Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp took the rare step of weighing in publicly on campaign materials involving one of her deputies on Wednesday, when she defended prosecutor Andrew Janz from criticism made in a series of advertisements released this week by Rep. Devin Nunes.
Janz, a Democrat, is challenging the Tulare Republican in November. He has waged considerable political war on Nunes for more than a year, calling Nunes out publicly for a myriad of perceived failures while representing California’s 22nd Congressional District.
Nunes has put out thousands of campaign mailers attacking his opponent and the Democratic Party, but this week marks one of the first times he has attacked Janz by name.
Nunes’ campaign released TV and radio ads this week that, among other things, took aim at Janz’s work ethic and accused him of campaigning on the taxpayer dime.
“Janz claims to be a hard-working prosecutor, but he’s posted hundreds of campaign tweets during taxpayer-funded work hours,” the advertisement says. A graphic stating that Janz has tweeted 461 times during business hours is displayed in the TV version.
“When trying to justify more time off to stage campaign stunts, Janz called himself ‘a mere on-call floater, serving in a diminished capacity,’” the radio advertisement says.
Smittcamp: ‘Set the record straight’
Smittcamp, whose husband’s family is among Nunes’ most-ardent supporters, has not taken a side in the race. However, she said Wednesday it “was important she set the record straight” concerning Janz’s day job.
“When Andrew came to me and told me he was going to run, I told him not to campaign on county time or in county buildings,” Smittcamp said. “Even phone calls had to be allocated.”
“We discussed social media,” she continued. “I told him he needed a way to identify his tweets, and I believe he does that using his initials.”
Janz signs tweets from his campaign account with “AJ.” Other tweets are made by campaign staffers.
He also has a personal Twitter account, which has been used to tweet a few times in the last year. All of these personal tweets have been related to crime news in Fresno.
It is unclear if the 461 number cited in Nunes’ advertisement is in reference to those tweets signed “AJ” or just the account’s activity in general. Nunes’ campaign did not answer questions about the issue.
Smittcamp said Janz has used vacation time in chunks – sometimes a full day, other times just 15 minutes. All of these requests must be submitted in writing and kept as public records. She added that Janz has been “very conscientious” in advising his supervisor of his movements.
“We have had no issues with him and are not aware of him campaigning on county time at all,” Smittcamp said. She said the ad “is curious to me, because the Nunes campaign has done public records requests for his time sheets, and those have been provided.”
Prior to running, Janz was part of Smittcamp’s newly established violent crime unit, which she said works on “intensive trials” that can last weeks. Janz was moved to the felony team, which Smittcamp said gives him more flexibility to take time off.
Smittcamp said Janz’s work on the felony team is not any less important or a demotion in any way. Her office often has attorneys who need to take a lot of time off for campaigns, family illnesses, the birth of a child or other reasons, and those attorneys rotate in and out of several positions on the felony team.
“Andrew Janz is a very competent and capable prosecutor,” Smittcamp said. “He is ethical, hard-working, and I am proud to have him as a member of this office.”
Janz said the most-recent Nunes ads “fit into a larger pattern of anti-law enforcement views including his dishonorable attacks on federal law enforcement officials and our national intelligence agencies.”
As leader of the House Intelligence Committee, Nunes led a public campaign against what he deems to be corruption in the Department of Justice and FBI.
Janz called the ads “a direct attack on Lisa Smittcamp and the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office.”
“Lisa runs a tight ship and would never allow her deputies to engage in the type of unethical and illegal practices portrayed in Devin Nunes’s propaganda pieces,” Janz said.
Janz’s campaign had a signed agreement with a Tulare County property owner during the alleged trespassing incident and has denied breaking any laws during the video shoot. The film crew was from Hollywood, as Nunes’ ad claims.
On Aug. 14, Clovis police were called by Sentinel Executive Offices after Janz and others attempted to enter Nunes’ Clovis office, which is inside the Sentinel building. Clovis police Cpl. Max Garces called the issue a gray area, because Nunes’ office is surrounded by private businesses.
“Our issue is not a political issue; we’re just trying to solve some issues here with people coming in here,” Garces said in August. “This isn’t a public building, even though he’s a public servant.”
Janz maintained the office is paid for and maintained by the taxpayers, who are “not even given the opportunity to go to the office to make an appointment and are prohibited from making our way up to his office.”
The prosecutor’s campaign has received donations from Barbra Streisand, Rosie O’Donnell and other celebrities that as of June 13 totaled about $15,000. The majority of Janz’s $3 million-plus in campaign funding has come from thousands of small donations from throughout the country.