The Naked Truth: In Politics, You Get What You Pay For So Look at Who’s Paying

The truth hurts so get out your Vicodin or whatever you take to ease the pain and face the political reality of our time:

Thanks to 10 times as much in political contributions anti-ethanol interests, the U.S. Senate last week flip-flopped and voted to end subsidies that enriched corn farmers. The $85 million senators got from entertainment companies has helped the upper house move forward in making it a felony to stream copyrighted material online, maplight.com reports.
No fewer than 18 California state legislators are holding fund-raisers this week for next year’s campaigns even as Controller John Chiang cut off their $400-a-day paychecks for failing in their constitutional duty to adopt a balanced budget by June 15. 
You can be sure every one of them as well as all but a handful of their cohorts will be carrying sponsored legislation written by and benefiting the same special interests that are so generously contributing to their campaigns.
Yet, even with new legislative districts drawn by an independent citizens’ commission, they are all odds-on favorites to win their elections since voters consistently have proven themselves unable to connect the state’s dire money situation, failing schools, cuts in services and aging infrastructure to the performance in office by that smiling, glad-handing panderer they elect as their Assembly or Senate member.
Hard as it may be believe, the corruption is even worse at the local level in Los Angeles where everything is for sale.
A case in point is Tuesday’s approval of food and beverage contracts to three current vendors at LAX who have provided generous funding to our local elected leaders and the lobbyists who have proven themselves over the years to be smarter and far more capable than the officials who do their bidding.

“The vote by the
Los Angeles City Council concludes, for now, the effort to bring celebrity
chefs and a more local flavor in food to LAX, which has received poor marks in
consumer surveys. And it closes the book on a debate in which rival bidders
staged protests and public tastings to make their case,”
David Zahniser reported in the LA Times..

Just take the most prominent winning bidder, Host International — which for 50 years has been the provider of food and drink at LAX which is generally regarded as one of the worst airports in the world to be stuck in for hours.

Last year, Host lost out entirely to SSP America, a local firm that promised to bring man of the city’s greatest chefs to the airport but City Attorney Carmen Trutanich warned that Host might sue and win so the process was started all over again and the winners this time were that same old contractors, Host, Delaware North and Camacho.

SSP America got nothing this time around.

“The finest chefs the city
had to offer were awarded by LAX a contract, only to have it stripped away with
the weapon of powerful
… lobbying (and) backroom
deals,” said Rod White of Bertha’s Soul Food, one of the companies that were part of SSP America.

The lobbyist for Host for the last seven years at least has been John Ek, whose firm Ek & Ek has taken in nearly $100,000 a year from the airporti vendor as part of the more than $1 million a year in revenue it gets for representing firms doing business with the city, everyone from billboard and real estate companies to taxicab and parking lot operators, city ethics records show.

Remember when the boycott of Arizona over its crackdown on illegal immigrants was the most important moral imperative facing the City Council?

That’s what makes it so hard to understand why guys like Tony Cardenas — the future Congressman — and Richard Alarcon — the soon to be state legislator or state prisoner as the case may be — so passionately tried to protect Scottsdale-based American Traffic Solutions costly and useless contract for red-light cameras.

These are the cameras installed two to a Council district with little regard for traffic safety that capture signal-crashers who face fines of $480. The only problem with the program is that it doesn’t reduce accidents as much as extending yellow caution lights a second and the courts don’t recognize the citations as valid so only the uninformed pay the penalty.


Nonetheless, political veterans of local and state politics like Cardenas and Alarcon appreciate all the help they’ve gotten from Sage Advisors — a lobbying firm headed by Chris Modrzejewski that takes in an average of $750,000 from city business on behalf of such clients as AEG, IBEW Local 11 and 18, Thomas Properties and, of course, American Traffic Solutions.

The Police Commission voted unanimously to end the red light camera farce but after a couple of hours of debate Tuesday, the Council deadlocked 6-6 on overruling the commission with debate resuming today.

So here’s the truth you don’t want to hear: Democracy doesn’t exist when every level of government has been taken hostage by moneyed interests with selfish agendas.

You can whimper and whine. You can struggle and fight. You can believe the lip service or ignore what’s going on altogether. Nothing is going to change until we reach the point of calamity or there is a sudden mass awakening that gets us to put aside the petty ideological conflicts used to keep us weak and separated.

Sadly, I think calamity will happen first.
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Shameless: Council Members Dare to Question the Integrity of Others

Hell hath no fury like liars and deceivers questioning the integrity of honest people, as the City Council proved once again Tuesday.

They accused LAX officials of favoritism in awarding a $271 million contract for a new heating and air conditioning system, implied one of the nation’s largest and politically powerful contractors was blackmailed into dropping out of the bidding and accused the winning bidder of being a bunch of white racists.

They even got their daily laugh mocking Tom LaBonge for a rare moment when he actually made sense when they didn’t have a single fact to call into question the integrity of LAX officials or the bidding process.

After nearly two hours of an attempted public lynching of Airport Director Gina Marie Lindsey, only Alarcon, Cardenas, Perry and Reyes remained so oblivious to the facts that voted to nullify the contract.

Just before the 9-4 vote, Lindsey looked them in the eye and told them sharply in so many words to go to Hell where they belonged.

