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L.A. City Council is set to rule on whether AEG should cover cost of Jackson's memorial

Some critics are skeptical that the panel will press the firm to help pay for police and cleanup because the promoter has been a reliable source of campaign contributions.

December 06, 2009|By David Zahniser and Phil Willon

AEG has repeatedly done business at City Hall in recent years, securing tax breaks for a 54-story hotel in its downtown entertainment complex and clearing the way for signs at L.A. Live's movie theaters. Because of campaign contribution limits, AEG, its employees and one of its affiliates have given a relatively small amount in direct contributions to city candidates -- roughly $65,000 over 10 years, according to city election records.

That money has been supplemented by an array of other larger donations, including $100,000 to Villaraigosa's inaugural gala and $225,000 to his campaigns to secure more control at the Los Angeles Unified School District. Furthermore, AEG's political reach at City Hall goes well beyond checks from the company.

The company has spent more than $1.3 million since July 2005 to influence city decisions, and its primary lobbyist, Chris Modrzejewski, is a frequent presence in the council chamber. Meanwhile, Modrzejewski's wife works at the firm that raises campaign money for candidates such as City Controller Wendy Greuel and various city ballot measures.

One was Measure R, which rolled back term limits for council members. Another was this year's solar energy plan known as Measure B. A third was Councilwoman Janice Hahn's 2008 antigang tax, Proposition A.

Hahn said the fundraising activities of AEG and the Modrzejewskis do not influence her decisions. She said that though the city is obligated to provide public safety at major events, she would eagerly welcome financial help.

"That would be a generous offer and an appropriate gesture," she said. "They know the city is in tough financial straits."

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