Racist Memos in Los Angeles Threaten Black-jewish Alliance
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Racist Memos in Los Angeles Threaten Black-jewish Alliance

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Racist memos written by two publicity men to advise a probable Jewish contender for mayor have threatened to shake up one of the strongest black-Jewish alliances in an American city.

The memos call for a Jewish-financed campaign to replace incumbent Mayor Tom Bradley, who is black, with City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who is Jewish.

The memos, dated March 29 and May 4, were prepared by an aggressive duo of political campaign professionals, Michael Berman and Carl D’Agostino, who work under the self-chosen acronym “BAD.” The memos were anonymously leaked to the Los Angeles Times and have come to be called the “BAD memos.”

The offensive memos contain such statements as, “The reason why BAD thinks you can beat Bradley is: You’ve got 50 IQ points on him (and that’s no compliment)…But your IQ advantage is of no electoral use if you don’t use it.”

The memos also call for a “United Jewish appeal” to tap the “endless wealth” of the city’s Jews on Yaroslavsky’s behalf. “Make a complete list of mainstream Jewish charities,” they advise. “Find a person in each charity to slip us a list of the names, addresses and phone numbers of $1,000-and-above contributors.”

Yaroslavsky immediately distanced himself from BAD, calling the memos “largely unsolicited” and “frankly offensive.” He particularly disavowed the IQ comparison, which stirred up the greatest resentment among the mayor’s advisers and the black community.

Following the surfacing of the memos, Yaroslavsky called Bradley to emphasize his “high personal regard” for the mayor. Bradley responded in kind, saying, “It is my hope that there will be no return to ethnic and racial campaigns.”

Bradley, this city’s first black mayor, has served four terms in office, during which time he has become a very popular mayor. He has been known for his excellent relationship with the Jewish community and one of Israel’s strongest supporters among the country’s black office holders.

However, the appearance here three years ago of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan caused some bad feelings to surface, when Bradley did not denounce Farrakhan because of a commitment to black leaders. This move drew sharp criticism from Jews.


Yaroslavsky, who hopes to become Los Angeles’ first Jewish mayor, got his start in public life organizing the local Students for Soviet Jewry.

Both men are Democrats and neither has officially declared for the office, but it is considered a virtual certainty that they will face each other next April 4 in the mayoral primary.

The memos appear to have been stolen from either the BAD office or from a Yaroslavsky aide, and then transmitted to the Los Angeles Times, which published them. Both sides say they have no idea who is responsible for the deed.

Apart from their damaging impact on intergroup relations, Bradley’s chief aide warned of the legal ramifications of such a potential usurpation of religious charitable lists.

He said the misuse of such lists for political fundraising would jeopardize the tax-exempt status of Jewish welfare organizations.


Yaroslavsky’s conciliatory statements have done little to soften the jarring impact of the memos, which come at a time when the traditional black-liberal Jewish alliance in Los Angeles is under severe strain.

This alliance is credited with electing Bradley four times and underpins a long period of racial harmony in the city.

The gradual disintegration of the alliance is blamed on a number of factors, including opposing views on affirmative action programs for minorities, the presidential campaign of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and the Farrakhan appearance.

But now, Los Angeles’ main political agenda item is the struggle between the “growth” versus “anti-growth” forces in the development of the city.

In that context, Bradley has been championing the pro-development view, which calls for increased construction and economic expansion in Los Angeles, to provide more jobs, a view particularly appealing to poorer blacks, Hispanics and other minorities.

The anti-growth advocates, centered in the liberal and affluent Jewish west side, demand as first priority protection of the natural environment and a halt to continuous building.

A flash point issue is whether Occidental Petroleum Corp., headed by Dr. Armand Hammer, should be allowed to drill for oil off the Pacific Palisades beaches in the West Los Angeles area.

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