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GOP ad man tries online video to help mayoral candidate Kevin James

January 28, 2013 |  1:36 pm

There are few ad men in the world of politics who are better at getting free publicity than Republican strategist Fred Davis. During Carly Fiorina’s 2010 U.S. Senate campaign in California, he got tens of thousands of views for his online video “Demon Sheep,” which ridiculed a rival candidate as a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Later that year, a Davis TV ad in Delaware for U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell had her famously proclaiming to the camera that she was not a witch.

This year -- the political off-season nationally -- Davis is dipping into L.A. city politics with an independent political action committee for dark-horse mayoral candidate Kevin James. James’ campaign committee appears to be running low on cash (less than $50,000 in the bank in mid-January). But the super PAC that Davis started has a very wealthy benefactor: Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, who poured money into outside efforts to defeat President Obama last year. 

So what do you get when you combine $600,000 from Simmons and the zany video stylings of Davis? You get “Henhouse,” a new online video that Davis hopes can gin up publicity for James when he’s overshadowed by more well-funded rivals.

FULL COVERAGE: Los Angeles' Race for Mayor

The targets of Davis’ new oeuvre are the three top candidates in the L.A. mayoral race: City Controller Wendy Greuel, City Councilman Eric Garcetti and City Councilwoman Jan Perry. In the four-minute video, Davis makes the case that the three elected officials have been the foxes guarding the henhouse — alleging they’ve allowed the city to flirt with bankruptcy by doing the bidding of L.A.’s labor bosses.

Interspersed with images of broken sidewalks and potholes is some unflattering footage dug up from recent mayoral debates: Garcetti yawning, Greuel with a garish grin, and Perry, microphone in hand, looking bored as she waits to speak. Davis cuts between those images and stock footage of foxes frolicking in the wild as the narrator, actor Robert Davi, intones about alleged corruption and incompetence at City Hall.

For the key prop — a stuffed fox casting its shadow over the tower at City Hall — Davis didn’t have to go any farther than his own taxidermy collection. “It actually sits in my bedroom,” he said. “I thought, well, wait a minute –- it’s cheesy, but who cares.”

Davis declined to say whether he was planning to cut a shorter version of the Web ad to put on television. His ability to do so will depend on the fundraising success of the PAC, Better Way LA, which so far has collected $700,000 from two donors: Simmons and a Chicago-based investment company.

-- Maeve Reston and Michael Finnegan