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Torie Osborn, candidate for California Assembly in the new District 50, which stretches through the Westside of Los Angeles from Santa Monica and Malibu to Hollywood and Hancock Park.

Opinion by Darin Weeks

On January 25, Torie Osborn was awarded the endorsement of the West Hollywood/Beverly Hills Democratic club in the race for California’s 50th Assembly District. The problem is, the regular, active members of that club didn’t give it to her.

How can this possibly be?

The club president told West Hollywood Patch that 45 Torie Osborn supporters became members of the club on December 29th with their memberships paid for by a single check amounting to $1,125. Media reports estimate that about 40 of those new members took control of the endorsement away from the normal club members and awarded it to their candidate.

“The new members were from places far away from West Hollywood,” said West Hollywood Mayor John Duran when explaining his position and the reason for his dramatic outburst in the meeting. “Places like Glendale and Norwalk and communities outside of the Assembly District.”

(Update: apparently Osborn supporters who hijacked these meetings also included underage children… see comment section below.)

Yet, Osborn and her campaign have no issue with deceiving voters by implying that the endorsement was awarded by the normal, active, local West Hollywood and Beverly Hills club members. Osborn’s camp says that some of the new folks were indeed locals, but they do not deny that many were not. And it doesn’t sound like anyone expects these new people to be regular, active club members.

“The club of local Democrats voted 43-28 to endorse Osborn,” proclaimed a campaign press release touting the win (emphasis added).

“Last night, grassroots Democrats of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills sent a high-powered message to the Sacramento political machine that they’ve had enough of ‘politics as usual,’ and that they’re ready for bold changes in our state,” said Osborn in the press release (emphasis added). “I am extraordinarily grateful for their support, and plan working directly with them throughout this campaign and beyond.”

As someone who regularly relies upon these endorsements, I’m deeply dismayed by this practice. It comes awfully close to buying an endorsement. Even Osborn supporters admit that the resulting endorsement is deceptive, and the practice used to obtain this endorsement (and others) is unfair.

Marta Evry, an Osborn supporter who was at the meeting and who is the source of the widely seen video of Duran’s outburst summed it up pretty well on her blog. “Are these practices unfair? Do they reward the candidate who’s best able to ‘game’ the system? Yes. Absolutely.”

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And she wrote, “to the layman, club and party endorsements are assumed to mean that local activists have weighed the merits of each candidate and chosen one through a democratic consensus process.”

I don’t disagree with Evry’s ideas, except on her premise that we shouldn’t blame the candidates if they exploit the unfair rules and loopholes.  Of course we should.  We should hold them to high ethical standards, but realize that we’ll often be disappointed.  Utilizing a tactic when you know it is wrong is would not meet any definition of ethical behavior that I know of.

Everything boils down to a few very simple points here:

An endorsement obtained via unfair, unethical means makes the endorsement illegitimate.

Holding out an illegitimate endorsement as legitimate is dishonest and misleading to voters.

Period. Nothing else matters. Ethics are ethics. There is no grey area here. There can be no possible, adequate justification. There was not a gun to Torie’s head making her do this.

But since Osborn and her supporters are running around trying to make a case, let’s look at some of their arguments.

Over and over, Osborn supporters will tell you that the opponent was “out organized” as if that makes everything OK.

Dante Atkins, an Osborn supporter who lists his position as the Vice-Chair, Region 2, of the LA County Democratic Party, engaged us on Twitter to try to redirect our focus away from his candidate.

“Betsy Butler’s camp tried to do the same thing, they just didn’t have any support,” said Atkins. “I have the email.”

“If it’s the ethics you object to, attack all guilty,” he continued. “Otherwise, you’re attacking motivation and competence.”

That Osborn and her supporters associate unethical practices with motivation, competence and effective organizing is just one reason why I am focused on this particular situation. That is a disgusting proposition, and it seems to me that unethical behavior that is organized only makes it more reprehensible. Unfortunately, in politics it may be the norm rather than the exception. Still, that doesn’t mean that those caught in situations such as this should not be held to account.

