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Villaraigosa raises $1.6 million for 2009 campaign

August 01, 2008|Phil Willon and David Zahniser | Times Staff Writers

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa raised $1.6 million for his 2009 reelection campaign in the first half of the year, a sizable bundle of cash in a race where, so far, the first-term mayor faces no well-funded challengers.

Villaraigosa raised the vast majority of the money during a fundraising tear in June, when he held more than a dozen events and hopscotched across the country, according to campaign finance reports filed Thursday with the city Ethics Commission.

Thousands of dollars rolled in from Hollywood's glitterati, including director Steven Spielberg and singer Barbra Streisand, as well as from companies and real estate firms doing business with the city. A little more than $370,000 in contributions came from outside California.

Villaraigosa's campaign manager, Ace Smith, called the donations an affirmation of the mayor's vision for the city, which includes hiring 1,000 police officers and reforming the Los Angeles Unified School District.

"People are supporting Antonio Villaraigosa because he's a person who, as mayor, is out there and willing to take some risks," Smith said. "He's willing to take on some of the challenges that have sat dormant for a long, long time."

Former Mayor James K. Hahn had raised almost the same amount -- $1.56 million -- at the same point in his 2005 reelection campaign, although he started fundraising much earlier. Villaraigosa went on to unseat Hahn in that race.

Villaraigosa's campaign war chest has the potential to scare off would-be competitors in next spring's mayoral election. Still unclear is whether he will face a challenge from billionaire shopping mall developer Rick Caruso.

Caruso said he is "seriously considering" challenging Villaraigosa and will make his final decision by early fall.

"I think it's more of a question of when, not if," said Caruso, a prolific Republican fundraiser and creator of the Grove shopping mall in the Fairfax district. "The question is: Is this the right time, or some time down the road?"

Villaraigosa's biggest opponent so far is Walter Moore, a lawyer from Westchester, who finished sixth in the 2005 mayoral race.

Moore, a regular on local talk radio, has raised slightly more than $113,000 since January 2007 and had $7,999 in cash on hand as of June 30, records show.

By comparison, Villaraigosa has $1.4 million in cash on hand.

"It's frustrating because the career politicians can raise that much in 15 minutes at one of their cocktail fundraisers," Moore said.

Cal State Fullerton professor Raphael Sonenshein, an expert on L.A. government and politics, said Villaraigosa finds himself on solid political ground after having weathered last year's scandal over the romantic affair that broke up his marriage.

"The issue that brought him a lot of trouble is essentially personal," he said. "And those things have a limited shelf life."

For Villaraigosa, a major source of funds was the real estate industry, including companies that have sought taxpayer subsidies or permission to build projects that require exemptions from the city's limits on development. In some cases, real estate companies provided money through their employees and family members, including at least:

$19,000 from executives and employees of Anschutz Entertainment Group. AEG received up to $270 million in financial help from the city to build LA Live, a complex in downtown Los Angeles that is slated to include a 54-story hotel.

$10,000 from executives with the Related Cos., which is seeking to build the Grand Avenue project with more than $120 million in taxpayer assistance.

$8,000 from members of the Delijani family, which owns several key properties on Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. Earlier this year, Villaraigosa kicked off the "Bringing Back Broadway" initiative, which would provide new public improvements and possibly a new city-funded parking garage for local businesses.

he entertainment industry provided a substantial boost to Villaraigosa's campaign, with $1,000 apiece coming from directors Spielberg, Streisand and Rob Reiner. Employees of the William Morris Agency gave nearly $40,000 to the mayor's reelection bid, while executives at Walt Disney Co. provided $18,000.

In other municipal races, Councilman Jack Weiss led the trio of candidates seeking to become the next city attorney, raising $1.1 million so far. By comparison, lawyer Carmen "Nuch" Trutanich had raised roughly $440,000 and Deputy City Atty. Michael Amerian had collected more than $183,000.

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phil.willon@latimes.com

david.zahniser@latimes.com

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