Specifically exposed are illegal contributions to the 1997 election campaign of Jimmy Hahn, City Attorney. These illegal contributions were documented and provided to the City Ethics Commission in July, 1998. The City Ethics Commission, at that time, referred the matter to the State's Attorney (since State laws - Prop 208 - have been violated.). A report has just been provided by the City Ethics Commission documenting many more questionable contributions from firms under contract, City employees and others with conflicts of interest. So far, the State Fair Political Practices Commission has not made a comment on this case.
Our expose also documents fraudulent IRS reporting and illegal use of City facilities by private organizations to solicit campaign donations.
Los Angeles Times
Friday, December 11, 1998
Report Charts Role of Political Donors in City's Workings
By BETH SHUSTER, Times Staff Writer
In an unprecedented look at political campaign contributions in City Hall, the Los Angeles Ethics Commission has found that most of the top 25 donors in the last two citywide elections either worked for the city or lobbied city officials for contracts or developments. The report, released Thursday, gives a fascinating glimpse into the workings of City Hall, where officials routinely downplay the influence of contributors on governmental decisions. But the report's findings show a tangled relationship between campaign contributors--most of whom rely on the city for employment--and the candidates who need the contributions to win their offices.
Among the report's key findings:
* Nine of the top 25 contributors in the 1993 and 1997 elections were firms that held contracts with the city during those elections;
* Of those nine firms, five were law firms hired by the city to represent it;
* Eight other top contributors qualified as lobbyists or hired lobbyists to represent their interests before city officials during the 1993 and 1997 elections;
* And, topping the list of 25 contributors were city employees.
Ethics Commission members, who received the report at their monthly meeting Thursday, said they are particularly interested in the information as they continue their discussions about possible changes to the city's stringent lobbying laws. Commissioner Art Mattox called it "an amazing document." Some lobbyists, lawyers and City Council members, however, bristled at its implications. Council President John Ferraro said that he is hardly aware of his contributors and that fund-raising is a necessary--but unwelcome--part of the candidate's job. "I'm sure it does have some influence with some people," said Ferraro. "The way I look at things, though, is through the recommendations of the staff, the council members . . . and whether it's good for the city."
Attorney Skip Miller, whose Century City firm Christensen, Miller, Fink, Jacobs, Glaser, Weil, & Shapiro routinely defends the city, particularly in civil rights cases, said the firm is hired by the city based on its experience--not its generous campaign contributions. "I have been handling civil rights defense of public officials for 10 years now and I've developed, I'm proud to say, a lot of experience and expertise in that area. . . . I win cases," Miller said. "Individuals in the law firm give what they want to give."
A couple of the city's top lobbyists, who routinely appear on the Ethics Commission's quarterly reports for their high levels of lobbying activity, said the Ethics Commission hasn't focused on the bulk of the contributions: those from homeowners, retired employees and others who also give to candidates. Further, they say the contribution limits have actually leveled that playing field so that law firms, for example, are prohibited from "buying" a candidate. Under the city's ethics laws, no one can give any candidate for mayor, city attorney or city controller more than $1,000 per election, while contributions to council candidates are limited to $500 per person per election. In addition, there are limits on the overall amount a donor can contribute to all candidates for each election. But some council members, including Mike Feuer, said the time has come to reexamine fund-raising by lobbyists, for example, and to look at public financing of these city races. "I have the obvious concern that there ought to be the perception and the reality that decisions are made on merit and not on the ability to fund-raise for an elected official," Feuer said. "What these lists don't reveal is who fund-raises for whom?"
Crusaders Note: Mike Feuer was instrumental in appointing Richard Walch as City Ethics Commisioner. Richard Walch is also currently Executive Director of the LA County Bar Association!
The following are the 25 top contributors to candidates in 1993 and 1997 city elections. The contributions are total donations by individual employees and the organization.
Organization Contribution 1. City of Los Angeles $160,432 2. Riordan
& McKinzie $112,335 3. O'Melveny & Myers $108,475 4. Latham &
Watkins $105,677 5. L.A. School District $83,394 6. MCA/Universal
$80,440 7. Los Angeles County $76,577 8. Walt Disney Cos. $76,505
9. Warner Bros. $73,758 10. Atlantic Richfield Co. $66,325 11.
Christensen, Miller et al. $66,200 12. Paramount Pictures $54,318 13.
Trust Co. of the West $50,600 14. UCLA $48,910 15. Pillsbury,
Madison & Sutro $47,175 16. Munger, Tolles & Olson $44,575 17.
Tutor Saliba $43,000 18. Merrill Lynch $42,435 19. Gibson, Dunn &
Crutcher $40,525 20. Galpin Motors $40,275 21. Nossaman, Guthner
et al. $39,350 22. Southern California District of Carpenters $37,648
23. Goldman Sachs & Co. $36,700 24. Manatt, Phelps & Phillips
$35,765 25. State of California $33,014 Total $1,604,408
Source: Los Angeles Ethics Commission
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Last update 12/12/98