At Whitman event, a ‘rabble-rouser,’ police and undercover video
Meg Whitman's campaign events have been raucous affairs in recent days, with reporters shouting questions as aides shuttle the candidate out of sight and the exchanges documented on the Internet.
But until Wednesday, no one had produced undercover surveillance video from inside a Whitman event and no one had called the police.
Democrats and Whitman's Republican opponent seemed to be working together, or at least at a common purpose, to infiltrate what was planned as a town hall-style session in at the OC Pavilion in Orange County for supporters that would provide footage for a campaign commercial. According to Mike Murphy, Whitman's strategist, about 300 Republicans showed up. So did Jeremy Thompson, a campaign worker for a Democratic group called the California Accountability Project.
Thompson said he is on Whitman's e-mail list and received an invitation. But when he arrived, Sarah Pompei, her press secretary, told him he couldn't come inside.
"The guy is a rabble-rouser, paid by our opponents," Pompei said Thursday. "He has no credibility."
After Thompson began videotaping, he said, a security guard escorted him out, saying police were on the way. Outside, he walked around the building and two Santa Ana police cruisers showed up. Pompei said building security made the decision to call police. "I'm a pasty little computer nerd in a sport coat, so it was a little overkill," Thompson said.
Whitman's aides were less successful at screening out one or more of her Republican opponent Steve Poizner's operatives, who sat in the audience shooting video of what the rival campaign billed Thursday as a "fake town hall," where questioners were prescreened before they could ask questions. Murphy said he suspected that some Poizner backers were inside by the "angry demeanor."
"There was somebody kind of nervously darting around BlackBerrying in the corner," he said.
On Thursday, Poizner posted a secret video of the event on Youtube (below), which shows Whitman telling the audience, "lots of cheering would be good." At one point, the video shows Pompei coming over and telling the audience member to shut off the camera. But on an audiotape that apparently continued running, a staff member is heard telling someone to ask questions again so Whitman could answer them once more.
--Michael Rothfeld in SacramentoPoizner campaign surveillance video