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Antonio Villaraigosa collects $123,500 to cover fines

The Los Angeles mayor was fined nearly $42,000 for accepting free tickets to sporting events and shows. The funds will be used to cover the fines and legal fees.

August 03, 2011|By David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times
  • From left, Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Philharmonic Assn. President and Chief Executive Deborah Borda chat during the dinner party that accompanied the maestro's 2009 inaugural gala.
From left, Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, Mayor… (Christina House / For the…)

Faced with nearly $42,000 in fines in a scandal over free tickets, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has turned to his friends from Sacramento for help in paying his legal bills.

According to fundraising reports submitted this week, Villaraigosa raised $123,500 for his three legal defense funds, money he then used to cover the cost of his fines and outstanding attorney's fees.

One fund is devoted to the city Ethics Commission's ticket probe, a second deals with a Los Angeles County district attorney's inquiry, and a third addresses the bills racked up from an investigation by the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

Because he has three separate funds, Villaraigosa can collect more than the $1,000 per contributor typically allowed under city fundraising rules. For example, former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez provided $3,000 to the mayor's legal defense funds, using money from a committee devoted to a 2014 bid for state treasurer.

Assemblyman Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), a former Villaraigosa planning commissioner who has worked for Nuñez, gave $3,000 from his reelection committee. And state Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) donated $3,000 by tapping a fundraising committee devoted to an Assembly campaign that won't occur until 2018.

Villaraigosa received the state and local fines as a result of his failure to report the tickets he received for concerts, cultural activities and sporting events. He repeatedly insisted that his acceptance of the tickets did not violate the law because he was performing ceremonial duties at the time.

Even former state Sen. Jim Brulte, a Republican who used to represent a portion of the Inland Empire, contributed $1,000 to each of Villaraigosa's three legal defense funds.

That money came from a campaign fund devoted to a run for the Board of Equalization in 2014.

"I contributed because Antonio is my friend and he asked for my help," said Brulte, now a principal with the firm California Strategies, in an email. Brulte served in the Assembly with Villaraigosa and said he does not have any City Hall clients.

Villaraigosa was fined for attending 34 events, including Dodgers and Lakers games, and an assortment of concerts, including the one by the Spice Girls. Some events were held at venues owned by Anschutz Entertainment Group, which is seeking the city's help with building a $1.2-billion NFL stadium and a nearby Convention Center wing.

Others with Sacramento ties who helped out with the defense funds were former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, who stepped up with $3,000; former Assemblyman Dario Frommer, who also gave $3,000; and Villaraigosa transit advisor Richard Katz, a former state lawmaker who contributed $2,000.

Katz's wife, former Villaraigosa planning commissioner Wendy Mitchell, also gave $2,000 to the legal defense funds.

david.zahniser@latimes.com

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