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Jay Carson, Steve Bing and Antonio’s Ethics Problem

Gang czar Jeff Carr got the top billing in Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s shakeup in the leadership of his vast personal staff.

But the real play is the appointment of high-flying Jay Carson, the 32-year-old named to revive the mayor’s political fortunes in the newly-created post of Chief Deputy Mayor.
Thumbnail image for jayCarson1V.jpg
The shakeup announcement (CarrCarson.doc) stressed Carr’s role and downplayed Carson’s and for good reason. Carson will be in the center of where the power and money are, the missing link in Antonio’s circle of ‘friends.’

The link that matters in this case is Stephen Bing, heir to a vast fortune who has thrown nearly $100 million into Democratic causes and campaigns, including Villaraigosa’s, and even more into buying his way into Hollywood movie making.

It was Bing who brought Carson to LA early this year in a top post in his Shangri La business enterprises. And it’s the Bing connection that creates a huge ethical cloud over Carson’s role as Chief Deputy Mayor, one that the mayor glibly kissed off at his press conference last week although serious questions need to be answered.

Not long after Carson joined Bing, the mayor threw himself across the tracks as head of the board overseeing the MTA and kept the staff from eliminating AnseldoBreda as a competitor for a $300 million rail car manufacturing deal because of the Italian firm’s poor performance on a previous contract.

The key to keeping the deal alive is the partnership between AnseldoBreda and Bing’s Shangri La Construction to build a rail car manufacturing plant with heavy public subsidies in the five-mile strip near downtown that the mayor has dubbed LA’s Green Tech Corridor and made the centerpiece of his second term.

Bing stands to profit handsomely from the project which is just the first step in reaping  billions of dollars in profits from construction of the California high-speed rail lines — deals where Bing’s political influence are sure to stand him in good stead.

Carson faces an almost impossible ethical dance since he worked for Bing and his duties as Chief Deputy Mayor include “Education, Housing & Economic
Development, Transportation, Energy & Environment, and Commercial
&
Residential Development,” according to the mayor’s press release.

Those are the most
controversy-laden areas of city government, the areas where special
interests with all their cash flow for politicians collide head-on with
the sentiments of many residents. Specifically, they are the areas of responsibility that come into play in Bing’s deals.

The mayor casually threw out that Bing will “recuse” himself from involvement in the Bing rail car deal.

But how is that possible?

He’s not a legislator recusing himself from voting on a measure because of a conflict of interest.

He’s the man in charge supervising the people developing strategies, cutting deals and implementing policies that affect Bing. How can they be insulated from being influenced by Carson and his clear connection to Bing?





Carson was on Bing’s payroll for seven months and involved in the
AnsaldoBreda/Green Tech Corridor deal and helped save the Italian firm
from being removed from consideration. Will he disclose how much he
was paid, all contracts, documents and promises he might have gotten
from Bing?

Has
the mayor carefully examined the Bing relationship, would he care? Are
there written guidelines for how Carson is supposed to recuse himself
from involvement in deals directly or indirectly affecting Bing?

Has the Ethics Commission gotten involved and raised questions or set down rules that would protect the public interest?

Will the City Council or City Attorney take up the conflict of interest problems posed by Carson’s appointment?

These
are just a few of the questions that must be answered for the public to
have even the slightest confidence in the mayor’s office.

They are not small questions, and Carson is not a small-time player.

Carr,
the Christian minister and do-gooder, is now the mayor’s organization
man, assuming the duties of Robin Kramer whose Jewish mother image
belied her long experience and skill at bringing order of chaos for the
likes of Richard Alatorre, Dick Riordan and Eli Broad.

Carson
is a very different sort entirely, a rising Democratic Party political
star who now holds the future of Antonio Villaraigosa in his hands –
and quite possibly the future of the City of Los Angeles as well.

He is an ambitious Southerner from Macon, Ga., who was branded the “hard-hitting hipster” in a lengthy New York Observer profile when he was press secretary for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Despite
his youth, he has worked for and developed close relationships with a
virtual hall of fame of Democratic Party politics: Bill and Hillary
Clinton, Sen. Charles Schumer, former Sen. Tom Daschle, Party Chairman
Howard Dean, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Throw in links to George
Soros, George Stephanopoulos, Ron Burkle and numerous Democratic Party
operatives and big-time players and you get a picture of just how
connected, how seriously, Carson is taken.

On Aug. 10 — just
four days after Bing paid the $200,000 tab and provided his private jet
for Bill Clinton’s trip to North Korea — the New York Times noted the
names of six of the people who were among the guests at the former
President’s 63rd birthday party in a Las Vegas restaurant where 8 oz.
steaks go for $240: Bing, Terry McAuliffed, Haim Saban, John Podesta
and Carson.

The party was held in Las Vegas because Clinton
was there to keynote the National Clean Energy Summit, an event at
which Villaraigosa promoted the Green Tech Corridor (and was caught
napping with his girlfriend at a topless pool in a posh hotel).