It matters not that others may have used similar practices in the present or in the past. Examples could surely be found for almost any type of unethical behavior imaginable by politicians. It doesn’t make repeating the offenses or utilizing the same tactics OK. Even small children know that two wrongs don’t make a right.

Why hold Torie to account and not others? Well, I had no clue this practice existed until this case, so it is what I will address. And while it looks like others may have had their hand in the cookie jar before, Torie came along and swiped the whole jar. Complaining about this is like getting pulled over for speeding and telling the officer that other people were speeding too. Let me know how that works out for you.

It matters not that there wasn’t any rule broken. It would be impossible for a club to create a rule for every possible circumstance. On the other hand, ethics do not depend on rules. Doping wasn’t prohibited by rules some years ago in sports, but the lack of such rules did not make it ethical or fair to engage in the practice. The same logic holds true here.

I could easily support a candidate who broke a rule through an oversight, but cannot support a candidate who either willingly compromised her ethics or is blind to the ethical issues here.

Osborn will tell you she really, really needs these local endorsements because the state party endorsement is biased against her. Well, maybe so, but that doesn’t give her license to embrace unethical practices for others without reproach.

With foolish pride, Osborn makes no apologies for these practices and apparently can’t see what the fuss is about. She told Patch, “We’re in it to win it. I have a grassroots army that’s working with me. … People joining clubs in order to vote for who they vote for is part of the grassroots. It just is part of the tactics. People do it all the time. I’m proud of my troops.”

Perhaps others do engage in the practice all the time, Torie. But I suspect it won’t be happening as much in the future, thanks to your fiasco here. For this, I thank you. However, in good conscience I cannot ignore this blatant lack of ethics and you will not have my support for office.

GD Star Rating
Where are Torie Osborn's Ethics?, 3.4 out of 5 based on 24 ratings

What do you think?


  1. Jeremy Arnold says:

    I joined a Democratic Club to vote for Torie Osborn. I joined a few days before the deadline. I’d never been to a club meeting before. Besides the Assembly District 50 race, I didn’t consider myself well-versed on the issues before the club, and I don’t plan on attending every meeting in the near future. I showed up to support Torie because I believe in her mission, I believe she has the message and the ability to win the election and affect change in Sacramento, and because she has an active, grassroots campaign that has kept me engaged and inspired. She stood out to me as a candidate, and as a result, I helped do my part by joining a club where I could voice my support through an honest vote.
    I don’t know what would motivate WeHo Daily to publish a piece with such clear bias and incendiary accusations, but I do know what motivated me to join a Democratic Club at the last minute and cast a vote for Torie: A serious, inspiring and just candidate with deep roots in Assembly District 50 who understands the issues and can lead in Sacramento.

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  2. admin says:

    Jeremy, the value of these endorsements is that they imply normal, active club members have given them. People do not suspect that they may be relying upon the opinions of someone like you. Torie knows this. That’s why it is valuable. And as such, you are admitting that you are complicit in this attempt to defraud voters. Shame on you. And on Torie.

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  3. Marcos says:


    You should be ashamed of yourself for not blushing and hijacking a Democratic Club who you have done NOTHING for! BTW, someone paid for your membership with a $1,000 check!

    Do you know Villaraigosa, the guy who kicked out Occupy LA from City Hall supports Torie. Torie is the City Hall machine, she cannot be fighting against herself!

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  4. Jeremy Arnold says:

    The club that I joined, Santa Monica Democratic Club, does not allow multiple memberships to be paid for by one check, so Marcos, your accusation that my membership was paid for by a $1,000 check is patently false. I disagree with Mayor Villaraigosa’s decision to evict the members of Occupy LA, but Torie is just one of the causes he and I agree on.
    Admin, I believe my fellow club members were happy to see me. I was easily the youngest person in the room, providing clear and present evidence of Torie’s ability to engage young people in hands-on politics. No one felt as though additional members would somehow dilute free speech, after all, the Democratic Party is all about inclusiveness and openness. My presence and my vote were entirely legitimate and I was happy to see that I was considered an equal even though I had only recently joined.
    Equality in vote and respect should be guaranteed to every member, old or new.

