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Unions, entertainment interests expected to back ads for Greuel

Entertainment industry executives and labor unions — including one representing city utility workers — are joining forces to mount an independent TV ad campaign to promote the Los Angeles mayoral candidacy of City Controller Wendy Greuel, a top advisor to the group said Monday.

ElectionThe group, Working Californians, has hired two of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s former campaign consultants, Ace Smith and Sean Clegg, to run the campaign, according to Clegg, a former deputy mayor.

If the group succeeds in raising a substantial sum of money, it could play a significant role in the fiercely competitive March 5 mayoral primary. Greuel’s leading rivals are City Council members Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry, as well as Kevin James, an entertainment lawyer and former talk-radio personality.

Greuel, a former government relations executive at the DreamWorks movie studio, has drawn strong financial support from the entertainment industry. Company co-founders Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg and David Geffen are three of the Democratic Party’s top donors and fundraisers in Hollywood.

Donations to mayoral candidates are capped at $1,300. But independent committees are not subject to those limits, so Working Californians could raise money far more quickly than Greuel’s campaign.

Greuel has raised $3.5 million, just shy of the $3.6 million collected by Garcetti. Even with matching funds provided by the city, that money will not be enough to buy more than a few weeks of saturation TV advertising in the city’s vast and expensive media market.

Clegg said the group’s labor supporters include the powerful International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, which represents more than 8,600 employees at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. IBEW Local 18 is often a major player in city elections. “We’re looking at a significant campaign,” Clegg said. Brian D’Arcy, business manager of IBEW Local 18, did not return calls for comment.

A statement by Working Californians said the group had hired Clegg and Smith to run a campaign to elect officials “with the leadership, strength and courage to rebuild LA’s struggling economy.” It will support Greuel for mayor, City Councilman Dennis Zine for controller and four candidates for City Council.
D’Arcy and his union-affiliated groups have come to the aid of Greuel and other city candidates in other recent elections.

The IBEW Local 18 Water and Power Defense League became a major player in Greuel’s 2009 race for controller, spending $112,490 on mailings on her behalf, according to city ethics filings. The political action committee of another union closely allied with D’Arcy, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 11, put nearly $25,000 into the race.

In 2008, Working Californians, with D’Arcy as its co-chairman, pushed a ballot measure backed by Villaraigosa that would have installed 100,000 rooftop solar panels on buildings across the city. Critics said it would drive power rates up, but Greuel was among those who argued for it. Voters rejected the measure.

SCN Strategies, the consulting firm of Clegg and Smith, played a leading role in electing Villaraigosa, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee and Gov. Jerry Brown.

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-- Michael Finnegan and Maeve Reston

 
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