One Week Later: Rep. McCarthy’s Office Denies Meeting as Stop-the-Purple-Threat Keeps Rolling
(Note: a full copy of the ad from the Beverly Hills Courier e-blast can be found at the end of the article.)
I have to be honest. After last week’s misfire of a student rally, we considered letting our coverage of the Beverly Hills vs. Metro Subway drama die. If its goal was to drum up sympathetic media and gain the president’s attention, the rally was a colossal failure. Media reports that a whopping twenty percent of Beverly Hills High School students boarded the school buses to the park for the field trip. Enrollment at Beverly Hills High School is down from 1,700 students a couple of years ago, at 1,500 students this year, and the district estimated that about 300 high school students joined the rally. Maybe a PR campaign about how the high school is a scary place for students where the air is poisoned and the buildings could explode at any moment is behind the enrollment drop.
But even worse than student apathy was that the coveted Fox News cameras never showed up either.
So we hoped that maybe the scare campaign against the Purple Line route was over and we were ready to stand down. But then we received word that “Stop the Purple Threat” door knockers were being distributed, and “Friends of Beverly Hills High School” paid their house organ, the Beverly Hills Courier, to blast out an email encouraging parents to call their elected leaders and demand that the subway be re-routed.
So we got back to work.
Streetsblog called the offices of Kevin McCarthy in both Bakersfield and Washington, D.C. McCarthy is a member of the Republican leadership team in the House of Representatives. BHUSD Board Member Lisa Korbatov, who bragged in a taped meeting about her role in creating the Stop the Purple Threat movement (listen to the audio, here), claims to have met with McCarthy six times on the subject of getting the federal government to remove their support for the city’s subway extension. (See page 9 of this issue of BH Weekly for more.) Neither McCarthy’s field office nor Capitol Hill office had a record of such a meeting.
The Beverly Hills Unified School District paid the law firm of Kasowitz, Benson and Torres over $360,000 in August and September of this year to represent them in their current lawsuit against the Westside Subway (see page 2 of this issue of BH Weekly for more) and the firm has payed at least $93,000 this year for lobbying fees. Kasowitz, Benson and Torres are well known as the law firm for the West Coast dealings of President Donald Trump. Given this, it seems likely that Korbatov is just hitting the Republican fundraiser circuit.
If Korbatov is buttonholing the Congressman at fundraisers, it raises ethics issues for McCarthy should he act on her requests. Korbatov bragged about her access to McCarthy, and how well briefed the Congressman is on the issue, noting that she used her access to pass on lobbying materials. Surely the image of a Congressman accepting and acting on lobbying materials given to him at a fundraiser by an elected official in Beverly Hills would be both a violation of ethics standards and a bad look for the Republicans in the lead-up to a hotly contested election.
Meanwhile, the Stop the Purple Threat campaign rolls on. The press generated by last weeks’ walkout–protest, field trip, whatever–did not help put a student face on the campaign to reroute the planned subway. Even before the event, the Los Angeles Times was rolling its eyes at the event and the campaign. Coverage afterwards was similarly skeptical, with even the student newspaper using scare quotes around the word “walkout.” And let’s not even talk about the reaction to a lecture on nonviolent protest that compared the day’s protest to Rosa Parks.
Perhaps even more damning, a letter to the editor of the Times from a student slammed the event as simply “not a student-led walkout.” So much for the school district’s hope that the event would appear “as authentic as possible.”
But despite the bad press and the public scorn, Stop the Purple Threat continues. At this point, the best we can hope for is that any damage it causes is contained within the borders of Beverly Hills.