by several right-wing campaigns. In his Monday column, Jim Newton hashed out MB's campaign against LAANE, describing its anonymous records requests for information about LAANE. Executive Director Madeline Janis' and the organization's reaction to the probe was to make records requests of their own for the information released to MB. Here's an excerpt from the column:

I've known Janis for a decade. We haven't always agreed on everything, but she's nothing if not open; in response to my requests, she turned over volumes of material, even a private audit of her organization. LAANE's tax returns are on the Internet, as is Janis' salary and the organization's donors.

MB Public Affairs, by contrast, is much more private. Bogetich told me last week that the firm was checking the accuracy of some of LAANE's claims, possibly including its lobbying reports, and is "looking at the extent to which LAANE has influence." But he declined to answer questions about who has hired his firm or what it is charging.

LA Observed noted the same day that LAANE emailed supporters to ask them to comment on Newton's column. While the column has been shared on many a Facebook wall, people have been shy to comment. We waited a couple of days to let the reaction build. Alas, at the time of this post, there are only 19 comments.


Including VivianPrice:

LAANE's activities are easily researched, as the author of this article argues. Tying up public officials in a demand for records in this case is a way to waste tax dollars and deter organizations like LAANE from working for the public good.

Against LAANE:

Including edwardskizer:

So a left-wing organization is having spastic attacks because their opponents are fighting back, and not rolling over. Boo-hoo. If it's too much for them, they can always take up organic farming or something. 

Against MB:

Including Leighton Woodhouse:

Another right-wing group fishing for some insignificant anecdote to take completely out of context and use to create a pseudo-scandal.  This is what business interests resort to when they run out of legitimate policy arguments to use against worthy organizations with broad public support.  What a joke.

This is "media spin":

Including areeda:

How is the research being done by MB Public Affairs into LAANE activities different from the research LAANE does into other public and private enterprises?

Requests for public records are not only legal but good for society in the long run.  I don't see why they rev up the media spin machine because someone is looking into their activities.

I seem to detect a theme in the article and the comments so far that the activities of organizations with left leaning tendencies should not be look at too closely by anyone who doesn't agree with their goals and methods.

Let's face it if you're influencing public policy as a lobbyist someone is going to look into your public records. I wish it were the people being lobbied but I'll settle for any one objective.

*Spelling errors in the above comments were corrected.

UPDATE: LAANE replied to this post at 4 p.m., wishing to point out that most of the comments on Newton's column were favorable. They say:

The piece "L.A. County Drama: LAANE vs. MB" presents several reader comments on Jim Newton’s story about the right-wing attack against LAANE. Unfortunately the piece gives the impression that the public response has been mixed, when in fact it has been overwhelmingly sympathetic to LAANE -- and suspicious of the motives of those behind the attack. Times readers would do well to look through all the comments for themselves, and consider the consequences for our democracy when secret attacks replace open debate.


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Photo: Madeline Janis. Credit: Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times

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