A conservative group falsely claims in a web ad that Democrat Janice Hahn "hired hardcore gang members with taxpayer money to be gang intervention specialists" in South Los Angeles. It's true that Hahn, a city councilwoman running in a special election for Congress, supports the city's gang intervention programs, but she made no direct payments to gang members. It's also true that the city funds nonprofits that use ex-gang members to help settle gang disputes, but the city money is used to fund administrative costs, not to pay gang members.
The controversial ad also claims that Hahn "even helped to get them out of jail so that they could rape and kill again." There is no evidence to support this other than the disputed word of one gang member.
'Insane' Anti-Gang Program?
Turn Right USA is a conservative "super PAC" that was formed June 8. It released a web ad June 13 called "Give us your cash, B–ch," in the July 12 runoff election to fill California's 36th congressional district seat. The ad features black actors portraying gang members singing hip-hop while a pole dancer performs. It has received wide criticism for its racy images. Hahn's Republican opponent, Craig Huey, issued a statement calling it "racist and sexist."
The ad claims that Hahn provided city funds to gang members to be "gang intervention specialists" and helped gang members get out of jail. Hahn — who represents the city's 15th Council District, which includes Watts — formed the Watts Gang Task Force in January 2006 and has been active in anti-gang programs. The task force includes community activitists, gang interventionists and law enforcement personnel, and it holds weekly meetings in Hahn's office.
Right Turn USA ad: In an insane effort to reduce gang violence, Janice Hahn hired hardcore gang members with taxpayer money to be gang intervention specialists. She even helped them get out of jail so they can rape and kill again.
The allegations are based on an April 2008 investigative report by KTTV-TV, a Fox News affiliate in Los Angeles. That report linked Hahn to four gang members, including one who is shown in the report (and the web ad) saying that he was "working with Janice Hahn." He also claimed that she once helped get him out of jail. The TV report also said a "Hahn-supported group" paid two other gang members to intervene and help settle gang disputes.
Hahn's office released a statement at the time to KTTV saying: "Any suggestion that she has made direct payments to intervention workers is blatantly false."
Soon after the news report aired, the Daily Breeze, a suburban daily newspaper in Torrance, Calif., reported that the TV news story had "major flaws that undermine its central allegations."
Steven Myrick — the man who claimed in the ad that he was "working with Janice Hahn" — provided no proof of his claim. He also told police he was working for Jim Brown's nonprofit Amer-I-Can, the Daily Breeze reported. However, Amer-I-Can Chief Operating Officer Monique Brown told the paper that Myrick "never received any money from us."
The TV report also claimed gang members Marlo Jones and Brandon Bullard, known as Bow Wow and BL, respectively, were gang intervention workers for a "Hahn-supported group" called Unity One. A city report on anti-gang programs identifies Unity One as one of the “gang intervention agencies that serve the Southwest GRYD,” which stands for the Gang Reduction and Youth Development Program. But the Daily Breeze quoted Unity One's program manager as saying the group did not use taxpayer money to pay Jones or Bullard.
Daily Breeze, May 14: "There is no city money that Unity One is receiving to pay Bow Wow, BL, or any of the other people mentioned in that report," said Skip Townsend, the group's program manager.
Unity One does receive $60,000 a year from a subcontract with the Toberman Settlement House. That money originates from the city's Community Development Department. According to records provided by Toberman, the funding goes to pay salaries for Townsend and Bo Taylor, the president of Unity One. Hahn did not obtain that money for Unity One.
A fourth gang member, Demarco Chaffold, known as DC, told police he was “making a living as a gang intervention agent sponsored by Janice Hahn," according to a 2006 LAPD field report cited in the KTTV report. But the TV report included no evidence to support Chaffold's claim or explain who paid him.
Get Out of Jail Card?
The allegation that Hahn helped gang members "get out of jail so they can rape and kill again" is based solely on Myrick's unsubstantiated claim in the KTTV report.
The TV report said Myrick was arrested for marijuana possession and for violating a court order that prevented him from being at a particular public housing project. Myrick is quoted as saying that Hahn sent him to the housing project, so she helped get him out of jail: "That's why I'm out right now. Miss Hahn got me out like three weeks ago."
The Daily Breeze said Hahn called police at the request of Myrick's wife to ask why he had been arrested. Was Myrick released because of her phone call? We don't know, and neither does Right Turn USA.
He was arrested a few weeks later on what the Daily Breeze described as a "6-year-old rape case."
There is no question that Hahn supports gang intervention programs. But she is not the only one. Gang intervention programs have been funded by the city and county to combat gang violence since at least the early 1980s. The Los Angeles Times reported in July 2009 that the city's gang reduction office spends about $20 million a year on gang prevention and intervention. Two city police officers, who at the time were suing the city, told KTTV that money from the anti-gang programs goes to support gang members' criminal lifestyles.
It is certainly legitimate to debate whether the anti-gang programs that Hahn supports are effective. But this ad is nothing more than a hit job on the candidate.
– Wendy Zhao and Eugene Kiely