Litterin’ Levinson Lawlessly Leaves Lurid Letters!

Golden Ave. in Fullerton

Scene of the crime (or of the infraction, whichever.) Alleged perp was described as a large and angry City Council candidate, bearing flyers and a huge chip on his shoulder. If you have been victimized as part of this spree, please comment below!

I don’t often do investigative reporting on this blog, but when a tip comes my way, I’m willing to get in my car and travel to the scene.  Yesterday, a Democratic phone banker sitting near me told me that he had just called a City Council candidate.  I immediately took the number, called the candidate, and pretended to be a robocall from the Republican Party with information that this candidate had been caught in compromising positions with barnyard animals.  Alas, my voice was recognized and the ruse was spoiled.

In a brief conversation, I did learn that earlier that afternoon the candidate had seen another candidate, a Mr. Barry Levinson, posting flyers on the windshields of cars parked on his very street — something that a candidate is not supposed to do, unless that candidate is also promoting a strip club or something, which I presume that this candidate is not.  (Could be wrong!)

I hung up disturbed by this news — and formulated a plan.  I prepared to take a break from phone banking and head out into the field.  I love taking breaks.

I first traveled to the Fullerton Police Department, a short stroll from the Democrats of North Orange County Headquarters.  I asked them, “Hey, I’m a candidate — can I put flyers onto parked cars?  I thought that I didn’t, but someone apparently did.”  I had to talk to three people before someone could come up with even an approximate answer.  Commercial establishments can leave flyers on car windshields parked on public property in Fullerton if they have a license from the city to do so.  (Other cities may have different ordinances. And on private property, it’s up to the owner; the officer gave me a meaningful look and explained to me “you don’t want to do this in the Costco parking lot.”)  Other than those laws: nada.  I find nothing saying that political candidates have a legal right plunk up your windshield wiper to do this and force you to deal with the environmental consequences.

Even if a political candidate can do this, though, I’ve always told people doing voter outreach that this is a bad idea.  (It’s not one of the top three bad ideas in voter outreach, which are (1) getting into a physical fight with a voter; (2) going into a voter’s house, where you can be shot as an intruder; and (3) putting a flyer into a voter’s mailbox without a stamp, which I think gets the FBI involved or something — anyway, it’s bad.)

The reason is the same argument against flyering in general: you are turning the recipient of your flyer into either your servant or a criminal.  That is, unless they really want to read it (and … they don’t), the either now have to find a trash can and deposit your flyer there or they toss it on the ground or something and become liable to be fined for littering.

Before anyone else says so — yes, it is a small thing, to be sure, but it’s still rude — and not the sort of thing you want to do if you want people to like you.  If you’ve just started a sandwich shop around the corner, I think that people can generally roll their eyes and excuse it — unless maybe you have a really good coupon, in which case it might work.  Otherwise, it’s not only intrusive (and we candidates often do things, like knock on doors, that we know are intrusive, and we do feel bad about it), but it’s one of the few intrusive things that a candidate can do that is not actually protected by law. I mean, we get to call people’s unlisted cell phones if we want to!  And some people want more???

Still, I was not going to jump to any conclusion that Candidate Levinson had done any such thing without verifying it for myself.  After being told by a straight-faced officer that yes, apparently I could call 9-1-1 and call an officer out over such an issue, I declined to do so.  I didn’t even identify Barry Levinson as the alleged perp himself.  (Nor did I say that it was a candidate whose name rhymed with “Harry Seven One.”)  Instead, I hopped into my car are took off to the scene.

And when I got there — well, what I found was beyond what I had imagined.  Not just one flyer per car, but two of them, both from the Levinson campaign!  I immediately went into video correspondent mode and compiled this (completely improvised) report:

While the video above is a lighthearted joke, in context it does reinforce my view that there is something really weird and unsettling about Barry Levinson and the campaign for him, which keeps on dancing to (and over) the edge of unethical behavior. Consider:

(1) the misleading COPS slate mailer making cop-hater Levinson out to be a cop-lover;

(2) the Chris Thompson error (or, perhaps, crime) of misusing the resources of the Fullerton Recall campaign to promote the candidacies of Levinson, Barry Sebourn, and Travis Kiger;

(3) Levinson’s now putting not just a campaign flyer onto people’s cars, but also a second flyer containing a bitter screed written by his wife.

Conservatives have Sean Paden to vote for in this race, moderate Democrats have Doug Chaffee, and independents ranging from left to right have Matt Rowe. It’s not like people are hurting for options. Why would they vote for a councilperson who seems to be working from the principle that he gets to do whatever you can’t stop him from doing? That’s reform?

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)