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Essel’s ‘Lettergate’: Why Is Antonio’s Thank You Note in 2000 a Criminal Matter?

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 does have a point. The event was a “meet and greet,” not a fund-raiser, althoughantonio-essel.jpg  Villaraigosa already was in full mayoral campaign mode so it’s a small point of political hyperbole.

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.

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20 Responses to Essel’s ‘Lettergate’: Why Is Antonio’s Thank You Note in 2000 a Criminal Matter?

  1. Anonymous says:

    What the hell is the big deal? If the letter was written on official assembly stationary, anybody could have gotten it under the California Public Records Act. And since it was done by government employees, payed by the taxpayers, it’s our letter Chris, not yours.

  2. Courtney Tyler says:

    I am voting for Krekorian when I saw who Essel’s supporters are — the downtown crowd do not impress me and I despise Tony Villar — worst mayor ever!
    Essel and her money can take a hike — as a Conservative I have little choice, but I will cast my vote for Krekorian!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Look at the police report !!!!
    Under occupation Essel has “City Council Member” This is classy, so she has been promised the job so much that she puts city council member 2 weeks before the election.
    Is there something not illegal about filing a fake police report? and providing fake information?
    So lets see it is a 9 year old letter, and she clams she kept it? was it framed next to the pic of you and AV? She would have moved it from her house that she still has lots of furniture and things in to her single studio Apartment? dont you need all the space you can in a studio Apartment? So why would she move a 9 year old letter? Essel needs to go to Jail for filing a fake police report!!!!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Essel is taking a page from Wendy`s and Shallman`s playbook of fraud and deception in filing a police report. She has no shame, considering she sold out to the thug, D`Arcy. That`s a matter for the DA to investigate. What did she promissed in exchange for his dirty money. Uncontrolled DWP rate hikes?

  5. El Quixotian says:

    No 4:30, Ron reports that the alleged crime scene it wasn’t the one with in CD2 with the carpet bag. Probably not even a futon there.
    Her letter says that to solve the caper, she called good old Tony up – who is not a friend of course, at least until after she gets Republicans to vote against the devil they know. Anyways, she stuck her neck out on Tony’s hunch that it must have been her home…the real one, where she lives.
    Sure hope she has a month to month.
    If she’s that clueless to trust Villar, Krekorian’s sharks will eat her alive…or at least whatever’s left as she keeps shooting herself in the foot. Either way, Hacopian smells blood.
    The real question is if Villar is dumb enough not to realize that there might be another official source of the Salon correspondence, or if he just doesn’t care. Perhaps he knows that her D’Arcy cover is blown, and she’s now expendable…like Nahia.
    Or just as likely, he narcissistically dosn’t care anymore about anyone who would not proudly admit to being his friend.
    Either way, somebody better start running for Paul’s seat.
    Unless, that is, we outpetition D’Arcy and allow for either write-in candidates or None of the Above!

  6. ellen vukovich says:

    Ron, here’s some of the answer:
    The winner gets a seat on the Planning, Land Use and Management Council Committee, is chair of the Neighborhoods and Education Committee, and sits on the Jobs (sorry, don’t know full name)Committee.
    One has a history of supporting big-time development, the other has the potential of changing the existing Neighborhood Council system, and the other, combined with the rest, makes it pretty clear why so much money is being poured into this race.

  7. anonymous says:

    Ellen Vukovich hit the nail on the head.
    Perhaps Essel guarantees a merging of the corporate developers and unions, working together, sharing the wealth (so to speak). Like the MTA project that promised more union jobs if they get the contract (thank goodness they didn’t), Essel brings in the “best” to both worlds-unions and developers.
    I’m not saying that is good; it just seems to be what’s happening.
    While it seems that the larger percentage of the problem is the unions, the non-union corporations (including developers) are probably thinking “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Ergo, the merge.

  8. crooks and liars says:

    ladwp crook mafioso boss and city hall are 110% this crook politician will be voted in to city hall
    lets hope the voters from cd2 dont belive what she is promising she is a snake just like the mayor and all those crooks in city hall
    this crooks dont have no shame on what they are doing to los angeles
    they belive they can buy youre vote

  9. Anonymous says:

    Didn’t a lot of people support Antonio back then? Didn’t a lot of people still support him in 2005?
    I mean people who want to recall him now, supported him back then, right? So what am I missing?

