was mike feuer's whole candidacy just a delay op? on his never-ending campaign
to avoid looking political, federal prosecutors won't bring charges against a candidate running for office close to an election. let your mind wander as to why feuer ran for over 2 years.
After 799 days Mike Feuer has figured out how to stop running for mayor. He has thrown his 2 percent of support to Karen Bass, whom the establishment Left is coalescing around as it fights off a serious challenge by retail oligarch Rick Caruso.
Despite polling lower than AIDS, Feuer showed 0 signs of stopping over the past two years. Chalk it up to a misplaced sense of ambition coupled with a serious addiction to campaigning. Feuer kept running like he was in a fake timeline, one where a criminal investigation didn’t bore down on his office. He had a perfect plan for everything, packaged in Instagram slideshows and fun campaign videos about his mustache. He tweeted on Sunday mornings. He literally went to every neighborhood in LA and answered all of your questions. And no one wanted to hear it.
DWP scandal or not, Feuer was never going to win the mayor’s race. The DWP issue barely came up on the campaign trail or in debates. But hearing about it pissed him off, and his anger has brought us all together. Feuer didn’t get far because LA doesn’t want a dad rock mayor.
But what else is he going to do? He can only continue existing as a bureaucrat. Like, he isn’t going to enter a courtroom and argue a demurrer. After over 20 years of being a politician, he has no saleable skills but politics itself. He doesn’t litigate, he delegates. He doesn’t act, he talks. He doesn’t break the rules, he follows them.
So why did Feuer run for as long as he did—over two years—despite being a long shot? His campaign started after his office was raided by the FBI. One spicy explanation that has come up a lot in conversation, and on Twitter, is that so as long as he is running for office, the government won’t prosecute him over the DWP litigation scandal for fear of coming off as politically-motivated. By running, he is using a delay tactic. Some attorneys have told me this is mostly an unwritten rule among prosecutors weighing sensitive pre-election investigations. And it is enforced or not as a result of politics.
According annual memos circulated by the Department of Justice titled, “Investigation and Prosecution of Election Crimes,” DOJ employees, “may never select the timing of investigative steps or criminal charges for the purpose of affecting any election, or for the purpose of giving an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party.”
Prosecutors are also urged to seek advice from the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division regarding “the timing of charges or overt investigative steps near the time of a primary or general election.”
If charges are brought against a running candidate, that person could argue issues of federalism or separation of powers, as this really long and not at all confusing memo outlines (scroll to 9-16.020.)
Scott Tenley, a former federal prosecutor himself in the Central District of California, told me such policy only applies to federal office. However, prosecutors are conscious of when they charge elected officials or those running for office.
“Their policy is forbearance. The DOJ doesn’t want to appear to influence an election in favor of one candidate, or to the detriment of another,” said Tenley, now a partner at Michelman & Robinson.
There is an unwritten 60-day rule, in which an investigation won’t be made public less than 60 days before an election date, Tenley said.
So has the government been waiting for Feuer to stop running? Will something happen now?
“It’s kind of a creative thought,” said Tenley. “I think the problem is anytime 60 days up to the election he could have been charged. If he wins it is still hanging over his head, and the statute of limitations would push this out. This is not a way to avoid prosecution.”
Tenley pointed out the recent public corruption trial of Nebraska U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry, done by the same office that is prosecuting DWP. It was completed in a window outside of the 60-day period.
Really it comes down to the difficulty and time it takes for prosecutors to build a case. And DWP is a complex one.
P.S. What kind of deal do you think Feuer struck with Bass? Where does he go next?