But several other top givers, including lobbyist Philip Krakover ($29,100); lawyer-developer Nelson Rising ($17,000); lawyer-lobbyist Neil Papiano ($18,500) and developer Alexander Haagen ($18,000) all have sought the city's approval or assistance on behalf of business interests. All of them gave to both Bradley and Ferraro.
Krakover, regarded as one of the two or three most effective lobbyists in the city, said he gives generously in order to be among the first in line when it is time to plead a case before a city official.
"In government, like business, the better customers get their calls returned first," Krakover said.
Many of the largest corporate contributions to both candidates came from firms engaged in some of the most ambitious and controversial economic activity in the city. They include the Summa Corp. ($7,500), which is building a $1-billion development on the site of a wildlife refuge, known as the Ballona Wetlands, and the A. F. Gilmore Co. ($9,000), a partner with CBS in a Westside project to transform the area around Farmers Market into the largest complex of studios, offices and theaters in the city.
Both Summa and Gilmore have mounted intensive lobbying campaigns to convince local officials that their projects are in the city's best interests.
Herbert Alexander, a leading analyst of campaign financing, said that contributors to Los Angeles municipal elections are the same kind of people who pay for campaigns in other cities.
But Alexander, who heads the Citizens' Research Foundation at USC, said politics in Los Angeles are different in one important respect.
In other cities, such as New York, he said, ethnic groups who do not contribute financially have asserted their presence in other ways.
"In New York, traditionally, you had to have a balanced ticket. There had to be a Jew, an Italian and an Irishman," Alexander said.
"We don't have that sort of thing, where it is necessary to get behind candidates from the South Korean, or the Japanese or the Central American communities. For some reason, that just hasn't developed here."
But Alexander said he did not believe that the political process in Los Angeles has led to a city government that ignores the needs of those who can't afford to contribute.
"The city is responsive to pressures from all kinds of people who lack financial clout. It is not just the people who give who get favors. Look at the to-do about the homeless people."
Last year, the city agreed to spend $10 million to rehabilitate several downtown flophouses and more recently agreed to pay the operating costs of a temporary shelter for homeless people.
At the same time, Alexander said he believes that major contributors here are rewarded for their generosity. More important, he said, is the effect one group can have on a city when it dominates political giving.
"A lot of what their money does is not a specific quid pro quo but a more general impact. It prevents things from happening that the people with money don't want to happen."
In return for their contributions, most big givers argue that they get very little, beyond access to a politician's ear.
By that, they mean a chance to sit face to face with an official and explain their side of an issue.
"In return for contributing, I expect him to at least allow me to talk to him. That's really all I expect," said home builder Frank Thompson.
But the same opportunities fre quently are not afforded to people who don't give.
"Access can mean a lot when it develops over time into a friendly association with a councilman. He gets to know you and trust your judgment. He may not do what you want every time, but he'll listen to you. You'll get a fair hearing. And that's more than some people get," said a contributor who asked not to be named.
There are other advantages to being a contributor. Usually, contributions are made in the form of tickets purchased to political dinners, and the dinners, swarming with the well-heeled and the well-connected, can hold rich rewards for businessmen seeking new clients and contacts.
Like a Country Club
"A lot of the right people are at those dinners," said Paul Cook, who heads a land planning and civil engineering firm. "There are developers and people interested in the services I have to offer. It's like a golf course or an exclusive country club."
The cost of a ticket to a dinner these days ranges from $100 to several hundred dollars. However, it is not unusual for a contributor to purchase an entire table at a dinner, and that can cost $2,000 to $3,000, or more.
Lobbyist Krakover said he can remember 20 years ago when a ticket cost $15.
Other contributors say they have grown increasingly annoyed with the expectation that they will buy tickets to every dinner that comes along and with the hard sell practiced by some candidates and their campaign staffs.