Editor's Note
California Lawyer

by Martin Lasden

July 2013

Investigative reporter Thomas Peele isn't a big Oprah Winfrey fan. In fact, when asked to grade her televised interview with Lance Armstrong earlier this year, he gave her no better than a B-.

Still, it's no small thing when the most famous cyclist in the world publicly admits for the first time - as Armstrong did last winter to Winfrey - that he doped his way to seven Tour de France titles. Peele, however, was hardly satisfied. The veteran journalist laments that there were so many more good questions she could have asked, but didn't.

"If I were doing that interview," he muses, "I would have wanted a lot more details about how Armstrong smuggled all those drugs he used across international borders. Who were the flunkies who helped him cover his tracks? And who were some of the others he lied to? Did he lie to the president of Nike when they were negotiating an endorsement deal? For that matter, did he lie to the president of the United States [George W. Bush] when they went mountain biking together?"

We may never know. Nor are we likely to ever understand why Armstrong granted that interview in the first place. But what is clear is that by saying what he said on national television, Armstrong opened himself up to a boatload of legal trouble. In this month's cover story ("Headstrong"), Peele describes the long, hard road that lies ahead for the disgraced athlete.

In one lawsuit, the London Sunday Times is seeking to recoup funds it paid Armstrong in 2006 to settle a libel claim. In Texas, two companies want back the $15 million in bonus money they paid him for his Tour de France victories. And in California, a putative class action targets Armstrong as a codefendant for promoting a manufacturer's nutritional supplements as his "secret weapon." If all that weren't enough, the Department of Justice has intervened in a qui tam case brought by a former Armstrong teammate alleging fraud against the U.S. Postal Service, the team's sponsor.

Also in this issue, Sasha Abramsky of Sacramento writes about the efforts of a group of graying activists to reform the state's signature antitax initiative, Proposition 13 ("Tinkering with a Tax Revolt"). For them, it's been something of an obsession for more than three decades. But with polls showing an uptick in support for reform, the tide may finally be turning. One idea is to close legal loopholes that allow commercial real estate to be dramatically undertaxed. Another is to make it easier for local government entities to raise new taxes. Yet, even with Democratic supermajorities in both the state Senate and Assembly, Abramsky thinks changing Prop. 13 will be a very tough fight.

And finally, as part of our Legally Speaking series, we include an excerpt from a recent conversation with Russ Feingold ("The Progressive"). A U.S. Senator for 18 years, Feingold is best known for his opposition to the Iraq war and his cosponsorship of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, a.k.a. McCain-Feingold.

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