In the closing weekend of the L.A. mayoral primary, new allegations are surfacing about a dinner that Controller Wendy Greuel shared recently with one of the co-chairs of the independent group supporting her campaign.
Independent committees are barred from coordinating their efforts with candidates. Once a campaign is underway, candidates typically keep a safe distance from their independent backers, in order to avoid the appearance of coordination.
Councilwoman Jan Perry, one of Greuel's top opponents, tells the Weekly she was taken aback when she saw Greuel sharing a table with Marvin Kropke, the business manager of IBEW Local 11. Kropke and Brian D'Arcy, who leads IBEW Local 18, are the co-chairs of Working Californians, the independent group that has spent $2 million promoting Greuel and attacking all three of her main rivals.
Perry first raised the issue in a debate on KCAL-9 on Friday, and followed up today in an interview with the Weekly.
“If they felt comfortably able to be out in public like that, that's a pretty bold move,” Perry says.
The dinner was at the Jonathan Club, a private club in downtown L.A. It was held on Feb. 9, the day after Working Californians unveiled its first TV ad promoting Greuel's campaign. Perry and Greuel were both there to attend the installation ball for the National Electrical Contractors Association.
Perry was scheduled to speak at the event. When she arrived, she said she saw Greuel sitting at an adjoining VIP table next to Kropke.
Perry said that the organizers had advised her not to discuss politics in her speech. She was surprised to see Kropke get up and introduce Greuel to the audience.
“He said she was running for mayor, and she would make the best mayor and people should vote for her,” Perry says. “Then he said, 'Don't worry Jan, you'll get your chance.' I was like, 'Whatever.'”
When Perry got up to speak, she touted her record representing downtown L.A. When she sat down, she says she saw Kropke walking around to the various tables introducing Greuel.
“Not only were they seated next to each other, he was escorting her around,” Perry says.
In total, Perry says that Greuel and Kropke were together for at least 90 minutes. She said several people came up to her later and expressed dismay that Kropke had introduced politics into the event.
Dave Jacobson, Greuel's spokesman, took issue with Perry's allegations, calling it a “desperate attempt… to mislead voters and distract attention away from her failed mayoral campaign.”
“Before Jan Perry makes bogus and wildly exaggerated allegations on broadcast television, she should probably read and understand the law,” Jacobson said. “The fact is, coordination requires discussion about strategy, messaging, and how money will be spent. Wendy Greuel did nothing of the sort.”
Jacobson said that Greuel and Kropke discussed the weather.
The Greuel campaign also said there were 10 people at the VIP table, and disputed Perry's claim that Kropke escorted Greuel around the room, saying that someone else had done that.
At Friday's debate, Perry also challenged Greuel to denounce a Working Californians radio ad that highlighted Perry's bankruptcies from the mid-90s.
“I would like to think that Ms. Greuel would not delve into people's personal lives,” Perry said. “Sometimes people fall down. I think what matters is how you get back up. I understand how to handle a financial crisis and hardship, like many Los Angelenos and many Americans.”
Greuel declined to criticize the ad. “Everything we've done in our lives is out there on the table,” she said. “Let the voters decide.”
Speaking to the Weekly, Perry made it clear she holds Greuel responsible for the attacks from the independent group.
“Given that I saw them having dinner together, she's probably quite well aware of what they're doing,” Perry said.
In addition to the radio ad, Working Californians put out a TV spot attacking Garcetti on Thursday. Garcetti responded Friday with a press conference outside the Department of Water and Power headquarters, in which he alleged that IBEW is “spending millions to buy this election for Ms. Greuel.”
Working Californians also sent a mailer attacking Kevin James for proposing a “billion-dollar desalination boondoggle,” among other allegations.
Update, 8 p.m.: Now we know why Greuel didn't denounce that radio ad attacking Jan Perry's bankruptcies. Because she's making the same attack in the mail.