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  5. admin says:

    Jeremy, are you even old enough to vote in a general election? You say you are young and you twitter profile says you are a junior in high school. Perhaps due to your age, seem completely unable to see the ethical issues here. At least that is my assumption since you not said anything but “I like torie yay yay yay!”

    In addition, this post is discussing the Weho/BH club incident in particular and others as they may relate. Numerous members at the local club here have voiced their displeasure at the way this all went down. Whether or not your experience and the reactions were as you state, you cannot dispute that there are numerous members of various clubs who are angry about this and where the presence of the new people was not welcome.

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  6. Jeremy Arnold says:

    No, in fact, I am not at the moment old enough to vote in a general election. However, every political movement in the history of this nation has depended on the ability of individuals to organize others. I believe this ability has enormous potential, and part of that potential was exercised at the WeHo/BH club meeting.
    Furthermore, I believe every member who joined legitimately (i.e. within club rules) should be allowed equal opportunity to join in the process of the club. Personally, I was encouraged by the fact that while the government did not value my opinion in the form of a ballot, the Democratic Club did.
    To allege that one or more of the local Democratic Club endorsements were somehow hijacked by a rogue band of anti-Democratic activists is laughable at best and reprehensible at worst. As to the clearly patronizing tone and condescending nature of Admin’s post, I can see what WeHo Daily thinks of input from young people, teens and students. Thank God Torie’s got our back.

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  7. admin says:

    Jeremy, I think you are a poster child for what VOTERS DO NOT THINK they are relying upon when they read these endorsements. You are legally a child if you cannot vote. So Torie Osborn is STACKING THE VOTE WITH CHILDREN on top of everything else that is wrong with this. I’m sorry, but I do not wish to take voting advice from a 16 year old. We are talking about an endorsement, not you volunteering to go door to door (where your age would be apparent) or stuffing envelopes at her headquarters. This is another major loophole that clubs should plug as underage people voting on endorsements LOWERS the credibility of the endorsement. Perhaps some exception should be made for people 16 years and older WITH A VOTE FROM OTHER MEMBERS and if the youth had demonstrated a commitment to the club with regular attendance.

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  8. Jeremy Arnold says:

    Explicitly excluding young people from Democratic clubs would alienate teens, young adults and children from the party and the political system. If we progressives want to advance we have to reach out to young people, not turn them away. Torie gets that, Admin apparently does not. Fact check, I’m seventeen and I don’t think that’s a terrible thing.

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  9. Marta Evry says:

    If you’re going to quote me, at least have the decency to quote me in context. Here’s the piece Darrin quoted from, in it’s entirety. For the record, this is the last I’ll have to say on the subject. I think people are smart enough to make up their own minds about the subject:

    [moderation note: the full text of the post was removed for space considerations. please use the above link to view]

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  10. admin says:

    Marta, I don’t see how anything is out of context. We both agree that the (1) practice is unfair, and (2) voters think it’s normal local club members making the endorsements, not these new people. Those are the points I pulled from your blog post.The only thing we disagree on is that you think it is ethical for candidates to play dirty until the rules are changed. I absolutely, positively do NOT. If it is unfair, it is unethical, whether allowed by rules or not. And it is deceptive to use such an endorsement per #2 above.

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  11. norman chramoff says:

    Re: Marta Evry
    This is a Marta Evry quote from an email she sent a West La Demo.
    Club activist;

    “I know you like to be this list’s resident contrarian, but really, you ought to stick with what you’re good at, like stalking porn actresses on Twitter”

    She wrote it – this woman has no credibility at all.

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  12. Igor says:

    If a club’s leadership is opposed to this practice all they have to do is change their requirements for vote on endorsements to joining three months before instead of one. Simple. Until then, complaining about this is sour grapes.

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  13. actorvist says:

    This biased editorial is really a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face. It’s a sad day when the LGBT commmunity starts to feed on its own leaders.

    If you don’t like the rules, CHANGE them!

    As for ethics, I’ve seen the video. John acted like a fool! and he’s the mayor! v what a childish annd immature outburst. Maybe HE was one of the underaged registrants too. He sure acted like a three year old.

