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GOP attorney general candidate gets a job – and ballot title – in South Dakota

March 18, 2010 | 11:30 am
Republican attorney general candidate John Eastman has picked his job description to show voters on the June ballot -- assistant attorney general. Pretty good modifier for someone seeking the top job.

What Eastman isn't telling voters is that he is officially an assistant attorney general in South Dakota.

Eastman is best known as the recent dean of the Chapman University Law School in Orange County, but he opted to go with a job title given to him for a case he's working on in the Mt. Rushmore State.

His GOP opponents are crying foul.

“Eastman’s cynical move makes a mockery of the ballot designation system. He’s intentionally trying to mislead and misinform voters about his occupation, his qualifications and his career path,” said Kevin Spillane, a strategist for Los Angeles Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, who is also running for attorney general.

What profession a politician lists on the ballot is significant as it is the last piece (and for some voters the only piece) of information they see before casting a vote.

Jeff Flint, an Eastman adviser, wouldn’t comment on whether the ballot designation made for good politics. “I don’t think it’s necessary and appropriate to speculate on the political implications of it,” he said, defending the job title as legal and accurate.

Eastman is being paid $20,000 by the South Dakota attorney general to work on one case, according to documents provided by the campaign. And since he resigned his post at Chapman in January, the South Dakota gig is Eastman’s “primary professional occupation,” his campaign said.

Sara Rabern, a spokeswoman for the South Dakota attorney general’s office, confirmed Eastman has been appointed an assistant attorney general, albeit “with very limited powers.”

“It’s just on one particular court case” he’s working on, Rabern said.
Ultimately, secretary of State Debra Bowen will decide whether the job title is allowed.

If the title sticks, the Cooley campaign plans to sue, Spillane said.

-- Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento