Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Donors to Los Angeles political campaigns can sometime push contribution limits too far

Los Angeles Mayor

AP

L.A. mayoral candidates Eric Garcetti (l) and Wendy Greuel.

Los Angeles Mayor race 2013

Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel have raised millions of dollars for their mayoral campaigns. But to get that kind of money, they can't just ask a few wealthy people to write big checks.  
 
Los Angeles limits donations to $1,300 per person or company, so they must get thousands of people to write checks to their campaigns. That seems simple enough, but the law's fine print can get complicated, and that's where some donors look for legal ways around that $1,300 limit. 

A search of public campaign records turned up at least one example: Brothers Lenny, Michael and Joseph Schrage jointly own Universal City Nissan and seven other companies. Each company gave $1,300 to Garcetti's campaign during the primary, for a total contribution of $10,4o0.

Here's the problem: If a person or partnership owns a string of businesses, the city law treats them as if they were just one person – they may give only a total of $1,300.

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Los Angeles mayor’s race: In battle for African-American voters, Garcetti wins latest round

Los Angeles Mayor

AP

Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti is competing with City Controller Wendy Greuel for black support.

Los Angeles Mayor race 2013Wendy Greuel’s repeated references to her early work with the late Mayor Tom Bradley – the city’s towering African-American mayor in the 1970s and 80s – apparently only goes so far.

The New Frontier Democratic Club this week endorsed City Councilman Eric Garcetti for mayor. The club is comprised predominantly of African-American women.

“Eric embraces our city’s diversity and has the experience and vision to bring jobs and opportunity to L.A.’s most challenged neighborhoods,” New Frontier President Patt Sanders said in a statement. The vote was 71 to 22 in favor of Garcetti.

But there’s more to the decision.

The club’s political director, Dallas Fowler, cited attack ads by Greuel’s labor union allies against then-mayoral candidate Jan Perry during the primary. Those ads chastised Perry, who is African-American, for a personal bankruptcy filing two decades ago. Perry has blamed the bankruptcy on the business problems of her former husband.

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Mickey Kantor tapped to examine LA city deficit

US Trade representative Mickey Kantor (C

ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images

LA City Council President Herb Wesson, wants former U.S. Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor, center, to head a panel that would examine the city's finances.

Facing projected deficits totaling nearly a billion dollars over the next five years, Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson said Wednesday he wants to appoint former U.S. Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor to head a panel that would examine the city’s books. Kantor, who served under President Bill Clinton, lives in Los Angeles.

“This would be a high level commission that would review the fiscal stability of the city of Los Angeles,” Wesson told KPCC.

Wesson said it's not that he distrusts the budget numbers from City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana and Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller.

“No, no, no, no,” Wesson said emphatically outside city council chambers. “Sometimes it's just a good thing to have an outside eye.”

Labor union leaders who represent city workers have accused Santana of distorting the city’s financial picture to push an anti-labor agenda. Wesson, who is closely aligned with labor, suggested that Department of Water and Power union chief Brian D’Arcy could sit on the panel.

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Richard Riordan joins Wendy Greuel campaign as economic adviser

Richard Riordan

KPCC

Former Mayor Richard Riordan joined the Wendy Greuel campaign Wednesday as an adviser on economic issues. He endorsed Kevin James in the primary.

Los Angeles Mayor race 2013

Richard Riordan endorsed Kevin James in the L.A. mayoral primary, but now he's joining the Wendy Greuel campaign as an adviser on economic issues, her camp announced Wednesday.

In a statement, Greuel called Riordan “a force” in Los Angeles. He served as L.A.'s mayor from 1993 to 2001.

“Los Angeles, the city I love, is in a crisis – we need to bring business and labor together and I know Wendy Greuel is the right candidate for the job,” Riordan said.

Riordan had backed fellow Republican James in the non-partisan primary. At the time, Riordan called James “the only candidate capable of creating real pension reform for the city of Los Angeles.”

The former mayor attempted pension reform last year with a proposed charter amendment that would have moved new city employees to a 401(k)-style retirement system. Riordan dropped that proposal when he was unable to collect enough signatures to get the amendment qualified for the ballot.

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NASA warns sequestration could cut missions

NASA Director Charles Bolden tours JPL in Pasadena

Sanden Totten/KPCC

NASA Director Charles Bolden, right, seen here touring the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, told a Congressional subcommittee that sequestration will temper the agency's ambitions.

Sequestration continues to dominate budget discussions on Capitol Hill. The top man at NASA said Wednesday he may have to cut some programs.

NASA has great plans for Mars in the near future. Administrator Charles Bolden outlined the next two decades for the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science. Next year, the probe MAVEN will study the atmosphere of Mars; in 2016, a small lander called Insight begins its mission to drill deep inside the red planet. A similar version of Curiosity will launch in 2020, with plans to put humans on Mars in the 2030s.

But Bolden said sequestration makes planning tough: "That word keeps coming up because that changes everything that we told you."

Bolden said a decade of sequestration means he either has to cut a billion dollars either in planned missions or people – scientists like those who work at Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Lab. "And I don’t think we want to do the people," Bolden said.

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