Tags: L.A.'s | Flawed | Code | Ethics

L.A.'s Flawed Code of Ethics

Tuesday, 17 May 2005 12:00 AM

Both of us had spent a decade on the Common Cause board. I had taught election law for years at that point and knew all the experts. We put together a first-rate team to help us, and I later served on the Ethics Commission that was created to enforce the law.

We really tried. We failed.

As of the April reports, the Ethics Commission found that Meruelo and his family had spent $216,000 so far in support of Antonio Villaraigosa. Under the law, no individual can contribute more than $1,000. That would put Meruelo approximately 200 times ahead of anyone else in terms of influence.

Did I mention that one of Antonio's major attack points against incumbent Jim Hahn was that city contractors had to "pay to play" – that is, that contributors got the lucrative contracts?

Did I mention that Meruelo somehow managed to buy a 23-acre parcel right under the nose of the school district (which was bidding for it) – a parcel that everyone agrees is desperately needed for a high school – and that the district will now have to buy (at a higher price?) from Meruelo? Such a deal.

When the figures are finally tallied, you can be sure of three things.

First, the total from Meruelo and his family will be far, far more than $216,000. For someone who owns more real estate in downtown Los Angeles than anyone else, that's pennies on the dollar.

Second, no one gives that kind of money because they're interested in "good government." He isn't interested in good government in cities where he doesn't own hundreds of millions of dollars in property, where he isn't fighting with the school district or with the local do-gooders – including the 2005 winner of the Pritzker Prize, who is trying to keep an award-winning architecture school in downtown – or with local produce sellers, who wanted to buy their own space.

Third, the new mayor will claim that his decisions aren't influenced by who gives him money. Antonio is a decent and honorable guy. So, by the way, was his predecessor. Some of the folks caught in the Hahn scandal are veritable pikers compared to Meruelo.

I cringe every time I read about the investigation of my old friend Pierce O'Donnell, a brilliant lawyer whose alleged "crime" was to suggest that the city retain his law firm to try to recoup some of the massive energy overcharges we paid.

Great idea, actually, and you couldn't do better than to hire Pierce, who hardly needs city work to keep his boutique law firm busy – it's one of the busiest in town, and he was just a regular donor.

But you can't help knowing that someone has given you a quarter of a million dollars. Back in 1988, when I was running campaigns, I kept a list of our $100,000 donors in my middle desk drawer, so that I would know to always take their call, and bend over as far as I could for them. Since we were losing, it was easy. Still. The only way to avoid the appearance of favoritism is to actually be tougher on your "friends," which is what Antonio needs to do with Meruelo.

How did we get in this mess? That's the easiest part. The Supreme Court held that individuals could spend their own money on so-called "independent" expenditures, creating a giant loophole that has to be closed. And we on the commission, and the city councilors who then revised our work and enacted it, went only so far as to provide for partial public funding. We didn't bite the bullet. We didn't provide for truly clean campaigns, funded only by the public. And this is what we got.

It's a model for the nation, that's for sure. But not one to follow, unfortunately.

COPYRIGHT 2005 CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.

104

© 2019 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

   
1Like our page
2Share
Pre-2008
Both of us had spent a decade on the Common Cause board. I had taught election law for years at that point and knew all the experts. We put together a first-rate team to help us, and I later served on the Ethics Commission that was created to enforce the law. We really...
L.A.'s,Flawed,Code,Ethics
645
2005-00-17
Tuesday, 17 May 2005 12:00 AM
Newsmax Media, Inc.
 

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved