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Villaraigosa raises $123,500 to pay costs in free-ticket scandal

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa testifies in Washington
Faced with nearly $42,000 in fines because he accepted free tickets to concerts and other events, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has turned to his friends from Sacramento for financial help.

According to fund-raising reports submitted this week, Villaraigosa raised $123,500 for his three legal defense funds -- money he then used to pay fines and attorney fees.

One fund is devoted to the Ethics Commission's ticket probe, a second deals with a district attorney's inquiry and a third addresses the bills racked up from an investigation by the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

Villaraigosa was hit with state and local fines as a result of his failure to report the tickets he received for concerts, cultural activities and sporting events.

Villaraigosa had repeatedly insisted his acceptance of the tickets did not violate the law because he was performing ceremonial duties at the time.

Because he has three separate funds, Villaraigosa can collect more than the $1,000 typically allowed under city fund-raising rules.

As a result, former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez provided $3,000 to the mayor's legal defense funds -- using money from a committee devoted to a 2014 bid for state treasurer.

Assemblyman Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), a former Villaraigosa planning commissioner who has worked for Nunez, also provided $3,000.

So did state Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles), who donated $3,000 by tapping a fund-raising committee devoted to an Assembly campaign that won't occur until 2018.

Even one Republican got into the act. Former state Sen. Jim Brulte, who used to represent a portion of the Inland Empire, contributed $1,000 to each of Villaraigosa’s three legal defense funds.

That money came from a campaign fund devoted to a run for the Board of Equalization in 2014.

“I contributed because Antonio is my friend and he asked for my help,” said Brulte, now a principal with the firm California Strategies, in an email.

Brulte served in the Assembly with Villaraigosa and said he does not have any City Hall clients.

Villaraigosa was fined for his attendance at 34 events, including Dodgers and Lakers games, and an assortment of concerts, including the one by the Spice Girls.

Some of those events were held at venues owned by Anschutz Entertainment Group, which is seeking the city's help with building a $1.2-billion NFL stadium and a nearby convention center wing.

Others with Sacramento ties who helped out with the defense funds were former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, who stepped up with $3,000; former Assemblyman Dario Frommer, who also gave $3,000; and Villaraigosa transit advisor Richard Katz, a former state lawmaker who contributed $2,000.

Katz’s wife, former Villaraigosa Planning Commissioner Wendy Mitchell, also gave $2,000 to the legal defense funds.

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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa testifies at a transportation hearing in Washington on July 21. Credit: Joshua Roberts / Bloomberg.

 
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