This story has been updated to include a response from Clear Channel.
By Doug Porter
Four Billboards paid for by former prosecutor Carla Keehn in support of her candidacy for San Diego County Superior Court Seat 20 were summarily removed on Friday by the Clear Channel Outdoor corporation just two days after being erected.
The candidate says the company “received pressure to take the billboards down and they would not tell me from whom the pressure came.” This action is consistent with earlier assertions made by Keehn about surreptitious efforts by incumbent Judge Lisa Schall and/or her supporters to deny or withdraw endorsements for the challenger.
The outdoor advertising panels were reserved five months ago by Keehn’s campaign. Payment was made and artwork for the billboards was delivered in April. The billboards went up at four locations on Wednesday, May 7th. They were removed Friday, May 9th.
Clear Channel account executive Erin Brophy approved the ad copy, even going so far as to suggest a change:
From: Brophy, Erin
Sent: Monday, April 21, 2014 5:00 PM
Subject: RE: Final Keehn Billboard Art
I think that for the Freeway boards this is too wordy, you are not going to be able to read this when you are driving by at 60 miles an hour. I think that you should maybe just leave it at THE ONLY CANDIDATE NOT CONVICTED OF A CRIME. For the freeway board and drop the rest of the words on the right side of the board.
Superior Court Judge Lisa Schall was arrested on September 12, 2007 for driving under the influence of alcohol in violation of Vehicle Code Sec.23152(a), and driving with a blood alcohol level in excess of 0.08 percent in violation of Sec. 23152(b), after she allegedly failed a field sobriety test, and a blood test performed within the hour indicated a blood alcohol level of approximately 0.09 percent.
She pled guilty to the lesser offense of alcohol-related reckless driving in March, 2008. The Commission on Judicial Performance publicly admonished Judge Lisa Schall over her conviction, with seven of the commission’s 10 members voting 6-1 according to a letter dated September 5, 2008.
The letter from the commission noted that Schall had previously received a private admonishment in 1995 and a public admonishment in 1999. The private admonishment addressed Schall’s embroilment in a juvenile dependency case, the commission said, while the public admonishment addressed her abuse of the contempt power during a 1995 incident in which Schall ordered a defendant appearing before her for a hearing on a petition for a restraining order to exit the courtroom.
Clear Channel Feels the Pressure
First thing Friday morning the Keehn campaign received an email from Clear Channel with photos of the board and the message: “Photos for you! These look good ”
Just a couple of hours later the “looks good :)” message changed to “We have a problem.”
According to a Keehn campaign volunteer “We got a call saying that the billboards had to come down as Clear Channel was receiving “pressure.”
Initially Clear Channel indicated the boards “would probably stay up for the weekend so you will get the weekend exposure.”
Later in the day the message changed again. “We were told they were coming down ASAP.”
And by 3pm Friday they were down.
Keehn told 10News that the outdoor advertising company refused to tell the her any details about the “pressure.”
Wait! It Gets Weirder (UPDATED)
The 10News story ran Friday evening
and disappeared (I tried repeatedly to get a direct link) from the station’s internet archive shortly thereafter.
UPDATE: Thx to Joe Little at 10news for sending me the link. Believe me, I searched and searched. http://www.10news.com/news/
Fortunately, an alert viewer posted a homemade video of the newscast to YouTube.
There has been no mention of the Clear Channel billboard takedown anywhere else in the San Diego news media as of this morning.
The story definitely wasn’t covered at UT-San Diego, which endorsed the incumbent today.
The only real decision for voters is in Office 20. Incumbent Judge Lisa Schall is a former prosecutor who has been on the bench since her appointment by Gov. George Deukmejian in 1985. She received the Bar’s highest rating of “well qualified,” and she has the endorsement of virtually all other judges on the bench, numerous retired judges, Goldsmith, Coker and a variety of professional organizations. But she has been admonished three times by the state Commission on Judicial Performance, including once for her guilty plea in 2008 to alcohol-related reckless driving. Her opponent is Carla Keehn, a former Army captain and an assistant U.S. attorney for the past 18 years who was rated as “qualified” by the Bar. The admonishments Schall received are a legitimate issue for voters to consider. The U-T editorial board believes her overall solid record of 29 years on the bench trumps those controversies. We endorse Judge Schall for re-election.
I have to wonder if her 29 years on the bench trumps any need for their reporters to dig into the efforts of the legal and judicial establishment to protect their own from those pesky voters. If you follow this stuff even semi-closely a pattern emerges.
From District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis (whose endorsement of Schall “disappeared” from her campaign website in March) to City Attorney Jan Goldsmith to the judicial establishment of the Superior Courts here in San Diego, it appears to as though the black robed wall of silence functions most effectively.
I reached out to the Clear Channel national office this morning as I was writing this story and was assured by communications Vice President David Grabert their Southern California team would follow up with a response. If and when that happens I’ll update this story. (The 10News story said Clear Channel failed to respond for their broadcast.) UPDATE #2: A KPBS story broadcast Monday afternoon says that Clear Channel hung up the phone when asked about the billboards.
UPDATE#3: I received the company’s official response in this morning’s email: “Unfortunately our protocol for political ads was not followed and we took the ad down. We have offered the client a variety of resolutions, including the fullest refund allowable under the laws governing political contributions.”
For more of our June 2014 primary coverage, go here.