  10. Spiffy says:

    Hi Ron,
    I think this letter and the flier Krekorian’s side created is also an effort to point out to voters that Essel, Villaraigosa and all city council members are among the wealthy classes. Some of them had humble roots, but those are far off in the past and many city politicians, just like members of Congress, long ago compromised their ties to the poor and middle class who have to live with their decisions so they could tie their wagons to their wealthiest donors.
    Most of the voters in CD2 are of humble means. They don’t know what it is to “suffer” on $200,000 to $400,000 a year like Essel has. Krekorian also has not suffered along on $40,000 a year for a long time, but because he started out in a small town, Burbank, where he actually interacted with many of the people who voted for him on a daily and weekly basis, he has had more years being in touch with people like you and me than Essel has.
    I know all politics is a dog-and-pony show. All of it. But some candidates are walking through life sort of like most of us, and others are definitely are not.
    I have nothing against people wanting to be rich and hanging out with their rich friends. But gosh, don’t come around and paint yourself as a populist after you’ve been hanging out with the top 10% of income earners for the past 20 years.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I just got an Essel flier in the mail that had a voters registration form attached to it WITH MY NAME ALREADY ON IT.

  12. Harry says:

    Actually the letter is a big deal for a couple of reasons:
    1. It points out Krekorian’s duplicity. He states on the mailer “You can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep.” With pictures of Antonio and Gray Davis. Krekorian mailed the piece to Republicans as if to say he’s the Republican who joins them in their disgust of Davis and Tony V.
    Problem: Krekorian is one of the most liberal democratic legislators who opposed the DAvis recall and supported Villaraigosa AND Jack Weiss.
    2. To get a copy of the letter legally, Krekorian would have had to make a Public Records Act request. Just like the rest of us who tried to get Weiss’s correspondence on Casden and the money laundering scheme.
    Krekorian didn’t do that. According to news reports his campaign “refused to identify the person who gave it to them.” Technically speaking, Krekorian used stolen property since it wasn’t legally obtained.
    By not being forthcoming on who this person was they are aiding and abetting and therefore an accessory to a crime.
    3. I don’t really care that Essel had Villaraigosa at her home ten years ago. Hell, I supported Tony over the pay to play Hahn Administration. Sure he’s turned out to be a bad mayor, but give me a break. Ten year old thank you letter proving an alliance. Hardly makes her an “obedient servant of the mayor” today, Ron.
    How about Krekorian’s support of Jack Weiss 6 months ago? At least Essel supported Nuch. And Krekorian’s team were all on Tony’s payroll. How do you suppose they got that letter? It was an inside job. On the other hand, Essel’s team beat Weiss and the Mayor’s machine.
    Who’s closer to the Mayor? Open your eyes.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Essel + D’Arcy = I’m not happy! No thanks!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Essel + D’Arcy = I’m not happy! No thanks!

  15. anonymous says:

    Thanks Harry. You make some very good points.
    I do find it amusing how the candidates are struggling to distance themselves from the mayor.
    Very telling.


    Regarding your comment: “…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?”
    The Kriokorian flyer says it all:
    “Chris Essel chaired the CRA where she used Eminent Domain to seize private properties and give them to developer interests…”


    Regarding your comment: “…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?”
    The Kriokorian flyer says it all:
    “Chris Essel chaired the CRA where she used Eminent Domain to seize private properties and give them to developer interests…”

  18. Anonymous says:

    To November 23, 2009 4:30 PM
    Your say that the police report lists Essels’ occupation as ‘city council member’. You can barely make out the print. I saw ‘city council’ but not ‘member’ It could had an abbreviated ‘candidate’
    How can you read that?

  19. El Quixotian says:

    Hmmm, the attempted reply to 5:16 didn’t post yesterday…let’s see, it went something to the effect that if there is anything worse then a premature ‘member’ listed, how insipid is listing “City Council Candidate”!
    That’s pretty lame, but in her defense, the report was probably filled out by the attending officer…perhaps one of Beck’s brightest?
    How presumptious!
    Fortunately, elsewhere she is listed as Community Activist (aren’t we all?) or was it Organizer?
    El Quixotian
    City of Los Angeles
    Self Nominated Oversight Committee
    Bureau of Idiocy and Irony

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