VOX POP--Powerful City Hall lobbyists, who are popular hired guns among developers, raised a whopping $124,046 in the first quarter of 2016 for seven City Council members, one of whom is running for Los Angeles County supervisor. Lobbyists help developers bend the rules and get City Council approvals for zone changes, General Plan amendments and/or height district changes for gigantic development projects across LA.
In June, the city’s Ethics Commission released a quarterly lobbying report for the first quarter of 2016. It contains eye-popping figures that show City Hall lobbyists are raising king-sized cash for LA. politicians’ campaign chests and officeholder accounts.
Council members Mike Bonin of District 11, Gil Cedillo of District 1, Mitch O’Farrell of District 13 and Joe Buscaino of District 15 each received lobbyist fundraising money for their 2017 re-election bids. Council member Mitchell Englander of District 12 received lobbyist campaign cash for his LA County supervisor run, and Council member Marqueece Harris-Dawson received lobbyist fundraising money for his 2015 campaign.
Nury Martinez of District 6 received lobbyist money for an “officeholder account,” as did Bonin, O’Farrell, Buscaino and Harris-Dawson. An officeholder account is a controversial slush fund used by City Council members to pay for expensive meals and travel.
The top five lobbyists firms to raise money for City Council members include, according to the Ethics Commission:
- Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell — $20,848 for Mike Bonin’s 2017 campaign and $700 for Bonin’s 2013 officeholder account;
- Benjamin Resnick — $20,848 for Bonin’s 2017 campaign and $700 for Bonin’s 2013 officeholder account;
- Afriat Consulting Group — $7,300 for Gil Cedillo’s 2017 campaign, $4,700 for Mitch O’Farrell’s 2017 campaign and $4,450 for Nury Martinez’s 2013 officeholder account;
- Englander Knabe and Allen — $4,700 for Mitch O’Farrell’s 2017 campaign and $700 for O’Farrell’s 2013 officeholder account, $3,300 for Bonin’s 2017 campaign and $1,400 for Bonin’s 2013 officeholder account, $2,900 for Mitchell Englander’s 2016 county supervisor campaign, $1,400 for Marqueece Harris-Dawson’s 2015 campaign and $700 for Joe Buscaino’s 2011 officeholder account;
- M Advisors — $8,900 for Buscaino’s 2017 campaign.
All of these lobbyists have been hired by deep-pocketed developers to woo politicians and bureaucrats at LA City Hall.
Council member Bonin represents such neighborhoods as West Los Angeles, Venice, and Palms, all areas that developers have been looking to overbuild. In O’Farrell’s district, developers have been pushing controversial projects in Hollywood, Silver Lake, Elysian Valley and Echo Park.
And councilmen Gil Cedillo, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Mitchell Englander are members of the powerful Planning and Land-Use Management Committee, which signs off on zone changes and General Plan amendments sought by lobbyists on the behalf of developers.
See a pattern here? Politicians get big money from developers and lobbyists, lobbyists rake in millions from developers, and developers make huge profits from the help of politicians and lobbyists. And the citizens get what? Traffic gridlock, unaffordable housing, outsized development that ruins our neighborhoods, gentrification and essentially screwed.
But that’s how things work within LA City Hall’s broken planning and land-use system. Spread around huge sums in campaign contributions to City Council members, and win big favors in return.
In addition to lobbyists raising major money for local politicians, the real estate industry has contributed at least $6 million to the campaign chests of LA politicians, according to Ethics Commission records.
Enough is enough. We need to reform LA’s broken planning and land-use system, which is what the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative will do.
Developers and their politician pals will do anything to defeat our reform movement and continue their wrong-headed policies. But together, we, the citizens, can create the change that LA needs!
(Patrick Range McDonald writes for the Coalition to Preserve LA.)