So
what’s a guy like Carson doing in a job that pays him a fraction of
what he could be making in the world of the billionaires like Bing?

What
knowledge of the city, its people, or even City Hall and city
government does he bring to the task at a time when LA is facing a
worsening financial crisis and dealing with a multiplicity of policy
failures largely attributed to City Hall’s devotion to serving special
interests?

Serving as director of Bill Clinton’s Foundation,
which got $15 million from Bing, and strategic roles in Senate and
presidential campaigns are not the normal resume of a man crossing the
line into city governance.

Given the direction Villaraigosa’s
second term is taking, it’s pretty clear why the mayor has brought him
aboard. He plays hardball, has a keen political sense and completes the
circle of power and money for the mayor.

Where the people and the public interest fit in will become obvious enough in the weeks and months ahead.

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14 Responses to Jay Carson, Steve Bing and Antonio’s Ethics Problem

  1. Anonymous says:

    A slap in the face to his long-time deputy mayors and other faithful stalwarts to get these two guys in who’ve barely found their way around LA with a GPS. Carr because he hasn’t offended anyone, not done much of anything either, played it safe as “the nice guy.” I mean, who can hate a minister. Carson because no one knows him and presumably, is connected to money. Carr-Carson, was there a sale on names starting with “Car?”

  2. What a way to start the week!

  3. Sandy Sand says:

    Looks like the mayor isn’t quite so lonely at the top any more, but the company he keeps sounds like the people your mother warned you to stay away from when you were a teen and going through your associate-with-disreputable-people phase.

  4. Walter Moore says:

    Very good article, Ron.
    I think Carson will wind up regretting signing up for Villaraigosa’s second term. I mean, does any sailor want “Exxon Valdez, final cruise” on his resume?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Get over yourself Ron.
    If you have such “tough” questions to ask why didn’t you stroll up to the press conference where it was a packed room and ask your ever so important questions?
    The reporters that haven’t been fired from their jobs (like you) asked the tough questions, but because you enjoy your Monday morning quarterbacking (enjoying the timing of your post) sso much you lob in questions that were asked by other reporters already.
    And the usual right-wing republican (and former republicans i.e Walter Moore)have once again showed up to clap at whatever you say.
    They are sort of your own version of clapping seals that bark on command.

  6. Anonymous says:

    By Anonymous on August 31, 2009 8:18 AM
    You are such a gutless wonder!!! Your letter
    will keep you on the public payroll. No wonder
    you are afraid to let us know who you are.
    Thank you for keeping the public informed, Ron.
    All Democrats are not like 8:18AM. Every day in
    every way we are getting closer to D-Day in L.A.

  7. In Eagle Rock says:

    As to 8:18′s criticism, isn’t the real issue just was Ron’s message was about. Too many personal gripes about things from any messenger try to somehow make the message defective, but when it’s true or can soon be seen to be coming your way, the distraction maneuever serves no one justly.
    The real point is whether this situation of Tony and his power strategizing will pay off for him in the long or short run, or both, and whether it is going to leave L.A. poorer for it, and “poorer” is meant in any way you want to term it- financially, environmentally, quality of life, business-vacant or anything that Tony should be worried about ahead of his next office.
    We have had four years of an absentee manyor and maybe things can actually get worse when he stays put for longer periods and has more time focusing on himself.
    The discouraging part of this is that the city council members each continue to buy into all of this and somehow avoid taking responsibility for what they do as enablers for the worsening during Tony’s first term in office. Are they just as guilty as Tony in this, or, can they really not what’s in front of them?
    Either way, the movement for a 50% pay cut all around is sounding better and better.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Yes Eagle Rock, Orlov says in his Tipoffs today that these councilbunglers are supposed to come back next week from vacation but because too many will attend a Counference of mayors to have a quorum next week, they’ll be off for another week.
    Not that things are any better when they’re here: budget crises, fires straining city resources even further, DWP rates soaring as citizens are getting madder and madder with fewer services, even the Republicans leading the charge about lying that the Tripled Trash Fee Hikes and Phone Tax S were never really promised for those 1000 cops we were promised, thousands of prisoners about to be released onto our streets.
    But they’ve managed to drive off our best Police Chief ever with their attacks and bickering leaving us with no one even as a Trusted Figurehead. What will they do when they do come back? Raise taxes further, starting with Janice Hahn’s property tax on homeowners to pay for some vague anti-gang program she wants to funnel to her district. Cutting their salaries in half until they balance the budget is a good start.
    Not that Parks and Zine or Smith will feel it with their huge police pensions and being at a stage in life where their homes are paid for and kids are grown – they should give them back anyway as a show of good faith. Alarcon, Huizar and Cardenas can stop driving the most expensive cars available to them. Actions speak louder than all their self-serving words.

