“Villaraigosa told investigators that he spoke roughly once a month with
Alatorre but did not recall any meetings that dealt with ‘city issues.’
The mayor described Alatorre as a friend and a fundraiser for his 2001,
2003 and 2005 election campaigns. ‘Villaraigosa has never asked Alatorre
any questions about his consulting or lobbying activity,’ ” David Zahniser story in LA Times today.
Sometimes, you just got to laugh through the tears. You can be sure this time that the denizens at City Hall are laughing at you.
Four years ago, the League of Women Voters and the LA Chamber of Commerce in conspiracy with the lobbyists, developers, unions, contractors, consultants and everyone else who feasts on the public wealth foisted on voters Proposition R.
They called it ethics reform and promised a crackdown on lobbyists but it’s only point was to give City Council members three terms instead of two — the reason why most of them are still in office today bankrupting the city, buying jobs with taxpayer money and destroying the quality of life. Here’s what is said:
Shall the Charter be amended and ordinance adopted to: change Councilmember term limits to three
terms; restrict lobbyists from making campaign contributions, gifts and becoming commissioners; revise
lobbyist registration thresholds; require contractors certify compliance with lobbying laws; extend elected
officials’ post-employment restrictions; require ethics training; and revise requirements for independent
expenditures and campaign communications?
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other politicians lined up behind it and ballot argument signers included former Mayor Richard Riordan, Alliance of Neighborhood Council leader Noah Modisett, Charter reformer Raphael Sonenshein, Police Commission President John Mack, United Way and the firefighters union.
They argued it would ” limit of three terms on City Councilmembers to reduce the power and influence of City Hall bureaucrats and lobbyists,” bar gifts to politicians meaning “no more free meals, and no more tickets to sporting events and concerts,” and toughen rules on independent expenditures and lobbyist registration.
You don’t need to ask how that worked out.
Opponents included a long list of community activists and a League of Women Voters member, Tony Butka, a likely candidate in CD 14.
They argued Prop. R was a sham and would “throw transparency out the window” and “hide lobbyists from public view until after they win favors for a client.” They quoted a Daily News editorial that said Prop. R “has nothing to do with reforming ethics
and everything to do with confusing voters into voting for this
Sixty percent of voters 375,000 of them, were fooled and fell for the lie.
Just what a fraud it was is highlighted by the results District Attorney Steve Cooley’s two-year investigation into how Richard Alatorre, in collusion with lobbyist Mike Roos, evaded compliance with the city ethics laws, including the Prop. R reforms. bu acting as Roos’ “consultant” for years without registering as a lobbyist himself.
The verdict of Cooley’s Public Integrity Division: No felony criminal charges will be filed even though investigators found Alatorre worked as a
lobbyist for years without registering.
Investigators couldn’t prove there was a conspiracy so they referred the case to the City Ethics Commission for possible prosecution as a misdemeanor by City Attorney Carmen Trutanich.
That could result in jail time but don’t bet on it.
Alatorre got nothing more than house arrest for eight months for felony tax evasion failing to report more than $40,000 in payments in 1996 from people trying to influence him in his role a 14th District Councilman.
The charge arose from an ugly child custody case that exposed his blatant cocaine use in his office at City Hall and elsewhere and led to his resignation.
Roos’ political career in the state Assembly also ended in scandal after a lengthy investigation led to charges against fireworks magnate Patrick Moriarity. Roos doubled his investment in Moriarty’s company while carrying legislation favorable to him.
Alatorre and Roos are quite a pair. one the shrewdest, the other the slickest, operators in city politics.
They emerged as rising political stars after the election of Tom Bradley in 1973 and rose to become the No. 2 and No. 3 legislators behind Assembly Speaker Willie Brown with unlimited futures.
Those hopes were shattered by scandal but Roos and Alatorre have flourished financially and retained their respectability in no small part because they are both smart and likable. Besides, in the sea of corruption in City Hall, no one is in a position to judge anyone else.
Alatorre and Roos have the kind of access to our elected officials that any ordinary citizen can only envy.
While the public gets two minutes of public comment and sees their leaders from a distance at various events and occasional office hours, Alatorre and Roos can stride past the security guard outside the mayor’s office with no more than a nod of the head and sit down with Council members in their offices or buy them expensive meals any time they want.
For high-powered lobbyists like them, City Hall could not be more open and transparent and easy to manipulate. That’s why they are paid the big bucks.
For his part, Alatorre is part of the mayor’s inner circle, his political mentor who bailed him out of trouble when he got caught cheating on his wife the night he was first elected to office and who has helped guide his whole career.
Yet, Villaraigosa has the brass to tell DA investigators he only speaks to Alaatorre “once a month” and could not “recall” any meetings
that dealt with “city issues.”
Isn’t it a crime to lie to investigators? Or do the laws only apply to ordinary people?
There is no possibility that the mayor and Alatorre never spoke about city issue or only talk once a month as he and Roos roam City Hall peddling their influence.
It’s not a mystery that Alatorre operated as a lobbyist without registering for years. He did it in broad daylight and everyone knew what he was doing was wrong but no one reported it.
I guess it’s not a conspiracy if you conspire openly and publicly.
What is a conspiracy — a conspiracy of consciousness at least — is how the business, civic and labor leaders of this city work in concert with each other to subvert the public interest without guilt and shame.
I know Roos and Alatorre and I can tell you this: It is a lot easier to have a frank and open no-holds barred conversation with them than it is with just about anyone else in positions of influence and power.