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2 key aides leave Beutner's campaign for L.A. mayor

January 27, 2012 |  7:51 pm

Austin Beutner
Two high-level political consultants have left the campaign of Los Angeles mayoral candidate Austin Beutner just days after he gave a major policy speech attacking City Hall.

Sean Clegg said he and Ace Smith, both from San Francisco-based SCN Strategies, resigned Friday over “strategic differences.” Beutner said the parting was mutual.

Beutner spent 15 months as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s “jobs czar,” ran the Department of Water and Power on an interim basis and tried to make the city more business-friendly. 

On the campaign trail, however, he has grown increasingly harsh in his assessment of city government, from the effectiveness of the City Council to the ongoing budget crisis.

Three months ago, he criticized the decision by Villaraigosa and the council to postpone payment of tens of millions of dollars of police overtime to future years.

Beutner called that practice fraud and compared it to  the actions of one-time energy giant Enron, a symbol of corporate malfeasance, in remarks to the Urban Land Institute at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Those remarks were complicated, since Clegg and Smith have advised Villaraigosa -– the mayor since 2005 -– on policy decisions and election campaigns. But Clegg, who has also advised U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and state Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris, insisted there was no connection between his firm’s departure and Beutner’s disparagement of city leaders.

“The critique of City Hall was a very strategically sound approach, and we supported it,” said Clegg, a former deputy mayor under Villaraigosa. “We thought it was key to his strategy.”

Asked why Clegg and Smith are leaving, Beutner hinted at discord among his team of political consultants.  “You ever try to put three people on a two-seat bicycle? There’s only one set of handlebars,” he said.

Beutner said he wished SCN Strategies well, adding that he is keeping a consulting firm that includes Anita Dunn, a former top advisor to President Obama, and Bill Knapp, an advisor to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“We’re moving forward,” he said. “We’re happy with Bill and Anita, who I think are among the best in the business.”


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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Los Angeles mayoral candidate Austin Beutner.

Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times