Last November FBI agents raided Councilmember Jose Huizar's home and office. On the day of the raid local news stations broadcast images of Federal agents leaving Huizar's house carrying boxes and bags filled with documents and other media. Over the next few months it became clear that the raid was part of a wide-ranging corruption investigation focussed on the activities of over a dozen LA City officials. A warrant issued in conjunction with the probe names Councilmember Curren Price, former Garcetti deputy Ray Chan, and Herb Wesson's chief of staff, Deron Williams. No indictments have been handed down yet, but the warrant mentions charges including bribery, extortion, and money laundering.
For many Angelenos, it was no surprise to hear reports of alleged corruption at City Hall. The only surprise was that someone was finally taking action. Evidence of the the pay-to-play culture that pervades City Hall is readily available. All you have to do is scroll through the list of campaign contributions on the LA Ethics Commission web site to see that developers and real estate interests are very generous to our elected officials. And in many cases it's easy to match up the timing of contributions with approvals handed out by the City. One particularly egregious example was the Sea Breeze project, where developer Samuel Leung is alleged to have surreptitiously given over $600,000 to LA area officials while the City was considering an apartment complex he had filed an application for. Or there's the $50,000 that Paramount Pictures gave to the Mayor’s Fund in 2015 as it was in the process of seeking approvals for a massive makeover of the studio's production facilities. And it's hard to even calculate the many thousands of dollars given to elected officials by Rick Caruso, his family, and employees, during the period the developer was pushing for approval of a residential tower on La Cienega. There are many more examples, too numerous to mention here.
So it was welcome news when earlier this year six LA City Councilmembers proposed a bold ethics reform package. David Ryu, Paul Krekorian, Nury Martinez, Paul Koretz, Mike Bonin, and Joe Buscaino deserve credit for taking action on this issue. We need reform now. Earlier this year the LA City Ethics Commission sent a set of recommendations to the City Council. They include:
UN4LA believes reform is long overdue. We desperately need to rein in the pay-to-play culture that has wreaked havoc on LA's communities and made the planning process a joke. The City Council needs to act quickly and pass an ordinance based on the recommendations from the Ethics Commission. We can't allow this ordinance to be watered down or left to languish.
We need action now.
LA City Ethics Commission Recommendations:
Campaign Contributions and Behested Payments