Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has seemed confident in his defense of his acceptance of very valuable tickets to happenings including Lakers post-season games, the Oscars and the Grammy Awards. He says as long as he's attending the happenings in his official capacity as L.A.'s top dog, he's allowed to sidestep ethics rules that require him to declare the tickets as gifts, list the price, and say from whom they came.
But Fox 11 News has been all over Villaraigosa like a leggy TV reporter, and this week it reports that it got a hold of the mayor's calendar of official events and that nowhere does the document list such outings:
"The mayor's own official calendar, seen here, does not seem to treat the Lakers games as official events but as -- quote -- private events," reporter John Schwada said Tuesday night.
The finding seems consistent with the daily schedule of official mayoral events provided to reporters. Rarely is something like a Lakers game or awards-show outing listed in it. That doesn't mean going to a Lakers game can't be a part of Villaraigosa's official duties: It just indicates his own thought process in categorizing what he does as either public or private.
And any evidence that he thinks going out with his girlfriend or children is his business could count against him as the Ethics Commission and now the District Attorney's office look into this affair. After all, now he says these are essential mayoral outings (plus-1 or not).
The mayor has reportedly received 81 such tickets during his tenure as L.A.'s leader. Fox 11 News reports that Lakers courtside tickets are worth more than $3,000 each. Anschutz Entertainment Group, the company that owns Staples Center, has told the Weekly that those courtside tix did not come from it, but that other, less valuable tickets have.
And therein lies the rub: AEG has plenty of business before City Hall, including its development of the LA Live area, which has included public subsidies approved by the City Council and endorsed by the mayor.
Assuming he's taken tickets from AEG that add up to be worth four figures or more, it's something the public should know, right? And that's why the law forces people in Villaraigosa's position to disclose gifts worth more than $50.
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The key issue is, who gave him those $3,000-plus courtside seats? And why is he so far hiding the identity of the contributor?
However: What big-city mayor do you know of who doesn't go out to see the local sports teams? Summer comprises the slow months for news. You know, 'tis the season for a missing white woman scandal.
If the mayor had been more forthright about his calendar, if he had been more transparent, had he been more open with the press, and, frankly, if he had done a better job instead of acting like a lame duck as he let the gubernatorial race pass him by, this scandal might not have been.
Now it is, and we have courtside seats.