For politicians, a sweet perk of the profession is the junket -- an all
expense-paid vacation, paid for by wealthy benefactors. These trips,
elected officials tell us, are just happy, informational visits, with no
favors expected in return. But does anyone believe that?
Consider just one example -- the 10-day junket Los Angeles City Attorney
Rocky Delgadillo took to Israel last fall.
Last week, Delgadillo submitted an op-ed to the Daily News reflecting on
the trip, which he took, along with City Councilmen Alex Padilla and Jack
Weiss, at the "invitation of the government of Israel and the Jewish
Federation" of Greater Los Angeles. We declined to publish the piece on the
op-ed page opinion column, mostly because it read like something that
belonged in a paper's travel section -- among the advertisements. For example:
"(Israel's) airline, El Al, is the safest in the world and has set the
global aviation industry's standards for security and safety....Every
tourist destination in Israel including hotels, restaurants, shopping
malls, museums, and sporting arenas, is well guarded by highly skilled
"Israel is not -- and will never be -- fairly characterized by what appears
in the pages of our newspapers. Indeed ... the best, if not the only
perspective ... comes to life only by visiting and experiencing the place
for oneself. My trip to Israel uplifted my spirit, my soul and my perspective."
All that was missing was the "visit Israel" URL and 800 number.
Delgadillo's praise -- which also touted Israel's industries, diversity and
youth -- sounded like something that could have been written by the Israeli
Ministry of Tourism.
And apparently, it was.
Curiously, the piece hadn't come from Delgadillo's office, but a New
Jersey-based public-relations firm, the MWW Group, best known in these
parts as the flaks for Browning Ferris Industries, operators of the
Sunshine Canyon Landfill. Among MWW's accounts is a three-year, $6 million
deal with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.
Had MWW written the piece on the city attorney's behalf? I put a call Into
Delgadillo to ask him, but he was in Boston for the Democratic National
Convention, and unavailable for comment. But his aide, Jennifer Krieger,
assured me that Delgadillo was the lone author of the piece. MWW merely
handled distribution because, with "all the work we're doing," Delgadillo's
PR staff was too busy to, um, handle Delgadillo's PR.
The folks over at MWW told a different story...