Politics

Election 2014: We fact check 2 ads in the Shriver/Kuehl race

Bobby Shriver and Sheila Kuehl are competing to replace LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.
Bobby Shriver and Sheila Kuehl are competing to replace LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.
Maya Sugarman & Benjamin Brayfield/ KPCC

In the final days of their campaign for the powerful L.A. County Board of Supervisors, Bobby Shriver and Sheila Kuehl have launched a flurry of political mailers and TV ads.

Some of those ads appear to stretch the facts pretty thin.

Shriver, 60, is a lawyer, former Santa Monica City Councilman and nephew of President John F. Kennedy. Kuehl, 73, is also a lawyer, a former state legislator from Santa Monica and one-time child actor.

Both are liberal Democrats and their positions on most issues are not very far apart.  That has led them to strain at differentiating themselves.

Here’s a look at two recent ads and the claims they made:

Bobby Shriver Newspaper Insert (published Saturday, Oct. 25):

Claim:

The ad pictures Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and quotes him saying Shriver “will build on what I have done,” implying that the popular incumbent has endorsed Shriver.

Fact:

Actually, that is a partial quote from a New York Times article (story behind a paywall). Here is the full quote: “Either one of them would bring value to the office and build on what I have done.”

Yaroslavsky has carefully avoided endorsing either of the candidates; this ad annoyed him enough that he publicly criticized it as misleading.

Shriver TV Ad (currently running):

VIDEO: Shriver TV ad

Script:

“For Supervisor, Shriver or Kuehl? As a mayor and local elected official, Bobby Shriver worked to create jobs, balance budgets, clean up Santa Monica Bay and house homeless vets. In Sacramento, Sheila Kuehl turned a record budget surplus into a record budget deficit. She blocked bipartisan health care reform, and deregulated energy companies like Enron that led to your skyrocketing electric bills. Kuehl’s failed Sacramento past or Shriver’s new ideas and smart solutions? Shriver for supervisor.”

The ad makes three claims about Kuehl:

Claim:

She turned record state budget surpluses into record deficits.

Fact:

Blaming Kuehl for the state's budget deficits after the dotcom bust of 2000 is quite a stretch. Kuehl was a member of the state Legislature from 1996 to 2008 and participated in votes that are open to criticism: She supported expanding social programs and pushed for more generous pensions for CHP officers, a law that opened the door for statewide increases in public safety pensions. But she was just one legislator and hardly responsible for the collapse of the dotcom industry, which slammed state revenues and led to the deficits.

Claim:

Kuehl blocked bipartisan health care reform.

Fact:

This one is true: Kuehl was a champion of single-payer health care. As chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, she declined to support a 2008 plan by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez that would have required people to buy health insurance. In her opinion, it offered no consumer protections. A majority of the committee agreed.

Claim:

Kuehl deregulated energy companies, which led to skyrocketing electric bills.

Fact:

In 1996, while Kuehl was in the Legislature, the state Assembly, Senate and then-Gov. Pete Wilson unanimously agreed to deregulate the energy industry, a law that led to disastrous consequences when unscrupulous companies like Enron gamed the energy market. But blaming Kuehl alone for energy deregulation vastly overstates her role. 

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the name of the governor who signed the energy deregulation bill.