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My Sunday Column: Money, power, public policy — The MTA, Infludence Peddlers and Ads on Buses and Trains

It was like stumbling into a convention of the Society of Influence Peddlers, with old friends and enemies schmoozing before the start of festivities.

There were Hall of Fame lobbyists like Richard Alatorre and Mike Roos, and future Hall-of-Famers like Lucinda “Cindy” Starrett of Latham & Watkins, and Tim McOsker of Mayer Brown, along with dozens — at least three dozen — other operatives in the $200 to $500-per-hour class of lawyers, lobbyists, public relations experts, media manipulators and assorted other consultants, all backed up by a host of corporate executives, union workers and grateful non-profit supporters.

The event was a showdown meeting Thursday of the Executive Management Committee of the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority over who gets the five-year contract to sell advertising on buses and trains — CBS Outdoor, a division of the giant entertainment company, which has offered a $110-million guarantee, or Titan Outdoor, the titan of transit advertising, which has offered $117 million.

For most people in the room, it was a question of who gets the big bucks. For me, it was a window into how power and money work at a time when those who have played this game for a long time now pine for the days when there was honor among thieves and at least a few leaders were tough enough to make sure that even the peasants like you and me got more than a crumb from the table of power.

What three months ago had appeared to be a routine renewal of a contract held by CBS Outdoor for nearly 30 years has turned into a kill-or-be-killed war, a war so intense that CBS Corp. President and CEO Les Moonves, a $69-million-a-year entertainment industry giant, has gotten personally involved in the public fight.

He accused Titan of a “spotty” financial record, having lost a New York transit contract and renegotiated others in San Francisco down from the guaranteed payment number because its ad revenue fell short.

“To choose that company over ours just seems preposterous; we have financial strength behind our company,” he told the L.A. Times recently, adding menacingly that it would be “wrong” to award the contract to Titan unless “they want to urge a company like us to leave and to do production out of state.”

In their analysis supporting CBS, MTA executives warned that the “greatest risk factor” in the contract is the “possibility of the selected vendor becoming unable to pay Metro its guaranteed revenue.”


This entry was posted in 2012 Election, City Hall, Glendale-Burbank, Hot Topics, Los Angeles, Transportation and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to My Sunday Column: Money, power, public policy — The MTA, Infludence Peddlers and Ads on Buses and Trains

  1. Oh, Gee, I'm shocked, Just shocked -- Not says:

    The greatest risk is that the vendor doesn’t make it illegal payoffs

  2. MissAnthrope says:

    “…although Knabe’s son, Matt, is a principal with the lobbying firm Englander Knabe, which is part of Titan’s team. That is probably not a conflict, but under the tough rules imposed by the Legislature on the MTA after the scandals back in the 1990s…”

    It sure sounds like a conflict of interest or part of the incestuous ways L.A. politics.

    BTW, Englander Kanabe, any relationship to Councilman Englander???

  3. Wayne from the most corrupt city since humans invented the wheel says:

    MITCHELL ENGLANDER, the first DWARF elected to public office in L.A. County history,has a Daddy (at least on the birth records) that is a rich fat LOBBYIST guy. Supervisor Knabe’s pack of rats in his rat family are involved in businesses in and out of L.A County. Thus, does having a Lobbying group made up of an L.A. County Sup and an L.A City Clownmember’s family a conflict of interest? SURE AS HELL SOUNDS LIKE IT, OR THE APPEARANCE OF IT.
    CBS is 7 million under thre highest bidder Titan. So what the hell is the problem? Or is Titan like the guys at 1601 N. Vine St project? Hmmmmm???????
    Here’s a great story. Seems in Nevada, a guy leading for the Congress, Republican Tarkanian (related to the famous UNLV coach) is GOING TO POSSIBLY FILE FOR BANKRUPTCY! How about that? We may have the first ELECTED BANKRUPT CONGRESSMAN OR SENATOR IN HISTORY?
    I went to an open house today and the pool filter had bubbles comming out of the return line. The Realtor claims he DIDN’T KNOW WHAT THAT MEANT? Imagine a guy who sells houses for a living doesn’t know that means AIR IN THE FILTER LINE!
    Yep, another day, ANOTHER SCHMUCK!

  4. JOHN WALSH says:

    MTA Board member and L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe says he’s waiting for a conflict of interest opinion from MTA’s Inspector General?
    The MTA has no IG. The post has been unfilled for the past three years since the abrupt resignation of the previous IG over a dispute he had with MTA Board member Villaraigosa.
    The MTA Head of Ethics has been “temporarily “filling in as an unpaid Acting IG for years in clear violation of California state law.

    President Les Moonves’ lawyers at CBS should be very interested in this odd situation.
    Moonves ought to call L.A. Times Publisher Hartenstein and twist his arm to get Eddy
    to assign a reporter to do a long-overdue story about the empty Inspector General post.

    I have been asking the L.A. Times Transportation reporter Ari “Deadwood” Bloomekatz to investigate for years. To no avail.

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