  9. Anonymous says:

    1:22 p.m. why pick on only certain Councilmembers when they are all equally morally bankrupt & ethically challenged. However, together they do not equal the morally bankrupt dumb Mayor who controls the Department Heads and by extension all city employees who have to do his bidding. Why does he need a staff of 120 +. It is more insidious than most community members recognize. This Mayor has to go. No middle ground left. Once he realizes that there is no future career left for him than what he can do on his own, which is nothing, he will stop hiring people like Carson & focus on the city instead. It will never happen. At least we will be rid of him. Start the recall.

  10. El Quixotian says:

    Well, there’s a couple things.
    First, the leadership vacuum in the Mayor’s office is made all the more apparent by the selections he’s making. But if this is the best there is, rather then deriding them for lack of experience or youth, could it be that others with a track record would not want to be associated with this mess? Or all the other Friends of Tony already appointed to City Departments, Commissions, or in the merry-go-round of City Council/Assembly/Senate seats.
    Maybe that’s why Bratton chiming in with an endorsement. We know that Villar had to lean on him for re-election ads, but can’t he do better then a lame duck to laud Carr?
    Now, let’s drill just a bit into their resumes…
    Carr: “While at the Bresee Foundation, Rev. Carr successfully facilitated and managed the growth of the organization’s budget from $450,000 to $1.8million”
    Great, just what we need, someone to expand the budget…we’ve already seen how his “Contract Services” category dominates the significant increases from previous fiscal years.
    As for Carson – well, it looks like the only expertise that matters (other then SIEU kudos) is his ability to burnish the rusty image of Villar in the eyes of the Democratic Party leadership and Soro’s New and Improved World Order.

  11. anonymous says:

    Ron wrote: “The mayor casually threw out that Bing will “recuse” himself from involvement in the Bing rail car deal.”
    I’m confused. Shouldn’t Carson also be recusing himself from involvement in the Bing rail car deal? I see you are asking the same questions.
    It’s disturbing to know that this administration would micro-manage staff to consider a contract with a poor track record, regardless of how it can negatively impact lives. Isn’t this akin to what the Hahn admin did? I find it curious that the union is not taking issue with such overstepping of authority.

  12. Anonymous says:

    That photo of Carson wearing jeans while Hillary’s got the power suit and pointy pumps look, her nose in the air, tells me he’s too filled with himself as Mr. Cool to be what the city needs right now. We needed “a grown up,” with a mayor in desperate need of guidance, the idiots on council all vying for power against each other now, having driven off Bratten as the “grownup figure.” With a City Attorney who even his biggest supporters like Daily News call enthusiastic but misguided or confused at best, some call him a liar and charlatan. There is a vacuum at the top, no smart Hillary figure for Carson or Carr to answer to. Which means we’re going to be seeing more jockeying for position from the numbskulls that be, as our city continues to drift rudderless.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Are there not enough people on the Mayor’s staff for him to hire more snakeoil salesmen.
    COUNSEL TO THE MAYOR
    Thomas A. Saenz, Legal Counsel to the Mayor……………………… 213 978-0600
    Lucy Silva, Administrative Assistant……………………………………… 213 978-0600
    Gabriel Sandoval, Deputy Counsel to the Mayor ……………………. 213 978-0600
    Gregg Kettles, Deputy Counsel to the Mayor………………………. 213 978-0600
    Paul Girard, Advisor …………………………………………………………… 213 978-0600
    Barbara Freeman, Ethics Advisor/Commissions …………………….. 213 978-0600
    Thomas Nakanishi, Administrative Assistant …………………………. 213 978-0600
    ………………………………………………………………………. FAX 213 978-0657
    370 SCHEDULING OFFICE ……………………………………………………… 213 922-9747
    …………………………………………………………………………..FAX 213 978-0655
    370
    DEPUTY MAYORS
    COMMUNICATIONS
    Janelle Erickson, Deputy Mayor…………………………………………… 213 978-0741
    …………………………………………………………………………..FAX 213 978-0576
    Matt Szabo, Associate Director ……………………………………………. 213 978-0741
    David Beltran, Press Aide …………………………………………………… 213 978-0741
    Juan Bustamante, Press Aide ……………………………………………… 213 978-0741
    Adam Cooper, Press Secretary……………………………………… 213 978-0741
    Sarah Hamilton, Press Aide ………………………………………………… 213 978-0471
    Casey Hernandez, Press Secretary…………………………………. 213 978-0741
    Jared Irmas, Press Secretary……………………………………………….. 213 978-1649
    Rachel Kruer, Press Aide…………………………………………….. 213 978-0741
    Jazmin Ortega, Press Secretary……………………………………………. 213 978-0741
    Tyrone Washington, Press Aide……………………………………………. 213 978-0741
    …………………………………………………………………………..FAX

  14. Anonymous says:

    The Mayor has made two more crappy choices. did he even check Jay Carson’s resume before hiring him? he was a part of the Bill Bradley presidential campaign. then he was the spokesman for Howard Dean’s presidential campaign. Then Hillary Clinton for President. I guess it makes sense. he has been a big part of some losers campaigns now he is joining another loser. they deserve each other.

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