As we head into the final two weeks of the Battle for CD2, the campaign between Paul Krekorian and Christine Essel suddenly has escalated into one of the costliest and nastiest ever for the City Council.
The City Hall political machine has pulled out all stops to get Essel elected, which raises the question of why a pro-development corporate lobbyist is getting the nod from powerful city unions and the liberal Democrat city elected officials over a pro-union, liberal Democrat state Assemblyman.
It doesn’t make sense…unless there’s a lot more at stake than just one seat on a Council that votes unanimously on just about everything no matter how destructive to the public interest and leaves no room for dissenting without punishment.
One clue is the half million dollars or more being poured into Essel’s campaign by unions, most of it by bully boy union boss Brian D’Arcy who has taken his effort to a higher level by suing the city over a 23-year-old law limiting individual contributions to independent expenditures.
D’Arcy, whose members at the DWP have benefited spectacularly from sweetheart contracts for years, especially those approved by good pal Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, has never had a problem skirting this ethics law provision in the past.
So why now? Could it be he is fronting for wealthy developers who want to build giant projects from Universal City to Victory Boulevard in the face of massive community resistance in CD2 don’t want any hard questions asked and are willing to help D’Arcy get the huge DWP rate hikes he wants and ownership of rooftop solar projects?
Even more interesting is how the leak of a “thank you” letter from then Assembly Speaker Villaraigosa to Essel in 2000 has reportedly sent the mayor’s team into a tizzy and prompted Essel herself to call the cops and report the letter was “stolen” (essel-police report.pdf) from her home outside CD2.
She even sent a letter to District Attorney Steve Cooley (CooleyEsselLetter.pdf), who unlike his pal, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, wasn’t foolish enough to endorse Essel, demanding he “immediately open up a criminal investigation of Mr. Krekorian and his campaign. It is critical and time sensitive to get to the bottom of this scandal to help preserve and protect the integrity of our electoral process.”
The source of her outrage is a campaign mailer from Krekorian over the letter then the Assembly Speaker sent Essel on Feb. 8, 2000 expressing how her “support and friendship has always been important to me,” especially for the “salon” dinner she provided at Laurel Canyon home for what I assume are Hollywood types happy to fund his 2001 mayoral campaign.
Essel’s own hyperbole in her letter to Cooley is considerably grander, suggesting the “theft” of the letter is a “chilling development (that) eerily conjures up images of the Watergate break-in scandal.”
On the police report, Essel admits the letter has no value but actually believe LAPD detectives are going to investigate the matter. Maybe she knows something but if they do former Chief of Detectives and now Chief of Police Charlie Beck ought to be fired.
The Villaraigosa letter is innocuous on its face, except for showing Essel is a long-time friend and supporter of the mayor and has his support, something she denied when I talked to her.
The significance of the Krekorian mailer is clearer: Republicans could be expected to be knee-jerk backers of Essel since she’s not a liberal Democrat legislator.
But if she is in fact a devoted and obedient servant of the mayor it poses a difficult choice for Republican voters: Who do they dislike more, a Democratic legislator or a Villaraigosa follower who will sell out their neighborhoods and quality of life to the developers who want to turn the area from Universal City to Victory Boulevard into Manhattan?
Without most of the Republican votes, Essel can’t win, which helps explain why Krekorian dragged up this letter from Villaraigosa and why Essel has called the cops as if it was stolen from her house rather than pulled out of the files of the Legislature.
Surprisingly, at least to me, this race has become important and the City Hall political machine is prepared to go to any length to elect Essel, which ought to tell voters to think twice before casting their ballot for her.