The man who would be president or at least the governor, Antonio Villaraigosa, knows how to curry favor with those who matter and how to bestow favors on those who can help him matter more.
He’s also a friend of just about everybody in LA politics and partners with Rick Taylor at Dakota Communications to peddle his influence at City Hall on behalf of such clients as Westfield malls, Brook Business Group, Central Parking, Delaware North Companies Travel Hospitality Services, Duty Free Americas, WesPac Energy Group bringing in $128,500 so far this year, according to city ethics reports.
As a member of Obama’s National Finance Committee and friend of the chairman of the Democratic National Convention, it’s only natural given the state of American politics these days that Maddox has a lot of favors due him for his devotion to duty, one of which came Tuesday when Villaraigosa appointed his wife to the city’s only paid civilian commission, the Board of Public Works.
“Capri Maddox has demonstrated her commitment to public service since 1992,” said Mayor Villaraigosa (MaddoxAppointment). “Her legal experience and her dedication to the residents ofLos Angeleswill be great assets to the Board of Public Works Commission.”
The press release notes she provides “legal advice to the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, the Neighborhood Commissioners, and the members of the Los Angeles City Council on Neighborhood Council related issues” and A graduate ofFairfaxHigh School, Maddox is a native ofLos Angeleswhere she lives with her husband and five-year old son.
I emailed the mayor’s press secretary Vicki Curry with “two simple questions about the press release on Capri Maddox…is she leaving the City Attorney’s office, taking leave or what? Given her husband’s role as a lobbyist and major fund-raiser for the President, shouldn’t that have been included…”
“Capri intends to serve as a Public Works commissioner and will take the necessary steps to fulfill that role,” she answered without answering the questions.
Let’s give Capri Maddox the benefit of all doubt: In the name of public service she presumably is taking leave from her full-time job and giving up as much as $50,000 to take a $125,000 part-time job — a job that has been used repeatedly for decades as a payoff to wives, husbands, daughters, sons and other relatives of the politically-connected, people who will not ask too many tough questions about crooked contracting practices or outrageous cost over-runs.
It’s harder to ignore the failure to identify Kerman Maddox as her husband since she never would have gotten this cushy gig that will let her spend a lot more time with her 5-year-old if her husband wasn’t a key player in local and presidential politics.
Back in April, the New York Times reviewed campaign donations and White House visitor logs and found that “special interests have had little trouble making themselves heard,” often bringing lobbyists with them on their visits.
“The review showed that those who donated the most to Mr. Obama and the Democratic Party since he started running for president were far more likely to visit the White House than others. Among donors who gave $30,000 or less, about 20 percent visited the White House, according to a New York Times analysis that matched names in the visitor logs with donor records. But among those who donated $100,000 or more, the figure rises to about 75 percent. Approximately two-thirds of the president’s top fund-raisers in the 2008 campaign visited the White House at least once, some of them numerous times.
“The reasons someone might have gained access to the White House and made a donation are wide-ranging, and it is clear that in some cases the administration came down against the policies being sought by the visitors. But the regular appearance of big donors inside the White House underscores how political contributions continue to lubricate many of the interactions between officials and their guests, if for no other reason than that donors view the money as useful for getting a foot in the door.”
Among those lobbyists that the NYT focused on was Kerman Maddox who was hired a year earlier by the MTA, at the urging you can be sure of Villaraigosa and his allies, to “speed up local transit projects” — the mayor’s only partially successful 30-10 effort to use federal money and loans in support of borrowing against 30 years of Measure R sales tax revenue to spend in a single decade.
“We thought he could help our outreach in Washington,” Art Leahy, CEO of the MTA was quoted as saying.
In an internal memo justifying Mr. Maddox’s hiring, the authority wrote that he had “direct access to the Executive Oval Office” and cited his position on the Obama campaign’s National Finance Committee. Mr. Maddox’s company Web site prominently features photographs of him with the Obamas.
One day after the authority signed off on his contract, Mr. Maddox made a $10,000 donation to the Obama re-election effort; he donated an additional $6,000 in June. In August, Mr. Maddox landed a meeting for himself and the authority officials with Melody Barnes, then director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, one of several meetings the officials were able to get.
The administration had previously been supportive of Los Angeles County’s efforts to accelerate its transit projects, but the following month, Mr. Obama also announced, as part of his jobs package, a proposal to significantly expand a Transportation Department loan program. The plan, which has drawn bipartisan support, is something Mr. Maddox’s clients had sought. Mr. Maddox, soon donated an additional $11,250 to the victory fund. He said in an e-mail that his donations were tied to fund-raising events and had nothing to do with visiting the White House.
This is just small snapshot of how things work today in Los Angeles, California and America.
It’s not about the public benefit or building a public transit system or fixing what is broken. It’s all about money and power and privilege for the few at the expense of the many at a level that this country has never seen before.