Still, the point was made to every bureaucrat in City Hall that they need to make sure that contracts go to the pals of the City Council like Tutor-Perini and its principal owner Ron Tutor or they too will face the humiliation of a public inquisition.

Tutor himself and his now famous lobbyist Veronica Becerra were absent as was the man she is dating, Dennis Zine, who was forced to recuse himself because of the obvious conflict of interest.

So if you wonder sometimes why so much of what City Hall does is poorly managed, wonder no more: Why would smart, capable managers stick around the moral sewer at City Hall if they could get another job.

Here’s coverage in the Daily News and the LA Times.

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The Betrayal of Los Angeles: Who’s To Blame?

Welcome back, Ted Stein — City Hall surely missed you these last six years.

Stein resigned in a self-righteous huff as Airport Commission president back in 2004 at the height of the pay-to-play scandals that plagued the Hahn Administration.

“I’m hoping that this is the end of this kind of
conduct,” Villaraigosa said when Stein quit. “But if it’s not, we need to
ferret it out wherever there’s any appearance of impropriety.”

Controller Laura Chick has raised questions about Stein’s role in awarding LAX contracts and helping raise political money from the same contractors — questions that were seized on in the press and by Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa as he laid the groundwork for his mayoral campaign accusing Jimmy Hahn of leading the most corruption administration in decades.

“The tactics employed by the controller — including publicly
implying that the (Airport) Commission may have engaged in wrongdoing


wrongdo
….. Click the link for more information. yet refusing to produce any evidence to support her claim – represent
the worst traits in government,” Stein said in his bitter letter of resignation.

“I have been subjected to an array of false, defamatory and
unsubstantiated accusations suggesting that I engaged in or orchestrated
a plan to force URS (an airport contractor) to make political
contributions in order to continue doing business at Los Angeles International Airport — what has been dubbed ‘pay to play.’ ”

Well, time heals all wounds and it should be clear to one and all that the standards of ethical conduct move with the times as the corruption rampant in the Villaraigosa Administration makes the Hahn era misdeeds seem like child’s play.

On Thursday, Villaraigosa named Stein to be one of the 26 members of his  “Blue Ribbon panel to conduct a comprehensive security review of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and recommend improvements.”(LAX-Panel.doc)

It is a distinguished panel of judges, federal prosecutors, experts in
terrorism and emergency operations — and Stein, a San Fernando Valley
developer who focused on projects in Council District 12 where his
long-time friend Hal Bernson and his Chief of Staff Greig Smith held
court.

Smith, who succeeded Bernson and is doing his best to pass the torch of
power to his own chief of staff, Mitch Englander, is himself a member of
the blue ribbon panel as chairman of the Council Public Safety
Committee and nominated Stein to be a member as Villaraigosa’s press
release pointedly makes clear.

It is a small, small world this world of City Hall insiders and players and Stein has been part of it for a long, long time.

He was president of the Planning Commission when Tom Bradley was mayor and over-development first surfaced as a major issue.

He was a key player in the administration of Mayor Richard Riordan, serving as a special adviser, then president of  the Airport Commission and later the Harbor Commission while his wife served on the highly-paid Public Works Commission.

There’s never been another city commissioner quite like Ted Stein.

Intense, one-pointed, domineering, he always was a lightning rod for criticism and controversy as he went far beyond oversight to virtually run departments,often running roughshod over general managers and their executive teams.

That’s what made him so valuable to mayors who actually wanted to get things done — and kept getting Stein in trouble.

When Riordan was thwarted by the FAA to raise landing fees for airlines at LAX, Stein 
“took the lead …  and he hired (Webster) Hubbell, who had just been fired by the
Clinton White House as the Whitewater scandal worsened, to try to get
$50 million in federal funds,” Rick Orlov wrote in the Daily News in reviewing Stein’s career  in 2004.

Hubbell was under investigation for
overcharging clients from his work at a law firm with Hillary
Rodham

  • Hillary Rodham Clinton, 2008 presidential candidate and current junior U.S.

….. Click the link for more information. Clinton and it led to a federal investigation and criminal charges. Stein, a potential target of the investigation, was subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury in Arkansas, but was not charged in that case or in the later pay-to-play scandal in the Hahn Administration.

It was during that time period that Stein cultivated a friendship with me as managing editor of the Daily News — a friendship that ended shortly after Hahn took office, named Stein again to head the Airport Commission and I published a story raising questions about the propriety of the appointment in light of Stein’s past controversial role in that post. .

From that moment on, Hahn ignored the Daily News, refusing to even come to editorial board meetings and treating the paper as an enemy — which, of course, made it easy to take a critical view of his actions since there was no relationship and so much to criticize.

I bring this all up in the name of full disclosure and because it provides a small window into the small world of City Hall politics — a world in which the inter-connected self-interest of insiders has so ill-served the public interest for so long and caused so much harm to the city.

Laura Chick made an important point in her one-sentence response to Stein’s attack when he resigned in 2004, saying: “This is not about one airport commissioner or about a blue-ribbon commission’s report, it is about leadership from the
top.”

That was true then, and it’s just as true today.

The problem with city government in Los Angeles was never people like Stein or the circle of lobbyists, contractors, developers, unions, political operatives and all the rest of those who feed at the trough of the city treasury.

The problem is the leadership at the top, the mayor and City Council members who take a sworn oath to serve the people but routinely betray that oath and the trust of the people.Enhanced by Zemanta