District Attorney Tony Rackauckas earlier this year allowed state Sen. Tom Harman to use the DA’s Office to help out his campaign for attorney general — offering him the title of “prosecutor” for use on the ballot.
However, it wasn’t until Rackauckas’ news conference Wednesday — in which he laid out his case against former protege Todd Spitzer — that Rackauckas publicly acknowledged his favor to Harman, whom he endorsed in the June primary.
Last spring, Harman’s opponent, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, challenged his ballot designation in court. A Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled in favor of Cooley, saying that because Harman had never even tried one case as a prosecutor, he could not use the ballot designation of prosecutor.
Harman lost to Cooley in the Republican primary election.
At a Wednesday news conference, Rackauckas — just after talking about how he scolded Spitzer for using official resources to campaign for district attorney in 2014 — elaborated on how he helped Harman get his ballot designation.
“Tom Harman did call me up and asked if he volunteered in our TAP [Trial Attorney Partnership] program would that be acceptable?” Rackauckas said. “I said it certainly would.”
Under the TAP program, private attorneys can help out the district attorney’s office by getting courtroom experience.
Harman did not return a call for comment.
Rackauckas admitted that Harman “had a special schedule” and needed accommodations to join the program. He also admits that Harman “was running for AG [attorney general] at the time” but says that fact didn’t come up during their discussions.
“I did anticipate he would learn about the DA’s office,” Rackauckas said.
Spitzer said he and other prosecutors were disgusted at the Harman photo event when he was given the title. “It’s one of the most outrageous abuses I’ve ever seen,” Spitzer said.
Rackauckas said he “was surprised” when he saw the title of prosecutor on Harman’s ballot designation.
“I talked to Steve Cooley about it at another event that was not connected,” Rackauckas said. Cooley “mentioned to me that Tom Harman and the other candidate were both claiming to be prosecutors.”
Rackauckas swore in Harman on Feb. 5, according to documents filed with the court in the Cooley challenge and obtained by Voice of OC under the state’s public records act.
According to the declaration of Director of Government and Community Relations Todd Hart, who administers the program, Harman was assigned through the TAP program to work in the West Justice Center in Westminster. He ended up working parts of seven days in the justice center. Hart also wrote that there is not a termination date to such appointments.
When asked whether Harman had ever worked as a volunteer at the District Attorney’s Office since his bid for California attorney general ended in June, Rackauckas replied: “I don’t think we’ve had him working at the DA’s Office since then.”
— NORBERTO SANTANA, JR.
Correction: A previous version of this report incorrectly stated Todd Hart’s title. We regret the error.