A nationally known political consulting firm produced the video that figured prominently in the outcome of the last City Council election, and that campaign filings indicate was produced for a fee a source says is substantially lower than what is customarily charged for such a service.
The Road Worriers, the political action committee that campaigned heavily against former Mayor Jeff Jenning’s re-election bid and for freshman Councilman Tom Hasse’s election, hired the consulting firm, Goddard Claussen/First Tuesday, to produce the video. The PAC then distributed the video to Malibu voters.
Malibu-based Goddard Claussen/First Tuesday, whose main clients are major trade groups and large corporations, achieved prominence in the political consulting world after producing the folksy “Harry and Louise” television commercials, which are widely credited with helping defeat President Clinton’s proposed national health care plan. The series of commercials, which ran in 1994 and were paid for by an alliance of health insurance companies, featured a husband and wife sitting at a kitchen table or on a living room sofa fretting over various elements of the ultimately doomed health care reform plan.
The firm also produced campaign commercials for Russian President Boris Yeltsin and is currently representing casino operators in Las Vegas and Reno, Nev., in their attempt to defeat an initiative on the November ballot that would authorize gambling on Indian lands in California.
According to campaign statements filed with the city clerk last month, the Road Worriers paid approximately $2,600 to the firm for its services in producing the master videotape. That service typically includes the writing of the script, which on the Road Worriers’ tape was read by actor Jack Lemmon in voice-over, the score, shooting of original footage and editing. The original footage in the Road Worriers’ video included panoramic views of Malibu, traffic on PCH and, for ominous contrast, congested streets in the heart of Laguna Beach.
The PAC also paid another $4,200 to other companies for the recording of the voice-over, dubbing, duplication of the videotapes and packaging for the videocassette.
A source with extensive experience as a political consultant for a major interest group, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, expressed disbelief that the services provided by Goddard Claussen/First Tuesday would cost $2,600, as the campaign filings indicate.
“There is no way it could have cost only $2,600, unless it was shot at someone’s house using only a camcorder,” the source said. The high-quality video in no way resembles a home-video. The source said that he would have expected the firm’s fee to have been $15,000. The approximately $4,000 paid for dubbing, duplication and videocassette packaging is consistent with what is customarily charged for those services, the source said.
Remy O’Neill, chair of the Road Worriers, refused to answer any questions regarding the services provided by Goddard Claussen/First Tuesday or the production of the video.
“The Malibu Times is not an unbiased paper,” she said. “I won’t comment because of [Publisher] Arnold [York’s] bias.”
Representatives of Goddard Claussen/First Tuesday also did not return calls seeking comment.
The Malibu Times reviewed the Road Worriers’ campaign filings, and from the information provided estimates that approximately 2,000 copies of the videotape were made. Based on expenditures the Road Worriers made for special envelopes in which to mail the video, it appears that close to 800 of the tapes were mailed and the remainder handed out. O’Neill and other supporters of the Road Worriers were seen at public events prior to the April election distributing copies of the video.
City Attorney Christi Hogin would not comment on whether the costs associated with the production of the video, as reported in the filings, are part of her investigation of whether there was a violation of the local ordinance limiting campaign contributions to $100 per person.
“I don’t even want to go into it,” she said.
Hogin will report the results of her investigation to the City Council. She is currently on vacation until Sept. 1.