    And, for the record, Torie is winning endorsements where the rules prohibit outside registrants too. As well as unions, leaders of all kinds and just about everyone except a small clique of sourpusses in WeHo, who for some reason seem to think Sacramento’s machine politics and blatant carpetbagging are more ethical than bringing a new measure of excitment to grassroots activists.

    Stop whining and get with the 99%!

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  14. Marcos says:

    @Actorvist: Even if I wanted to join the 99%, Torie’s former boss but current supporter (Villatraigosa) kicked them out of City Hall. What did she say about that? NOTHING she stood quite, we don’t need lipservice – she had an opportunity and did nothing!

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  15. admin says:

    To those saying “just change the rules if you don’t like them” — the issue isn’t limited to the club. The issues is the ethics of a candidate who will “fight dirty” by engaging in this practice, and apparently to a far greater degree than anyone before. PLUS IT’S DISHONEST TO OBTAIN THIS AND REPRESENT IT MEANS ANYTHING TO VOTERS WHO DON’T HAVE A DAMN THING TO DO WITH THE CLUB OR RULES. Would it be wrong if she formed a new club with a name chosen carefully to appeal to voters, which included only supporters, and then paraded that endorsement around deceptively? OF COURSE IT WOULD. The ethical issues here are WORSE THAN THAT because she used a REAL club instead of a fake one and effectively did the same thing. In the process, she wronged the other club members by robbing them of their ability to make their own endorsement and she MISAPPROPRIATED their clubs name! This is a calculated effort to have an endorsement that looks as legitimate as possible. THAT IS THE BIGGEST ETHICAL ISSUE HERE. In reality, it means nothing more than an endorsement from her campaign manager.

    If something stinks to high heaven as much as this, it’s a pretty good bet that it is unethical. Forget about the rules.

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  16. Igor says:

    If this editorial is solely about the ethical issues with this practice then perhaps you can better address why you single out a particular candidate in this race when there has been widely distributed documentation that other candidates engaged in the practice as well.

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  17. Marcos says:

    @IGOR: Because Torie abused the system, does not apologize for silencing the real members of clubs and says she is not a machine — when in fact she has the LA City Hall Machine supporting her.

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  18. Carolyn says:

    Did Butler’s campaign try to do the same thing,per Atkin’s statement about having an email to prove it, as this opinion piece accuses Osborn? Please let us know.

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  19. admin says:

    Apparently, Butler’s campaign did encourage people to join clubs, and even pointed out that they didn’t specifically need to live in the areas where some clubs were located. It doesn’t sound like it was as organized of an effort and to the same degree as Osborn. It sure didn’t have the same end result. Butler told Patch that the two situations are different because nobody offered to pay for her supporters to join. Osborn brags about the scale of her unethical coup, proud of it. That just disturbs me. To me, it seems like Butler had her hand in the cookie jar, and so did many other candidates for various offices in the past. On the other hand, to me it feels like Osborn took the whole cookie jar, emptied it out, and smashed it on the ground before leaving. “Getting out the vote” is one thing and can be legit. But stacking it or stuffing it with people who have no intention of being “real” club members is wrong. So, Butler’s email does bother me, but the overall result of what Osborn supporters did turns my stomach. Osborn’s supporters will argue that Butler would have had the same result if she was better at organizing… well we don’t know that for sure, and from what people active in politics have said is that nobody has ever imagined something happening on the scale of the Osborn campaign effort here. Clubs apparently need to close loopholes such as this as people have demonstrated that they can’t be expected to act ethically. But that there is a loophole does not make unethical behavior ethical.

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  20. admin says:

    One more thing — One of the reasons I’m going after Osborn here is because she now is holding a completely illegitimate endorsement (and potentially several others) that means nothing. Yet she is holding it out as if it means something and it will certainly bring in unsuspecting votes. Of course, Butler does not have the same endorsements so for whether or not she would have done the same thing if she could, she is not. There is still plenty of time to inform people that they should not rely on these endorsements, and about just how illegitimate and meaningless this endorsement in particular is.

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  21. SEAN says:

    I am just SHOCKED a politician would do something so shady, SHOCKED. Especially in the purity of West Hollywood politics where there is not a whiff of cronyism. SHOCKING!!

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