Villariagosa, other politicians must disclose free tickets
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other officials will have to disclose on the Internet their receipt of free tickets to concerts and sporting events that they attend as part of their ceremonial duties.
The state Fair Political Practices Commission approved the new disclosure rule amid public outcry over reports that Villaraigosa had not reported dozens of gift tickets to concerts, awards shows and ballgames. The mayor has argued that he did not believe it necessary to report the tickets under state law because he attended the events as part of his official duties.
The new disclosure requirement is meant to shed light on who might be trying to gain the favor of an elected official by giving them tickets to the Academy Awards, a Dodgers game or a Lady Gaga concert. The regulation provides "additional information to the public as to potential sources of undue influence on elected officials," said Roman Porter, executive director of the ethics agency.
It will also help the public determine to what extent politicians are taking advantage of their positions to enjoy perks not affordable or accessible to the average voter, according to Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, a Los Angeles group that advocates openness in government.
The argument that an official is there to hand out a proclamation or represent City Hall, Stern said, "oftentimes is an excuse for the official to go to an event all of us would like to attend."
He said businesses and individuals often give tickets to officials as part of an effort to gain access to them.
In the last five years, the mayor has accepted tickets to entertainment and sports events from firms seeking favorable decisions from City Hall, including the Los Angeles Dodgers and Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns Staples Center and L.A. Live. The FPPC said in June that it was investigating whether Villaraigosa was acting in his ceremonial role when he accepted the thousands of dollars worth of tickets.
-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento