October 7, 2000 -- Foothill Leader

(Anthony Portantino) About food, clothes and one surprise

By Anita Susan Brenner

     On Tuesday, my family stayed home to watch the Bush-Gore debate. I went to the Pasadena University Club's Local Candidate Forum. I thought the evening would be routine.
     Brian Carlson, the club's general manager, was a genial host. Chef Constantino Nava provided an elegant repast. About 80 people showed up. In my never-ending search for irony, I took voluminous notes.
     Congress was in session, so incumbent Jim Rogan appeared by speaker phone. His opponent, state Sen. Adam Schiff, wore a slate gray suit, blue shirt, burgundy tie, black silk socks and black loafers. State Senate candidates Jack Scott and Paul Zee wore gray suits with white shirts. Zee sported a South Pasadena pin (he is a councilman) and a pocket handkerchief. Assembly candidates Carol Liu and Susan Carpenter McMillan looked good. Liu wore a black pants suit, leather flats, pearl necklace and cluster earrings, and a pink-on-blue "Liu for Assembly" pin. Carpenter McMillan wore a charcoal gray slim wool skirt, white ribbed turtleneck, and a red sweater tied over her shoulders.
     I took notes on what people ate (cheese and crackers, vegetables, mini Croque Monsieur, pate a chou with crab salad, teriyaki beef), what they wore (gray, gray, gray, red, black), and what they said.
     The presentation was divided into three parts. The TV reporters left after Schiff-Rogan. The print reporters left after Scott-Zee. I am not a reporter. I am a columnist. The real action came toward the end of the panel.

* * *
     Liu emphasized the lack of dissent on the La Canada Flintridge City Council.
     "We have nothing to do with being divisive, with name calling or pointing fingers," she said.
     In response, Carpenter McMillan said, "Ms. Liu is a lovely woman. She is a sweet woman. There are four other council members who serve with her. There is only one other woman on the council and she endorses me. The only person on the council who endorses Ms. Liu is someone who worked for her."
     Say what? After the panel ended, a lady from La Canada Flintridge approached Carol and asked if Anthony Portantino had been paid to work on her campaign. A group of La Canadans began to gather around. And Liu said yes.
     "It was only for the primary," she said. "It was just a video. He was paid for what he did."
     When I got home, I checked Liu's campaign filings online at the Secretary of State's website. Except for a $129.87 check for office supplies, which was later voided, Portantino is not listed. None of the local papers have covered this story, but people are talking about it. People talk about it over coffee and on the street, at Ralphs and at Vons, on the phone and in e-mail.
     Some of Portantino's and Carol's supporters have told me this is a nonissue. If Liu and Portantino follow the disclosure laws, they have no obligation to tell us more. But others say, "We want to know if one council member works for another. If it's no big deal, why not tell us?"

copyright October 10, 2000 Anita Susan Brenner