TICKETGATE - No sooner than the ink was dry on the April 1 Settlement Agreement where Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa essentially pleaded guilty to corruption in connection with his illegal use of over $200,000 of free tickets to prime time events such as the Lakers, Oscars and Emmys, he and his political operatives were hitting up the usual suspects of City Hall supplicants and ring kissers to fund the slap-on-the-wrist fine of $42,000 and the related legal expenses.
To facilitate the fund raising effort, our Ever So Clever Mayor has established three Legal Defense Funds: one for the City Ethics Commission and another for the California Fair Practices Political Commission. However, the third Legal Defense Fund relates to the inquiry by the District Attorney who does not appear to be a party to the Settlement Agreement.
And not one to miss an opportunity to tap those ring kissers who can benefit from a well placed friend at City Hall, the Mayor is also soliciting “donations” to his Officeholder Account, essentially his personal slush fund.
For those of you who are interested, contributions are limited to $4,000 per person, $1,000 for each of the four accounts, or $8,000 per couple.
As we all know, lobbyists, lobbying firms, and MTA contractors are unable to make donations. However, as is blatantly evident in the solicitation letter below, our ethically challenged Mayor and his cronies have no shame. They are asking the lobbying and contractor communities to be “bundlers” by raising funds from “other sources.”
The whole ticket scandal is a disgrace, beginning in late May when John Schwada of Fox 11 and Phil Willon of The Los Angeles Times blew the whistle on the Mayor’s ticket escapade. Initially, our ubiquitous Mayor said his attendance at these high profile events was part of his official duties. But this lame excuse did not stand the light of day as it was apparent that the Mayor and his office devised ways to skirt the law and its intent.
Then the Mayor and his staff, aided by high priced outside lawyers and advisors that probably cost more than $100,000, spent 10 long months negotiating a well crafted Settlement Agreement which praised the Mayor for his cooperation and candor. Please! He had no choice. He was caught with both his hands in the cookie jar.
And finally, the Settlement Agreement imposed a nickel dime fine relative to the value of the tickets, and then compounded that slap on the wrist by not having Villaraigosa pay the fine personally.
Importantly, neither the City Ethics Commission nor the California Fair Practices Political Commission investigated how Mayor Villaraigosa manages to support his millionaire lifestyle on a mere $225,000 a year, despite ample anecdotal evidence that he is living way beyond his means. Perhaps a visit by the Internal Revenue System would be appropriate.
The failure of the politically appointed City Ethics Commission to vigorously enforce the law, compounded by its turning a blind eye to Villaraigosa’s finances and man about town life style, confirms that our insolvent City is for sale to those that are willing to grease the Mayor’s palm.
And if you have any doubts, read the following e mail that was sent out by one of the Mayor’s lobbyist buddies.
April 5, 2011
Last week, the Fair Political Practices Commission released a copy of an agreement between that agency, the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, and Major Villaraigosa resolving an investigation into the Mayor’s acceptance of free tickets to important entertainment industry events such as the Oscars, Emmy’s, and Grammy’s, sporting events, and concerts. The agreement acknowledges that the Mayor attended these events in his “official capacity” to serve “an official purpose,” and that the Mayor had a “good faith and reasonable belief that he had no obligation to report his attendance” at these events on his annual gift reporting form “because he believed they fell within the exceptions” to the reporting requirements.
Nevertheless, the agencies determined that 34 of the 3,000 events attended by the Mayor did not fall within the exceptions, and imposed a combined agreed upon administrative penalty of approximately $42,000. The agencies explained that the penalty is quite modest when compared to the possible maximum for a number of reasons, including the fact that the violation was “unintentional,” and caused by the Mayor’s “mistaken understanding” of his reporting requirements. The Mayor’s “full cooperation,” “candor,” and lack of prior violations also helped lower the penalties.
We opened legal defense funds on behalf of the Mayor to pay the penalties and his legal bills. Of course, we cannot accept donations from lobbyists or lobbying firms registered with the City, or from MTA contractors. But I was hoping that you might help us raise funds from other sources. The maximum contribution for an individual or entity is $4,000 (that breaks down to $3,000 for the legal defense funds and $1,000 for the Mayor’s “Officeholder Account.”) A couple with a joint account can double that an amount if both people sign the form.
Here’s the hard part: we need to raise the $42,000 by the end of the week.
Contribution forms and additional information are attached.
Thank you and all the best. Let’s talk soon.
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and the Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at: [email protected]) -cw
Vol 9 Issue 33
Pub: Apr 26, 2011