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Hoodie Mailer: Mike Gipson lied to his lead consultant, hired convicted criminal for Prophet Walker hit

By on February 9, 2015
Photoshopped Prophet Walker Mailer

It was called “despicable,” “abhorrent,” “repugnant” and “the most stereotypically racist move I’ve ever seen from any campaign.”

The Friday before California’s 2014 general election, Mike Gipson‘s campaign for State Assembly dropped a hit piece that depicted his opponent, Prophet Walker, wearing a hoodie and holding a gun. The photoshopped image drove home Walker’s admission that, as a teenager, he’d been convicted of assault and burglary.

“He took a hood, put it on my face, and put a gun in a fake hand, and he pushed it off as me,” Walker told NBC4 News. “Campaign laws forbid this type of thing.”

Campaign laws do indeed forbid such misleading tactics. Gipson, who won the 64th Assembly race, should know because a campaign consultant that he hired has been convicted of that very crime – twice.

Convicted criminal paid by Gipson campaign

Now three months after the election – too late to make any difference – CalNewsroom.com has uncovered the tragic irony to the infamous hoodie mailer: Mike Gipson hired Angel Gonzalez, a consultant with a criminal record of producing false and illegal mailers, to lead last-minute attacks on Prophet Walker for his criminal record.

According to Gipson’s most recent campaign disclosure report, Gipson for Assembly 2014 made two payments totaling $7,714.00 to Angel Gonzalez on October 28 for campaign literature and mailings.

This campaign disclosure report filed by Mike Gipson's campaign shows two payments on October 28 to Angel Gonzalez.

This campaign disclosure report filed by Mike Gipson’s campaign shows two payments on October 28 to Angel Gonzalez.

According to a 2013 report by the Los Angeles Times, Gonzalez has been convicted of misdemeanors for sending out misleading mailers – twice.

“In 2002, Angel Gonzalez was convicted of a felony conspiracy charge — reduced to a misdemeanor at his sentencing — for sending out attack mailers with copies of fake official documents. In a separate case, he was convicted of two misdemeanor counts of sending out misleading campaign fliers.”

Gipson’s lead consultant: “My professional relationship with Mike Gipson is now over”

The Democratic lawmaker did not respond to our requests for comment.

Josh Pulliam, who served as the lead consultant to Gipson’s campaign, responded to our requests. He tells CalNewsroom.com that Gipson “went rogue” in the final days of the campaign and repeatedly lied to him about the mailer.

A copy of the photoshopped "Hoodie Mailer" used against Prophet Walker.

A copy of the photoshopped “Hoodie Mailer” used against Prophet Walker.

“Mike went rogue for the last week of the campaign and made a series of regrettable decisions,” Pulliam, an award-winning Democratic consultant who was not involved in the mailer, tells CalNewsroom.com. “Apparently among them was hiring Angel Gonzalez — a local consultant who was convicted of sending out illegal campaign mail with faked images.”

Pulliam’s statement to CalNewsroom.com contradicts Gipson’s public statement following the incident. Gipson’s statement is no longer available on his campaign website, but a portion was archived by Celeste Fremon of Witness LA.

Prior to the election, Gipson repeatedly blamed the mailer on a volunteer, saying that he “allowed a volunteer to design and send out a mail piece to a small amount of voters… in retrospect I realize that the volunteer’s graphic design elements went too far… This mail piece was not properly vetted by my entire campaign team, it was only one volunteer and myself…”

Pulliam tells CalNewsroom.com that he was given the same explanation.

“Mike had told me repeatedly that he orchestrated that photoshopped piece and that he sent it out on his own,” Pulliam, Gipson’s lead consultant, said. “But now he has admitted the fact that he hired a consultant to send out that horrific mailer, and that he lied to me about it, my professional relationship with Mike Gipson is now over.”

Prophet Walker’s Redemption Story

A campaign photo from Prophet Walker.

A campaign photo from Prophet Walker.

Walker, the candidate on the receiving end of the nasty attacks, has made no secret of his youthful indiscretions. He references the conviction in the opening paragraph of his bio and offers his experience as a tale of redemption.

During his time in prison, he earned an associate’s degree and helped other incarcerated kids do the same. According to his campaign website, “To date, more than 100 of its graduates have left jail and enrolled in four-year college programs – including Prophet, attended Loyola Marymount University.”

Of the mailer, Walker said, “This is the same imagery that has been etched in our minds, that got Trayvon Martin killed, that sparked so much in Ferguson.”

Mailer universally condemned

Scott Lay, publisher of The Nooner, said the last-minute mailer “makes the Willie Horton ad look like Halloween candy.”

“It is abhorrent what is being done to Prophet Walker in AD64… one of the most reprehensible things I have seen in 20 years of California politics,” Lay wrote of the last-minute attacks. “And, the racism is from a fellow African-American, purely for political purposes.”

The Los Angeles News Group described it as “the most egregious dirty campaign flier in a local race that members of this editorial board can recall in decades of experience.”

Music business mogul Russell Simmons tweeted: “Since u follow me @mgipson2014, take my advice + apologize for despicable ad. This is very offensive to our community”

SEIU spokesman Mike Roth told the Sacramento Bee’s Dan Morain, “Putting a young black man in a hoodie with a gun in your face is about the most stereotypically racist move I’ve ever seen from any campaign. Gipson is sending the wrong message to every young black kid in the district.”

On November 4, Gipson defeated Walker by 28 points. On January 20, Walker was the guest of the First Lady at the 2015 State of the Union address.

NBC4 News Report on Mailer

Social Media Reaction to Mailer

 

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About John Hrabe

John Hrabe spends his time traveling the world as a freelance journalist. When he isn’t on an international flight, John writes about state and national politics for CalWatchdog.com, FlashReport.org, Huffington Post and the editorial pages of the Orange County Register. John’s most recent high-profile investigation uncovered the questionable labor practices of Goodwill Industries, the nonprofit organization famous for its secondhand clothing stores.

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