Just about every lobbyist in Los Angeles was on hand Thursday for the first of several hearings on the proposed concession contracts at Los Angeles International Airport.

The contracts are worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the concessionaires. Their lobbyists have been working the corridors of City Hall for a couple of months in an effort to bend the ears of the five council members who serve on the Board of Referred Powers.

The LAX staff has recommended winners for each of eight contracts. Many of the losers have filed protests, arguing that the LAX staffers were biased against them or that the entire bid process was unfair.

The first hearing, on Thursday, showed that the five council members will have no trouble substituting their judgment for that of the LAX staff. Councilman Tony Cardenas and Councilwoman Janice Hahn were especially skeptical of the LAX bid process. Each asked pointed questions about the composition of the contract judging panels.

“Would you say the panelists in food and beverage had experience in food and beverage?” Hahn asked, knowing full well that they did not, because they were LAX employees.

Told that they didn't, she said, “That's a little surprising.”

There will be several more meetings like this before the Board of Referred Powers makes its decision, which will have to be ratified by the full council.

As we noted last week, Hahn took at least $40,000 from LAX concessionaires or their lobbyists during her unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor. Those contributions would have been illegal under city law, because lobbyists cannot contribute to city campaigns and because there is a very low contribution limit — $500 — for council elections. But because Hahn was running for state office, the contributions were perfectly legal.

LA Weekly