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ROCKY: FROM JUNKETEER TO PITCHMAN.



Byline: CHRIS WEINKOPF

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 The Los Angeles City Attorney is an elected official whose job is to prosecute all of the misdemeanor criminal offenses within the city of Los Angeles, California, United States.  Rocky Delgadillo Rockard John "Rocky" Delgadillo (born July 15 1960) is the current City Attorney of Los Angeles, California. Career
  • Teacher/ Coach, Los Angeles Unified School District, Franklin
  • Attorney, O'Melveny & Myers LLP
 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 Alex Padilla is a politician in California. He was elected as the State Senator for the 20th District of California in November 2006 and was inaugurated in early December. In order to enter the Senate he had to resign as Councilman for the 7th District on the Los Angeles City  and Jack Weiss Jack Weiss, is a member of the Los Angeles City Council representing the 5th district. Weiss was elected in 2001 and reelected in 2005. The 5th district includes parts of the Westside and the San Fernando Valley. , at the ``invitation of the government of Israel and the Jewish Federation'' of Greater Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. . 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. ... (E)very tourist destination A tourist destination is a city, town or other area the economy of which is dependent to a significant extent on the revenues accruing from tourism.

It may contain one or more tourist attractions or visitor attractions and possibly some "tourist traps".
 in Israel including hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, museums, and sporting arenas, is well guarded by highly skilled security personnel.''

--``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 URL
 in full Uniform Resource Locator

Address of a resource on the Internet. The resource can be any type of file stored on a server, such as a Web page, a text file, a graphics file, or an application program.
 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 MWW Municipal Waste Water
MWW Most Wanted Website
 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.

The firm's Amado Zavala claimed the piece ``was drafted by Delgadillo's office,'' but his company ``provided counsel'' on it. Noam Matas, the western regional director of Israel's Ministry of Tourism, offered yet another version of events: ``Rocky wrote (the piece) together with our ambassador of tourism, and sent it back to our ministry, then we authorized MWW to approach newspapers in order for the op-ed to get published.''

Eight months ago, Jack Weiss wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Jewish Journal that echoed many of the same themes as Delgadillo's. And, for what it's worth, Weiss, Delgadillo and Padilla all taped promotional TV spots for the tourism ministry during their visits.

There's nothing wrong, of course, with promoting Israel - the one democracy in the Middle East Proposed reasons for the relative absence of liberal democracy in the Middle East are diverse, from the long history of imperial rule by the Ottoman Empire, Britain and France and the contemporary political and military intervention by the United States, all of which have been blamed for , and, along with England, America's truest ally in the War on Terror This article is about U.S. actions, and those of other states, after September 11, 2001. For other conflicts, see Terrorism.

The War on Terror (also known as the War on Terrorism
. But there is something unseemly about the prospect of public officials taking expensive junkets (the Jewish Federation paid $3,800 for each L.A. dignitary), apparently in exchange for becoming tourism pitchmen. There's also something unsettling un·set·tle  
v. un·set·tled, un·set·tling, un·set·tles

v.tr.
1. To displace from a settled condition; disrupt.

2. To make uneasy; disturb.

v.intr.
 about elected officials doing the PR bidding of a foreign government.

The Israeli government didn't pay for Delgadillo's trip, but the Ministry of Tourism was obviously involved enough to coordinate the TV tapings and encourage these public leaders to publish op-eds urging Americans to come to the Holy Land. The Israeli government was involved enough that, when Delgadillo chose to write an op-ed, he distributed it by way of the tourism ministry - assuming, of course, the ministry didn't write the piece itself.

So I won't be shocked if, some time next week, Delgadillo submits a new piece, this one extolling the virtues of Boston - Revamped roadways! Birthplace of American liberty! Groovy groov·y  
adj. groov·i·er, groov·i·est Slang
Very pleasing; wonderful.



groovi·ness n.
 young folk and baked beans!

Nor will I be surprised if the article comes in by way of the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism.
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Title Annotation:Viewpoint
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 1, 2004
Words:711
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