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Producer, stadium developers donate to group backing Villaraigosa's school board candidates

Stephen Bing and Anschutz Corp., whose sister firm wants to build a football stadium in downtown L.A., join familiar names in the fundraising wars over school reform.

January 29, 2011|By Maeve Reston and Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
  • Producer Stephen Bing, seen here in 2006, is among the major contributors to a committee set up to support Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's favored candidates for the Los Angeles Board of Education.
Producer Stephen Bing, seen here in 2006, is among the major contributors… (Frederick M. Brown / Getty…)

Developers seeking city approval to build a football stadium downtown as well as Democratic financier and producer Stephen Bing were among the major contributors to a committee set up to support Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's favored candidates for the Los Angeles Board of Education, new filings show.


FOR THE RECORD:
School board political funding: An article in the Jan. 29 LATExtra section about contributions to committees set up to support candidates for the Los Angeles Board of Education said that Service Employees International Union Local 99 set up independent committees to back Eric Lee and Richard Vladovic. The committees are supporting Vladovic and Luis Sanchez. The union did not form a committee to support Lee and is backing his opponent Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte. —

Bing and the Anschutz Corp. joined familiar names in the fundraising wars over school reform, including philanthropist Eli Broad ($150,000), former Mayor Richard Riordan ($25,000) and Spanish-language media executive Jerry Perenchio ($250,000). All told, the informal Villaraigosa slate — he is actively raising money for three candidates but has yet to endorse them officially — has collected more than $1 million on behalf of Tamar Galatzan, Luis Sanchez and Richard Vladovic.

Villaraigosa's drive to maintain control of the school board is expected to take center stage March 8, when four of seven board seats will be on the ballot. In a recent speech, Villaraigosa branded the teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, an obstacle to reform. The mayor began raising money about a month ago, seeking donations from as far afield as New York and Chicago, an aide said.

"He's supporting the Coalition for School Reform because it is supporting the candidates who are fighting the downtown bureaucracy," said Janelle Erickson, deputy chief of staff to Villaraigosa. She praised the mayor's favored candidates for "bringing new leadership to our failing schools."

The union's long-rumored money play has yet to appear in forms filed with the city. The union reported $64,503 in contributions to its political action committee from Jan. 1 to Jan. 22.

Rules, approved in 2007, for funding Los Angeles school board races have pushed money away from candidates and into independent committees.

Under these rules, donors can give no more than $1,000 to candidates. Deep-pocketed contributors instead are giving to committees that are supposed to operate without any coordination or control by those running for office. Villaraigosa, as an elected city officeholder, cannot control such committees.

Some of the largesse may relate to issues before the city.

The Anschutz Corp. donated $100,000 to the Coalition for School Reform. Its sister company AEG has a plan before the city for a privately financed $1-billion stadium next to Staples Center.

"Our education system is a mess and Phil [Anschutz] wants to help" said Tim Leiweke, president and chief executive of AEG. Leiweke said the mayor spoke directly with Anschutz, the corporation's chairman.

Four other entities that contributed a total of $100,000 to the Coalition for School Reform — AP Properties Ltd., APDS1 Properties LLC, 78 Development LLC and the Constellation Land Ltd. Partnership — listed the same Chicago-based address as JMB Realty Corp., a major landlord and developer in Century City. City records list JMB Realty as being affiliated with AP Properties.

Several years ago, Villaraigosa's appointees on the Planning Commission approved JMB's proposal for two 47-story condominium buildings in Century City. The project has not yet been built.

JMB officials could not be reached for comment.

All of the donors to the Coalition for School Reform support the efforts of Villaraigosa to keep the board majority that took office four years ago. The board has fired a superintendent and hired two new ones since, while approving a raft of sometimes controversial reforms.

One-term incumbents Galatzan, in District 3, and Vladovic, in District 7, have raised $36,346 and $63,101 on their own, respectively. And Sanchez, who is running for the District 5 seat that Yolie Flores is vacating, has raised $85,483.

Service Employees International Union Local 99 recently formed two committees to support challenger Eric Lee and incumbent Vladovic.

Lee is running against two-term incumbent Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte in District 1. Her best hope lies with the teachers union, and it wants to keep her.

LaMotte has reported raising $11,600 to Lee's $9,993.

A separate committee has formed to support Lee; its report was not available Friday.

The teachers union has also endorsed Vladovic challenger Jesus Escandon, who has raised $1,662. And the union has endorsed John Fernandez, who reported that he hasn't raised any money, over Sanchez. The union hasn't endorsed in District 3, where Galatzan faces Louis Pugliese, who has raised $5,250.

maeve.reston@latimes.com

howard.blume@latimes.com

Los Angeles Times staff writer David Zahniser contributed to this report.

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