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Eric to Gil: Gee Thanks, Dad

Eric Garcetti was one of three members of the Los Angeles City Council who won re-election in March with no opposition, in part because he and other incumbents used their name recognition to amass war chests big enough to scare away any would-be challengers early on. The twist in Garcetti’s case is that his war chest got an early boost with a contribution from the president of the City Ethics Commission, who just happens to be his father, former Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti.The donation violates the most basic rule of conduct of Ethics Commission members — to avoid participating in the political campaigns of any city officials. The ban is spelled out in the City Charter.Records filed with the Ethics Commission show that on September 29, 2003, the elder Garcetti donated $500, the maximum possible contribution, to his son’s March 2005 re-election campaign.Under Section 700 (d) of the City Charter, a member of the commission may not “participate in or contribute to a City election campaign or to a City official running for any elective office.” The charter does not specify a penalty or remedy.Ethics commissioners propose laws regulating campaign finance and lobbying. They also judge candidates and others accused by the panel’s executive director of breaking the law.City Council President Alex Padilla appointed Gil Garcetti to the Ethics Commission in 2002. Few voiced objections at the time that he would be part of a panel that regulates the political activities of Eric Garcetti and his City Council colleagues. The elder Garcetti has routinely recused himself on matters that directly involve his son, and did so again on Tuesday as the rest of the commission approved fining Eric Garcetti $5,000 for failing to file copies of his campaign mailers with the panel’s staff.Gil Garcetti acknowledged that he made the donation to his son in error after joining the commission. After checking his files, he said he saw that he had signed a $1,000 check, representing separate donations from him and his wife to Eric Garcetti in 2003, more than a year after his appointment to the commission. “I’ve always told the other commissioners that many of the regulations, restrictions, are very hard to interpret,” the elder Garcetti said Tuesday. “But this one is very easy to interpret. It boils down to, it was a simple mistake and carelessness on my part.”Eric Garcetti, a champion of full public financing of campaigns, was baffled. He said he had a system in place to flag all suspect donations.“I don’t know what happened,” he said.


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