L.A. city Councilman Bernard Parks has been an ardent supporter of the four-times-a-year raves that were fixtures at the publicly owned L.A. Coliseum and Sports Arena since 1998.
Parks, a former LAPD police chief, is a law-and-order guy through-and-through. And if you ask some top cops, including Deputy Chief Patrick Gannon, those parties are hotbed of "blatant drug use" that have required hundreds of extra officers at taxpayer expense.
For some reason, though, Parks has been more gung-ho than an 18-year-old holding glowsticks:
He has compared raves favorably to events at the Hollywood Bowl, rock concerts and even the Democratic National Convention. He doesn't even call them raves, and he'll correct you if you do: They'e electronic music festivals, he says.
The rave that has received the most press is Electric Daisy Carnival, a product of a company called Insomniac Events and its owner, Pasquale Rotella. In 2010 in attracted about 160,000 people over two days, saw more than 200 medical emergencies, and was home to about 60 mostly drug-related arrests.
A 15-year-old girl who attended the party soon died of an ecstasy overdose, too, setting off a firestorm of criticism: Why are these things being held on public property, with the approval of the public Coliseum Commission on which Parks sits?
Parks wasn't having it. He told the Weekly this last year:
We also find that in events such as soccer or USC football there are times when people over imbibe and have to be arrested or escorted away. We don't talk about stopping USC from playing football [at the Coliseum].
But why would such a bean-counting, abide-by-the-rules guy support these events? Even after the EDC controversy broke out underage people were getting in despite a new, 18-and-up mandate by the commission.
We might have found a clue.
Based on Coliseum documents received under a California Public Records Act request made by the Weekly last February (and only this week fulfilled), we found that the two main rave organizers who hosted parties at the property have contributed a total of $40,000 to an annual event promoted by Parks' office, his "Annual Exposition Park 4th of July Fireworks Extravaganza" which is, apparently, a way to reach out to the constituents.
(His office disputes this characterization and says it is only one of many organizers of the event, although Parks' own council website describes it as "brought to you by ... The Office of Councilmember Bernard C. Parks").
That money, according to documents, was then essentially refunded to the promoters as a discount for their Coliseum facility rental fees in 2008 and 2010.
Such an arrangement, says Center for Governmental Studies' former president Bob Stern, is probably not illegal.
This is how people gain access to public officials -- by giving money to nonprofits and events connected with them.
At the same time, he says, "It sounds strange ... Why was the Coliseum Commission subsidizing this?"