Jeff Smith 4 p.m., Feb. 26
Schwarzenegger's sexual harassment history featured in Democrat's Issa hit
New front in partisan war of alleged sexual behavior opened by top California political advisor, recalling "sexual gratification" charges leveled against U-T owner
Embattled Democratic San Diego mayor Bob Filner, his offices reportedly swarmed by federal agents; investigators reporting to GOP Sheriff Bill Gore; and a sizable percentage of the town's numerically dissipated version of the Fourth Estate, continues to make national headlines.
Now one major Democratic operative, who has come out swinging against the putative U.S. senatorial bid of GOP congressman Darrell Issa, is raising the sexually harassing specter of ex-Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the action star and politico who got his state job in a recall largely paid for by Issa.
(Issa was running in the 2003 recall himself, but dropped out after Schwarzenegger forces and others dredged up his “checkered past.”)
A statement emailed today by Democratic strategist Bob Mulholland begins, "I have known Darrell Issa for years."
Without Issa's $1.7 million to the Recall of Governor Gray Davis there would not have been a Governor Schwarzenegger
(Incidentally, Arnie still holds the record - 16 women came forward in 2003, accusing him of sexual harassment) and Issa spends millions of taxpayer dollars yearly to get on cable TV.
As students of recent California political history may recall, Schwarzenegger beat back a series of sexual harassment allegations leveled against him by disgruntled women in his past.
He did this in part by acquiring the services of Martin Singer, known widely as the "watchdog to the stars" for his aggressive defenses against such charges brought against wealthy Hollywood celebrities.
An example came in 2009, when the L.A. lawyer was hired by then-San Diego Union-Tribune owner Tom Gores regarding a story being prepared by the Reader's Don Bauder about allegations lodged against billionaire Gores, owner of Platinum Equity in Beverly Hills.
The suit alleged that Platinum Equity “creates and tolerates a persistent, and pervasively sexually charged and hostile environment for women.” Moreover, “Sexual favors, the demand for sexual gratification and the payment of favors and ‘hush’ money are fixed policy and practice among PE [Platinum Equity] executives.”
The complaint alleged that Platinum executives “show favoritism towards female employees who consent to the employer’s sexual advances by rewarding them with money, gifts and travel, [meanwhile] promoting or rewarding women based on appearance and submission to sexual advances by PE executives, and financially supporting former employees to keep them quiet.”
Further, the company “intimidates, coerces or terminates female employees if they question or refuse to go along with the sexually charged atmosphere,” the Jane Doe suit alleged. It claimed that Gores and his top lieutenants had affairs with female employees and accompanied female assistants to strip clubs.
One of the plaintiffs charged that one executive “constantly made sexually charged comments at work such as, ‘Hey, do you want to see what’s in a man’s underwear?’ and ‘What do you say my hot dog goes between your buns?’ ”
In a filing on September 6, 2006, Martin Singer, cofounder of Lavely & Singer, said he had engaged in “extensive settlement discussions” with the plaintiffs’ lawyer and they had exchanged “various drafts of a proposed settlement agreement.”
The discussions ended after the plaintiffs’ lawyer wanted a settlement “with both plaintiffs simultaneously, rather than separately,” said Singer. The plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the case on October 23, 2006.
Asked if the case was dismissed because Platinum had reached a settlement with the two women, Singer refused to say, instead responding that “the manner of dismissal was confidential.”
In the lawsuit, and in a letter sent to the Reader by a Platinum outside attorney, Platinum vehemently denied the allegations of wrongdoing. The letter from Platinum’s attorney pointed out that the allegations were not proved.
Mark Barnhill, a Platinum principal, responded to Reader queries with a written quote similar to what Platinum attorney Eva Kalawski gave to [CNBC’s] Dennis Kneale:
“Successful companies often become targets for gratuitous lawsuits filled with unfounded allegations. Platinum has not been immune. Fortunately, we have only had to deal with a handful of these in our 14 years of operation.”
Among many things, the letter warned that if significant facts were omitted from a Reader story or if the story implied that the charges were true, Platinum would file a defamation suit “giving rise to potentially astronomical damages.”
Warning of “immense monetary damages,” Singer’s letter admonished, “You proceed at your peril.”
That drew reactions from First Amendment experts interviewed by Bauder.
“I have never heard of one newspaper threatening another regarding the publication of any material, whether it was allegedly privileged or not,” says Wayne B. Giampietro, a First Amendment lawyer for Stitt, Klein, Daday, Aretos & Giampietro of Rolling Meadows, Illinois, a Chicago suburb.
“I know of no basis on which an attorney can write a threatening letter to some party he does not represent and then [contend] that the recipient cannot quote from the letter. All of this sounds like a very clumsy attempt at intimidation.”
The story ran without further incident.
Singer has also done battle with famed sexual harassment plaintiffs' attorney Gloria Allred - currently handling several anti-Filner allegations - in the case of Rhonda Miller. The L.A. stuntwoman sued then-governor Schwarzenegger regarding allegations "he pulled up her shirt and suckled her breasts on the "Terminator 2" set in 1991 and fondled her breasts three years later during the filming of "True Lies," according to a 2011 L.A. Times report.
Miller said that over the years, she had considered suing Schwarzenegger, but it was only after he denied allegations of similar misconduct, reported by The Times, that she decided to go public with her accusations.
According to the paper's account, Miller sued the governor for defamation after his campaign "sent out an e-mail urging reporters to check her name on criminal records. The e-mail implied that Miller had a criminal background." The charges turned out to be untrue, but a judge ultimately ruled that Schwarzenegger wasn't responsible.
On July 2, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert L. Hess dismissed Miller's suit.
"The evidence before the court establishes that Mr. Schwarzenegger neither knew of nor approved the text of the disputed e-mail before it was sent," the judge wrote.
Hess awarded Schwarzenegger the right to collect legal fees from Miller. Her attorney, Gloria Allred, vowed to appeal. But under the agreement announced Thursday, Schwarzenegger won't collect the fees and Miller won't appeal.
"The case has been resolved," Allred said.
A raft of the ex-governor's accusers have variously sued him or related their accusations in the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere.
More like this:
- City Attorney's Office responds to sexual harassment lawsuit on Filner's behalf — Sept. 11, 2013
- Manchester, Sempra, and Jacobs gave heavily to sexually accused Schwarzenegger — Aug. 14, 2013
- The Terminator's Lawyer Tried to Intimidate the Reader, Too — May 17, 2011
- Who's Harassing Whom? — July 15, 2009
- If You Use This, I'll Sue — July 15, 2009