Thanks to Antonio Villaraigosa's practice of ignoring anti-corruption laws, angling for $50,000 to $100,000 in freebies, then failing to tell the City Ethics Commission, the Fair Political Practices Commission has just enacted a strict rule forcing California politicians to post online every freebie they take under the guise of “official duties.”
It's quite a legacy from Villaraigosa, the highest paid mayor in America at more than $220,000 a year.
The Weekly published a mind-blowing list of the mayor's freebies (you can read it here), which enraged Californians, and no doubt helped spur the anti-corruption body, the FPPC, to adopt a rule on September 17 that will apply statewide in 30 days.
But the real catalyst was KTTV Fox 11 reporter John Schwada's eye-popping scoop that unveiled the Villaraigosa ticket scandal:
Schwada discovered late last May that Villaraigosa — who as mayor has a special expense account filled with tens of thousands of dollars — had instead been angling for freebies.
Incredibly to many, L.A.'s mayor had used a tip from a lobbyist for AEG, the owner of Staples Center, to get around anti-corruption rules. Villaraigosa did this by saying a few “official” mayoral words at sporting and music events and ceremonies, thus turning the whole lavish evening deal into a “duty.”
Except that was all bull.
Following on the heels of Fox Channel 11, Los Angeles Times investigative reporter Phil Willon reviewed thousand of photos of top-dollar Lakers, Dodgers, Academy Awards and other events — and spotted Villaraigosa sitting in $1,000 and $3,000 luxury seats for which he didn't pay a dime.
Several days ago, the normally wimpy Los Angeles City Ethics Commission shocked a lot of people by approving its own tougher new rules to stop Villaraigosa and other pols from maneuvering around the free gift/anti-corruption laws.
The whole point of the laws was to stop insiders, lobbyists and rich folks from secretly showering the servants of the people with luxury items that influenced their decisions or gave the lobbyists or the rich an inside track.
But it's been damn hard to find servants of the people in seedy Los Angeles City Hall in recent years.
When the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission approved their new rules on September 14, Fox 11 caught up to Villaraigosa — who can spend a very long time in front of friendly cameras — at a local school, reacting as reporter John Schwada began peppering the mayor with questions.
At first, a grinning Villaraigosa said he welcomed the rules.
But when Schwada loudly asked him: “Do you consider this a rebuke of what you did before?” Villaraigosa, darkening, turned away and abruptly walked off.
For further reading, catch the Weekly's original stories by Jill Stewart and Tibby Rothman, “Villaraigosa's Five-Year Free Ticket Scandal,” and the one that will really make you uncomfortable, “Villaraigosa's Vanishing Veracity.”