CBS2 Investigates: LA Sheriff Endorsement Controversy
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — L.A. Sheriff Lee Baca pulled his endorsement Monday for a vitamin company after CBS2 questioned him about the company’s contribution to his political campaign.
CBS2 investigative reporter David Goldstein found the sheriff was using his name and title to pitch nutritional supplements for YOR Health.
“I try to set high standards for myself…the whole YOR Health product line fits in,” Baca says during a YouTube video recorded at one of three YOR Health conferences in Las Vegas.
Goldstein even found pictures of Baca posing in 2011 with YOR Health company owner Dennis Wong.
On the company’s website, Baca’s picture is placed next to the statement “He is a big fan of YOR Health products.”
The sheriff refused to comment but his spokesman, Steve Whitmore, said Baca didn’t think he was doing anything wrong.
“Right there, it says he’s a big fan – is that not an endorsement?” Goldstein said to Whitmore.
“No, absolutely, it is an endorsement because he loves the product,” the spokesman said.
Whitmore said the sheriff wasn’t paid any money, although his expenses in Las Vegas where covered by the company.
But Goldstein did find a $1,000 contribution made by YOR Health to Baca’s campaign in 2010.
“It sends absolutely the wrong message,” said government ethics expert Bob Stern. “It’s not illegal, but it’s wrong.”
Stern continued, “I think it’s absolutely inappropriate for the sheriff or any public official to be endorsing a product. The sheriff’s moral compass needs to be adjusted.”
And, sure enough, an hour after CBS2 started asking the sheriff’s office about this issue the YouTube videos were restricted from public viewing, at the request of the sheriff. Baca’s picture was also removed from the YOR Health website.
“In retrospect, should he have looked deeper into this? Probably. He knows that, which is why he halted it today,” Whitmore said.
CBS2 isn’t aware how long the sheriff’s endorsement was on the YOR Health website. Company executives didn’t immediately respond to requests for an interview.