The Holocaust Card

Mara Giulianti's allies don't know when to stop

Mayor Mara Giulianti had had enough of the haters, so she put out a campaign mailer.

"Put a stop to anti-Semitism and hate," Giulianti pleaded. "The radical right is already whipping up hate and anti-Semitism in Hollywood's mayoral campaign. Those opposed to Hollywood Mayor Mara Berman Giulianti have stooped to calling her and her supporters the 'The Emerald Hills Gang.' They know what that implies and so do we."

The message had it all: the inciting charge of anti-Semitism; the insinuation that Jews in Hollywood are being lumped together and targeted; the mention of Emerald Hills, a neighborhood where many Jews live; and the inclusion of Giulianti's middle name to make it evident that she's a Jew.

Rep. Elaine Schwartz plays the religion card.
mark foley
Rep. Elaine Schwartz plays the religion card.

Giulianti sent that mailer 12 years ago. In a rare show of contrition, she actually admitted that she'd gone too far that time and regretted it. Results in this year's election, on January 29, were not available by presstime, but the actions of Giulianti supporters during her reelection campaign make it clear that little has changed.

This year, when they smeared her opponent, Pete Bober, they played the Holocaust card.

A couple of weeks before the election, state Rep. Elaine Schwartz, a Giulianti ally, claimed in an email that Bober, a Hollywood commissioner, voted to deny "essential funding" to Hollywood's fledgling Holocaust Documentation Center, which includes a Nazi boxcar. "It will be on display right here in Hollywood despite Mr. Bober's lack of vision and wrong priorities," Schwartz wrote in the email, which was quickly disseminated. "The Center will be a tremendous asset in fighting prejudice and hatred."

Schwartz at least included the fact that Bober is Jewish in her email, but the message was still loud and clear: Giulianti's challenger fostered prejudice and hatred against Jews and didn't care about the Holocaust.

Yet Bober never voted to deny funding to the Holocaust center. In fact, he's been a supporter of the museum and voted to loan it money to help get it started. Schwartz was referring to a vote in October when the center asked the Community Redevelopment Board, on which Bober sits, to convert a $500,000 loan into a grant. Bober was one of three commissioners who voted against that, on the losing side. He did not threaten the center's existence. He just wanted to stick to the original deal and ensure taxpayers their due.

Bober supporters, led by former ACLU official Lori Gold, decried Schwartz's email, claiming it was dirty politics engineered by the mayor's campaign. They pointed their fingers at Barbara Miller, the lobbyist and powerbroker who runs Giulianti's campaigns and has advised Schwartz as well.

I asked Schwartz if she spoke with Giulianti and Miller about the Holocaust email before sending it.

"Yes, but I really don't remember much about it," she told me. "We talk about a lot of things. I have supported the Holocaust center, and I did this on my own."

I take that to mean that Giulianti's campaign gave her the go-ahead to send the email.

In any case, Schwartz says she stands by what she wrote. "When people ask me why I'm in office, I say it's my duty to make sure anything like the Holocaust doesn't ever happen again," she told me. "That's why I'm in office, the most important thing."

No wonder property tax and insurance reform have been so slow in coming out of Tallahassee.

Schwartz blames Bober for first bringing up the issue publicly in an opinion piece he wrote in the Sun Times, a Hollywood publication. In it, Bober decried a whisper campaign about his Holocaust center vote, saying he was being accused of anti-Semitism. "He brought it up first," Schwartz says.

Maybe Bober bears some of the blame for bringing the issue to the public rather than letting it fester in anonymity. Perhaps he was playing the same game Giulianti has excelled at for so many years. But that doesn't redeem Schwartz.

On my New Times blog The Daily Pulp, I called for Schwartz to apologize. She wouldn't hear of it. "I didn't abuse anything, and I'm not apologizing to anybody about it," she told me.

And why would she, when sleazy tactics are status quo in Hollywood?

In 2000, Giulianti's campaign manager, Miller, alleged that Giulianti's opponent, John Coleman, was the father of anti-Semitic kids. That same year, Giulianti protégé Keith Wasserstrom was elected to the Hollywood Commission. Wasserstrom didn't wear his religion on his sleeve so much as on his head. The yarmulke he wore at commission meetings and his many references to his Orthodox Judaism were the source of carping and snickers — until he was removed from office for corruption (he now awaits sentencing).

The pandering and smearing are done to win the Jewish vote in Hollywood. But a lot of residents, Jewish and gentile, have tired of it. Count 71-year-old Susan Miller and her husband, Dick (no relations to Barbara Miller), among them.

Schwartz's email stunned her, Susan Miller says. She's a Bober supporter and a Jew, and she had no idea that Bober had voted to all but kill Hollywood's Holocaust museum. So she went online, found a reference to Bober's vote, and got the meeting minutes from the city clerk.

Armed with the truth now, Susan and her husband popped in on Schwartz at her local congressional office and handed her the minutes.

Schwartz conceded that she didn't know the full story, Susan says.

"The Holocaust museum could be considered sacred," Susan continues. "It's a sacred part of history, and it always evokes very strong emotions. It does to me. And to claim that Peter Bober didn't support the museum is very inflammatory."

Schwartz "is in over her head" and "does not know who she's dealing with in people like Barbara Miller," Susan says. "Either she's selling out her soul or she really doesn't know what's going on."

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