In the Lap of Lobbyists | A Considerable Town | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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In the Lap of Lobbyists 

Thursday, Mar 25 2004
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Call him A-Pad. Like A-Rod or J.Lo. Except this tag belongs to L.A.’s own hottie, City Council President Alex Padilla, who made the girls at the exclusive Harvard-Westlake School swoon last year when he came by for a visit. Eighteen-year-old Laura Berghoff reveals that bit of information at Thursday night’s Seventh Annual Los Angeles Political Roast, hosted by three big City Hall lobbyists — or rather two lobbyists plus a lobbyist-turned-councilman-chief-of-staff. The bash, which raises money for the American Diabetes Association, has become a mandatory ritual of L.A. politics and fund-raising, the must-see-and-be-seen event for anyone who aspires to City Hall clout.

Picture Padilla, this year’s victim, seated onstage as strip music comes on. Out wiggles councilman and ex-cop Dennis Zine, blond wig on his head, wispy red dress over his gray suit, pink feather boa around his neck, sidling up to Padilla, wagging his butt and — wait, is he really? — yes, he is. Zine is giving Padilla a very convincing lap dance.

Everything has shades of meaning, layers of spoof covering over battles lost and won on the council floor, insults that are really jokes and jokes, if you listen carefully, that are really insults. Remember that the council banned lap dancing last year, only to backtrack once the lobbyists out in the audience forced them to. Now here comes Cindy Miscikowski, ridiculed at the time as a schoolmarm for sponsoring the ban, and she’s laughing as she pulls out a tape measure to be sure Zine follows the (rescinded) law to keep six feet from A-Pad. And look, now onto the stage marches Councilman Greig Smith, an LAPD reserve cop, and with him Police Chief William Bratton. The two slam Zine against the wall, cuff him and march him away.

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Lots of lap-dancing jokes. Lots of jokes about breaking into the Mayor’s Office, since it was for this very event that Padilla and Smith’s chief of staff and dinner co-host, Mitch Englander, pressed a security guard a few Saturdays back to unlock Jim Hahn’s office so they could shoot some video. The mayor said, when he found out, that he felt violated. The guard was suspended. But everyone at the dinner cranes to watch the video, which, alas, shows only the word censored when it gets to the part where Padilla enters Hahn’s office.

And there are pictures. One has A-Pad reading Dr. Seuss, with the narration recited by Art Torres, chairman of the state Democratic Party: “I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like LeeAnn Pel-ham.” Huh? But you see, Pelham is director of the Ethics Commission, which fined Padilla a record amount for campaign fund-raising violations, and sent to the council a slew of lobbying restrictions that Padilla didn’t like.

Now Councilman Eric Garcetti sits at the piano singing words that, at the wrong time or in the wrong place, could get him decked. He sings of a boy who grew up wanting to do good, but, “One day, that boy, he woke up/Next to a horse’s head/With a note scrawled by James Acevedo saying/I’m running Alex Padilla instead.” See, Acevedo is a political boss, a city commissioner, a developer, and he’s the one who got Padilla to . . . oh, but you knew that.

Listen carefully, and you can just make out that the true butt of much of this humor is likely the mayor, who delivers some weak jokes with a thud early in the evening, then takes off to another event. There are lots of cracks about a grand-jury probe into “pay-to-play” contracting allegations. Padilla’s name is used, but everyone knows the jokes are directed at Hahn.

Finally, young Laura Berghoff — daughter of Arnie Berghoff, lobbyist for the operators of the Sunshine Canyon landfill and founder of this event — reminds the audience at the $300-a-plate (minimum) evening that they are here to do more than test the humor of their friends and adversaries.

Diabetes is the fastest-growing disease among teens in Los Angeles County. Zev Yaroslavsky has it. So does Padilla’s mother. So does Laura Berghoff.

She has graduated from Harvard-Westlake and is now a freshman at Columbia, but Berghoff tells the crowd it’s best to speak plainly.

“Having diabetes sucks,” she says.

—Robert Greene

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