Villaraigosa to pay $123,500 in fines for ethics violations

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Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa speaks at The Hollywood Reporter Big 10 Party at the Getty House on February 24, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa raised $123,500 to pay ethics violation fines for accepting free tickets to high-profile events during his time as mayor, according to filings made public today.

The Fair Political Practice Commission and the city Ethics Commission fined Villaraigosa a combined $41,849 in April after he admitted that he did not report tickets to more than 30 events during his first five years in office – including Los Angeles Lakers and Dodgers games, the Oscars, the American Music Awards, the Emmys, the Screen Actors Guild Awards and a 2009 "American Idol" finale show.

Elected officials are required by state law to report all gifts with a value of $50 or more. Villaraigosa failed to report 21 such gifts from 2005-09, the FPPC found.

In addition, city law prohibits the mayor from accepting any gifts of $100 or more from certain restricted sources. The Ethics Commission found the mayor accepted 13 such gifts from four restricted sources between 2007 and 2010.

Villaraigosa established three legal defense funds enabling him to raise money to pay for the violations. Fifty-four contributors gave money, with many giving the maximum $1,000 to each fund.

Among the donors to the mayor's legal defense funds were billionaire media mogul Haim Saban, film director Rob Reiner and electoral campaigns for Assemblyman Fabian Nunez and state Senator Kevin de Leon.

The funds more than cover the fines owed. Under city law, Villaraigosa can hold onto the money in case he loses any other lawsuits between now and October, he can return it on a pro-rated basis to the contributors or he can put the rest into the city's general fund.

FPPC investigators found that Villaraigosa had no prior history of violating the rules regarding acceptance of gifts, and his violation of the rules was "unintentional." But investigators concluded that a seasoned politician should have known better.

Villaraigosa's "large number of unreported gifts ... deprived the public of knowledge of gifts from groups or individuals that may have had business before the city of Los Angeles," according to the report.

"While appreciating that the Fair Political Practices Commission and City Ethics Commission concluded this was 'unintentional' and that I acted in 'good faith,' I am fully accountable," Villaraigosa said in a written statement in April. "It is my responsibility to make sure I act in strict compliance with the applicable rules. I will continue to attend these events and have taken the necessary steps to ensure full compliance in the future."

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