Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is in deep in this one. It's summer and, frankly, we have nothing better to do than to watch him squirm as reporters ask why he didn't report thousands of dollars worth of free tickets to Lakers games, awards shows and other events as gifts as would normally be required under city and state rules covering elected officials.
If Villaraigosa was a more dedicated public servant, this wouldn't be so fun, and we might cut him some slack. But here's one thing most reporters wouldn't want Mayor V.'s handlers to know:
Journalists take tickets too. That's right. And sometimes they're valuable. Movies. Awards shows. Coachella. Concerts. Clubs. You name it, we're there — and usually “in the VIP.” If we didn't get free tickets, most of us wouldn't be able to cover such events, and the organizers usually want us there: They want the ink.
Of course, it's harder to be truthful and critical when you're biting he hand that feeds you those tickets, but it's an insurmountable fact of journalism: Part the velvet rope or history might forget you.
Heck, while we're on the subject, lots of people get free entrance to events that others pay dearly for: Cops who have to accompany the mayor, for example, or fire inspectors who have to be in the club to count heads.
This is where the mayor's argument comes in: He says he needs to be in the house too — to do his job, to represent L.A., and to dole out ceremonial certificates to people. His deputy mayor even said that Villaraigosa sometimes doesn't even have a seat at an event — he just comes and goes.
Of course, that notion doesn't seem to fit with the footage of Mayor V. walking red carpets with his girlfriend or cheering courtside at a Lakers game. It feels more like whatever city duties applied were cooked up so he could enjoy the show.
And while hizzoner gets to walk the red carpet, journalists, cops and fire inspectors rarely do. And here are a few other distinctions: Villaraigosa is one of the highest-paid mayors in the nation. He can certainly afford the outings more than journos or others. And, reporters and others who have to be at events are not elected officials. We don't represent the people (and spend their money).
And uh, oh yeah, according to one state official, what Villaraigosa's done is against the rules.
But yeah, we take the tickets, too. Mayor V. is not the only one.