Ethics for political consultants?

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South: No shame?

I got an email from Garry South today. He's the guy who used to run Gavin Newsom's campaign for governor. Now he's turned on his previous client. And he's sent out a message to political reporters explaining why Newsom -- the guy he was pushing for governor of California -- is actually a worthless hack.

Here's the mail:


STATEMENT BY GARRY SOUTH

CHIEF STRATEGIST, JANICE HAHN FOR LT. GOVERNOR

FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR, GAVIN NEWSOM FOR GOVERNOR


I am surprised and perplexed that my friend and former client Mayor Gavin Newsom apparently has decided to jump into the lieutenant governor's race at the last minute - especially against an already-announced candidate who would be the first woman lieutenant governor in California history.

In every one of several conversations we had about the job while he was running for governor, the Mayor expressed nothing but disinterest in and disdain for the office of lieutenant governor. In fact, he was derisively dismissive of Gray Davis's decision to run for and serve as lieutenant governor prior to running for governor ("I'm not a Gray Davis," he said). On a couple of occasions, he directed me to repudiate publicly in the strongest terms that he had any interest in ever running for lieutenant governor.

The Mayor himself told the Chronicle in October that rumors he may run for lieutenant governor were "absurd" and "a complete lie," and angrily accused Jerry Brown of personally spreading false information to that effect. As recently as December, he himself said flatly "no" when asked directly on a San Francisco radio show whether he intended to run for lieutenant governor.

In addition, when he precipitously pulled out of the governor's race in late October - against my advice - he said he couldn't continue as a statewide candidate because he was a husband, a new father and the mayor of San Francisco. So far as I know, he's still a husband, a new father and the mayor of San Francisco. So it's pretty hard to see what's changed over the last four months that would now allow him to run for another statewide office.

If the Mayor does run, it is his responsibility to explain why he now claims to want an elected office he summarily dismissed publicly numerous times over the last several months, and which just earlier this year he called "a largely ceremonial post" … "with no real authority and no real portfolio."

Now, if Garry South were an attorney, I think he could be disbarred for that statement. Lawyers can't discuss anything that transpired between them and their ckients.And it sounds to me like he's taking confidential conversations between himself and his client -- talks that occured during campaign strategy sessions -- and passing them along to the world.

But since political consultants have no regulations, nothing will happen to him.

Now, there is a code of ethics of the American Association of Political Consultants, which you can read here. It says, in part:

  • I will treat my colleagues and clients with respect and never intentionally injure their professional or personal reputations.
  • I will respect the confidence of my clients and not reveal confidential or privileged information obtained during our professional relationship.
  • Of course, the AAPC is just a trade group, with no enforcement. (Just as journalism codes of ethics are not enforceable by anyone.) But if you ask me, it's a little slimy.