Mayor Richard Riordan, a multimillionaire approaching the end of his time in office, said Tuesday that he is spending about $130,000 to send a "slate-type" campaign mailer touting his favorites in a host of races on the April 10 ballot, from mayor to school board.
Riordan said he may follow the first mailings, which he said will be sent in the next few days to high-propensity voters across the city, with a second round of mailings or a radio commercial as election day nears. The mailings feature mayoral candidate Steve Soboroff prominently but also mention Riordan's choices in other contests.
The mayor's announcement was made the same day two of Soboroff's rivals courted votes from disparate interests: City Atty. James K. Hahn unveiled his transportation plan, and former Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa promised striking workers at a Vernon plant that he would help them get pension benefits.
Later Thursday, all six leading contenders for mayor came together for their first joint debate in more than two weeks. Hahn took blows from his rivals for not doing more to root out police corruption, while Villaraigosa was chastised for voting in the state Assembly for electricity deregulation.
Although Riordan has often contributed directly to or helped raise money for candidates, the mailer represents his first "independent expenditure"--advocating for a cause or candidate without acting in concert with the campaign.
"In a pure world, I'd like to see everybody prohibited from doing independent expenditures," Riordan said, "but others are doing it, so I'm leveling the playing field." He alluded to expected spending by the state Democratic Party on Villaraigosa's behalf, among other anticipated expenditures.
Riordan said the mailing was designed free of charge by former political consultant Clinton Reilly of San Francisco, who served as an advisor to Riordan's first, successful campaign for mayor in 1993. Other citywide candidates appearing on Riordan's slate are Deputy Mayor Rocky Delgadillo, who is running for city attorney, and entertainment business executive Laurette Healey, who is campaigning for city controller.
On the same day Riordan talked about leveling the playing field, a large media company that has blanketed the city with billboards in support of Delgadillo reported another round of sign postings, lifting candidate spending limits in the city attorney's race.
The additional $22,625 worth of signs that Eller Media Co. reported to the city Ethics Commission on Tuesday brought the company's total to $110,500. Under city campaign finance rules, the voluntary spending limits that candidates must agree to in order to receive public funding are lifted for all contestants once independent expenditures reach a specified amount--$100,000 for the city attorney's race.
Riordan's announcement that he intended to spend on behalf of selected candidates brought swift and angry reaction from competitors.
"We've been attending campaign forums and talking to voters for almost two years, and now, in the final days, the mayor takes out his checkbook to try to distort the results of the election," said Samantha Stevens, campaign manager for Councilman Mike Feuer, a leading candidate for city attorney.
The billboard company's mounting activity poses a strategy problem for the Feuer campaign, Stevens acknowledged, because Feuer must now decide whether to stick to the $990,000 spending limit, which he supports, or run the risk that Delgadillo will substantially outspend him.
Stevens noted that Feuer has tangled with the outdoor advertising industry over his efforts to more strictly regulate billboards.
A spokesman for Healey's opponent, Councilwoman Laura Chick, , predicted that the mayor's mailer will not help Healey much.
"It's a sad commentary that Laurette Healey's failed candidacy, and her inability to attract contributors on her own, has caused her one supporter to put up personal funds in a last-minute attempt to bail her out," said Chick campaign consultant Steven Afriat. (Healey had raised less than $75,000 by the end of the latest campaign finance reporting periodmost of it in loans to herself and contributions from the mayor and his family members.
The Riordan slate mailer also includes his picks for City Council, the Los Angeles Unified School District board and the Los Angeles Community College District board.
They are, for City Council: Ed Reyes, District 1; Francine Oschin, District 3; Jack Weiss, District 5; Councilman Alex Padilla, who is unopposed in District 7; Woody Fleming, District 9; Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski, District 11; Eric Garcetti, District 13; and Bob Nizich, District 15.
For the school board: Jose Huizar, Matthew Rodman and Tom Riley; for the college board, a dual endorsement of Michael Waxman and Dan Rosales Jr., who are competing for the same seat.
Separately, the mayor has led a Coalition for Kids, which has raised more than $1 million for his favored candidates.