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Builders, unions fund Prop. R

Measure to extend City Council service to three terms is being backed by those with business before the board, financial data show.

October 28, 2006|Jeffrey L. Rabin and Steve Hymon | Times Staff Writers

Labor unions, developers, builders and businesses with a stake in what happens at City Hall are financing the campaign to relax term limits for the Los Angeles City Council.

Campaign contribution reports filed Friday show those special interests are responsible for most of the $536,183 raised through last Saturday to promote passage of Proposition R.

The measure, which would allow council members to serve three terms instead of the present two four-year terms, was placed on the city's Nov. 7 ballot by the council.

More than most issues, the term limits campaign illustrates what some observers see as an unsavory aspect of City Hall at work: firms with business before the city donating to a campaign that could benefit the council, which in turn sits in judgment of projects, raises and contracts sought by the same interests.

"It is quid pro quo politics," said Steven Erie, a UC San Diego political science professor. "Here you have it in stark relief" because the donors are "people who want things from the City Council or have gotten things in the past ... [and] want the same council to stick around awhile."

The council leadership team of President Eric Garcetti, Pro Tem Wendy Greuel and Assistant Pro Tem Jan Perry has solicited money for the campaign.

Garcetti declined to comment through a spokesman Friday and Greuel did not return a call seeking comment.

Perry has said that she is one of many people on the council and in the community who are raising funds because she believes that the measure, which includes new lobbyist restrictions, could give members more time to work on long-term issues and projects.

L.A. Arena Co., one of the business arms of Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, builder of Staples Center, provided $75,633 to support the campaign. The arena company is part of Anschutz's entertainment empire, AEG.

"We believe it is critical that the council have experienced leadership to deal with complex issues such as homelessness, public safety and responsible development of downtown," AEG spokesman Michael Roth said.

Last year, the council approved up to $290 million in subsidies and loans for construction of a high-rise hotel as part of Anschutz's L.A. Live project now under construction next to the arena and the city's financially troubled convention center.

Billionaire businessman A. Jerrold Perenchio donated $75,000 to the campaign.

Tutor-Saliba Corp., which was just awarded a $231-million city contract to build a headquarters for the LAPD even though it was the only bidder, gave $25,000. So did the union representing police officers.

The term limits measure has been beset by controversy for months. Coordinating with the council, two civic groups -- the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles -- wrote the measure, omitted a voter signature drive and asked the council to put it directly on the ballot.

In September, Superior Court Judge Robert H. O'Brien, in response to a lawsuit filed by a Los Angeles resident, found that the measure violated the state Constitution by combining two unrelated items: term limits and lobbying reforms.

The city and the ballot measure supporters challenged the decision and an appellate court reinstated the measure. A hearing on its legality will be held Nov. 28, three weeks after votes are counted.

The amount raised for the term limits campaign is low by citywide standards. A general rule of thumb in Los Angeles is that at least a one-week television campaign -- usually costing $1 million -- is needed to garner enough support for passage.

By contrast, the campaign to pass Proposition H, a $1-billion affordable housing bond issue, had raised $2.4 million through last Saturday. Developers, banks, mortgage companies and builders of affordable housing projects were among the largest donors.

Support of the housing bond in some respects is not surprising. The bond came about in part as a response to a proposed city ordinance that would have required developers to devote a fraction of all projects -- no matter where they are located -- to affordable units.

The development and business community bristled at such a law but is more willing to accept the bond, which only affects developers who want to build affordable units. The bond would be financed by an increase in property taxes.

By far the biggest donor to the Proposition H campaign is Century Housing Corp., a nonprofit based in Culver City that has given almost $387,000.

There is no contribution limit for city ballot campaigns, unlike campaigns for city offices.

G. Allan Kingston, president and chief executive of Century Housing, said the firm donated heavily because the bond begins to address the serious problems of homelessness and the lack of affordable housing in the city.

Other donors include Perenchio, chairman of Univision Communications, who gave $200,000. Major developers including Forest City Residential West, Lennar Homes and the Building Industry Assn. also contributed, as did Tutor-Saliba.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been raising money for the housing bond campaign, spokesman Joe Ramallo said.



Campaign donors

The largest contributors to the Proposition R campaign to ease term limits for the Los Angeles City Council:

L.A. Arena Co. ...$75,633

A. Jerrold Perenchio...$75,000

Tutor-Saliba Corp....$25,000

Zenith Insurance...$25,000

Home Depot...$25,000

Casden Properties...$25,000

FIG Central Owner, LLC...$25,000

L.A. Police Protective



The largest contributors to the campaign to pass Proposition H, a $1-billion housing bond measure:

Century Housing Corp....$386,968

A. Jerrold Perenchio...$200,000

Forest City Residential West...$60,000

Lubert-Adler Management West...$50,000

Lennar Homes...$50,000

Tutor-Saliba Corp....$50,000

Building Industry Assn....$45,000

IDS Real Estate Group...$35,000

Source: Campaign contribution reports

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