One of the most amazing
things about the depths of corruption of our politicians is how cheaply they
sell out the public interest.
Take the case of anti-gay,
anti-immigrant, anti-tax Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz – the wildcatting oil
and gas man, media entrepreneur and sports/entertainment mogul.
He has showered $1 million
so far this year on lobbyists to buy “access” at LA City Hall and in Sacramento
to get special favors for his plan to build a $1.2 billion NFL stadium downtown
on city land leased at below market value while getting to keep all of the
multiple revenue streams not committed directly to pay off city borrowing.
Now he wants exemption
from CEQA, the state’s environmental law blamed by some for stifling business
activity in California, beloved by others for protecting us from disaster.
The exemption is being
sought even before AEG has delivered anything to city planners except a letter
in March saying they were preparing an EIR.
“City officials filed the
AEG letter and began waiting for the documents and data required for a report
that could exceed 10,000 pages,” the Orange County Register reported
today. More than five months later, planning department officials
are still waiting.
“We’re waiting for anything,” said Hadar Plafkin, the Los Angeles Planning
Department’s environmental review coordinator.
This is no small
AEG wants to be legally
freed of anyone suing over the damage the stadium would cause to the quality of
life in Los Angeles no matter how inadequate or deceitful the study of traffic
congestion, visual blight or other issues the EIR is.
Without the right to sue,
nothing stands in AEG’s way since Anschutz’s super-salesman Tim Leiweke long
ago bought the docile obedience of the mayor and City Council with millions of
dollars in contributions to various funds they control and generous freebies to
events at Staples Center.
This year alone, Leiweke
has spent $1 million enriching lobbyists to buy “access” to elected officials
in Sacramento and City Hall as well as hundreds of thousands more for lawyers
and public relations experts engaged in the process of manipulating the public
debate and the politicians.
AEG and its affiliates and
representative have been contributing heavily to state legislators as well with
a recent tabulation at Maplight.com finding nearly $100,000 was
given to 30 current Assembly and Senate members.
The No. 1 recipient with
$10,500 in Anschutz money from 2003 to 2009 was Moorpark Republican Tony
Strickland. His wife Audra was fifth on the list with $7,300. They are among
the few Republicans on the list, showing this isn’t about supporting Anschutz’s
ideological nonsense; it’s about adding to his vast fortune.
Also among the top
recipients of Anschutz money are Assembly Speaker John Perez ($3,600); Senate
Leader Darrell Steinberg ($8,100); Kevin DeLeon, chair of the Senate
Select Committee on Sports and Entertainment that held a hearing Friday on the
CEQA exemption ($5,300) and committee members Alex Padilla ($10,100), Gil
Cedillo ($8,100), and, of course, Tony Strickland.
Strickland makes no bones
about where he stands, saying last February as AEG lobbyists and pitchmen
roamed the Capitol: “I told them they can
call on me. I’m going to do whatever I can.”
At the hearing
last Friday, he was so effusive he talked about how the stadium deal will
create 20,000 to 30,000 new jobs He even sent out an email blast afterwards
linking to an article on the hearing and adding this comment: “It’s a no-brainer … We’re in a crisis
situation when it comes to jobs.”
Strickland took the same position more than two years ago when he backed an effort to exempt the Club Nokia nightclub
at AEG’s LA Live from a state law that prohibits onsite advertising of alcohol
brands being sold at the club.
time when we have the highest unemployment since the Great Depression, this
bill will help bring more jobs, more people back to work in the city of Los
Angeles,” Strickland said in support of the bill by John Perez.
jobs – it’s all about jobs these days in the political lexicon because they
know we’re worried about losing ours and actually care about those who already
are out of work.
But how real
are the jobs AEG is generating?
they said in April LA Live has done for people looking for work: 2,436 “living
wage” jobs, 1,077 “tipped” employees and 183 non-living wage jobs for a total
The 6,500 new
jobs claimed for the Farmers Field project are much the same — a point made Friday at the Senate hearing by the state Legislative Analyst Office which pointed out that the revenue generated by the football stadium will simply take money away from other entertainment venues, restaurants and bars with very little new money or real jobs.
tips and the living wage or less serving beer and sweeping floors do not solve
the real crisis in LA, the crisis of soaring poverty rates and the lack of
opportunity for hard-working people to have better lives.
Leiweke has orchestrated a
textbook campaign in political and media manipulation over the last year
complete with ultimatums that brought the entire City Council to its knees and now has the California Legislature under a Sept. 9 deadline to
give him what he wants – or else.
He dismisses as “crazies”
those who question why it’s a good to have a stadium adding to downtown’s
congestion and 46 digital billboards flashing off the stadium and the rebuilt
Convention Center that he will soon be running for his profit while the public
pays of $750 million on it.
He refuses to even talk to
the city-county-state Coliseum Commission about locating his football team
there until his stadium gets built in 2016, preferring to do business with the
University of Southern California – an institution that gets whatever it wants
from City Hall and is about to launch a $5 billion fund-raising drive that
Anschutz surely will be called on for help.
This isn’t about jobs, jobs, jobs. It’s about enriching a Denver billionaire and his pals.
The issue that matters is whether this stadium is good for LA, its people and its neighborhoods — and that takes a thorough and complete EIR and the chance for people to challenge it in court when the City Council rubber-stamps it without even asking a single hard question or getting a single honest answer.