City Hall lobbyists are making millions

LA Ethics Commission Shows No Interest In Millions Flowing to City Hall Lobbyists and Politicians

In Archive by Patrick Range McDonald

Los Angeles Ethics Commission members showed no interest yesterday in newly released city reports that reveal that millions of dollars are flowing to City Hall lobbyists and politicians from developers and other special interests.

The Ethics Commission has long been criticized for not taking a more active role as a City Hall watchdog. That less-than-casual approach was in evidence at the commission’s meeting on October 18 — and provided further proof that City Hall is not set up to aggressively police and reform itself.

It’s why citizens across L.A. want to fix the city’s broken and rigged planning and land-use system through the March 2017 reform measure known as the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative.

If commissioners Jessica Levinson, Serena Oberstein, Ana Dahan, Melinda Murray and Andrea Sheridan Ordin had asked for staff analyses about the “Election Update” and “Quarterly Lobbying” reports, they would have been given these important facts:

  1. In the 2017 mayoral race, $2.6 million in campaign contributions have been shelled out, with $2.2 million going to incumbent Eric Garcetti;
  2. In the 2017 City Council races, District 3 incumbent Bob Blumenfield has raised $197,418 — the entire amount of campaign contributions in that district. District 11 incumbent Mike Bonin has raised more than $400,000, even though no one, so far, is running against him. District 13 incumbent Mitch O’Farrell has raised $330,000 compared to challenger Jessica Salans’ $2,300. All Council members up for re-election are receiving large amounts of money from developers, lobbyists, and other contributors.
  3. In the second quarter of 2016, City Hall lobbyists raised a total of $182,698 for mostly City Council incumbents, including Council members Mike Bonin, Mitch O’Farrell, Paul Koretz and Joe Buscaino. Out of that total, substantial money went to Council members’ “officeholder” accounts, a controversial slush fund City Hall politicians use to pay for meals and travel, among other things.
  4. In total, for the first and second quarters of 2016, City Hall lobbyists have raised $306,744 in campaign cash and officeholder money for L.A. politicians.
  5. In the second quarter of 2016, City Hall lobbyists were paid a whopping total of $14.7 million in client fees. Lobbyists then woo city politicians and bureaucrats for favors on the behalf of their clients. Lobbying firms Englander Knabe and Allen, Craig Lawson & Co., and Liner LLP pulled in the highest amount of client fees.
  6. In total, for the first and second quarters of 2016, City Hall lobbyists were paid an eye-popping total of $28.3 million in client fees.
  7. Big-time developers Atlas Capital, Hudson Capital, Townscape Partners, Crescent Heights, and Westfield made up the Ethics Commission’s “Top 10” list for the most amount paid to lobbyists in the second quarter of 2016. Lobbyists regularly seek profitable zoning favors for developers from City Hall politicians and bureaucrats.

During the Ethics Commission meeting on October 18, commissioners did not ask staff about the real-life impacts of such huge money pouring into the coffers of City Hall politicians and lobbyists; they did not ask if staff noticed any irregularities in contributions to Council members’ campaigns and officeholder accounts; and they did not ask if there were troubling trends that staff should keep them informed about.

In fact, nothing was asked, and it’s easy to understand why. Few City Hall officials want to change a status quo that’s been highly profitable for politicians, lobbyists and business interests. Billionaire developers Crescent Heights and Westfield, for example, are major sponsors of the political campaign that seeks to kill the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative.

It’s that status quo that wants to stop reform of L.A.’s broken and rigged planning and land-use system, which overwhelming favors developers over everyday Angelenos.

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