Entertainment industry executives and labor unions — including one representing city utility workers — are joining forces to mount an independent TV ad campaign to promote the Los Angeles mayoral candidacy of City Controller Wendy Greuel, a top advisor to the group said Monday.
The group, Working Californians, has hired two of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's former campaign consultants, Ace Smith and Sean Clegg, to run the campaign, according to Clegg, a former deputy mayor.
If the group succeeds in raising a substantial sum of money, it could play a significant role in the fiercely competitive March 5t mayoral primary.
Greuel's leading rivals are City Council members Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry, and Kevin James, an entertainment lawyer and former talk-radio personality.
Greuel, a former government relations executive at the DreamWorks movie studio, has drawn strong financial support from the entertainment industry. Company co-founders Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg and David Geffen are three of the Democratic Party's top donors and fundraisers in Hollywood.
Greuel has raised $3.5 million, just shy of the $3.6 million collected by Garcetti. But even with matching funds provided by the city, that will be too little to buy more than a few weeks of saturation TV advertising in the city's expensive media market. Donations to mayoral candidates are capped at $1,300, but independent committees like Working Californians are not subject to those limits.
Clegg said the group's labor supporters include the powerful International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, which represents more than 8,600 Department of Water and Power employees. "We're looking at a significant campaign," Clegg said. Brian D'Arcy, the business manager of IBEW Local 18, did not return calls for comment.
Working Californians said in a statement that it hired Clegg and Smith to run a campaign to elect officials "with the leadership, strength and courage to rebuild L.A.'s struggling economy." The group will support Greuel for mayor, City Councilman Dennis Zine for controller and four candidates for City Council.
D'Arcy and his union-affiliated groups have helped Greuel and other city candidates in the past. An IBEW-related group was a major player in Greuel's 2009 race for controller, spending $112,490 on mailings supporting her, according to city ethics filings. In 2008, Working Californians, with D'Arcy as its co-chairman, pushed a ballot measure backed by Villaraigosa that would have installed 100,000 rooftop solar panels on buildings across the city. Greuel was among those who argued for it, but voters rejected the measure. The consulting firm headed by Smith and Clegg played a leading role in electing Villaraigosa, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee and Gov. Jerry Brown.