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Campaigns tied to city unions spend $2.2 million on Greuel

Outside campaign committees affiliated with two powerful city employee unions have spent more than $2.2 million on their bid to make Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel the city’s next mayor, according to Ethics Commission records posted Saturday.

Working Californians, which is heavily backed by the Department of Water and Power union, reported in new filings that it has spent another $770,000 on Greuel, much of it for campaign commercials. That takes the group's total to $1.65 million -- money that has also gone toward billboards, pollsters and campaign consultants working on Greuel's behalf.

Two committees handled by the Police Protective League, which represents rank-and-file officers, also have spent $578,562 on TV and radio ads backing Greuel’s bid.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa steps down June 30. His replacement, and the leadership of the City Council, will be charged with negotiating new contracts with the DWP and police unions. Some officers have been frustrated by a policy that requires them to take time off instead of receiving much of their overtime. Meanwhile, the top official at the DWP’s employee union has said he expects to see raises in the new contract.

Greuel and Councilman Eric Garcetti, one of her opponents, have each raised more than $4 million under the system that limits contributors to no more than $1,300 per candidate. But unions and other special interests can spend unlimited sums as long as they do not coordinate their efforts with the candidate.

The unlimited outside spending for Greuel by Working Californians and the LAPD union is now larger than the combined donations collected by three other candidates: Councilwoman Jan Perry, former prosecutor Kevin James and former tech executive Emanuel Pleitez.

James has also been benefiting from unlimited outside spending by Better Way LA, a committee that has created television ads on his behalf. It has spent nearly $488,000 so far, according to Ethics Commission records.

Working Californians has been collecting money from entertainment industry executives and other individuals. But the greatest share of its funds comes from International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, the DWP employee union whose top official is the campaign treasurer for Working Californians, according to city records.

Perry, James and Garcetti criticized the DWP union money last week, saying it shows Greuel is too closely tied to the group. Greuel has responded by saying she has a broad coalition that also includes small-business owners and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

IBEW Local 18 was a big supporter of Greuel's 2009 campaign for city controller. Since then, she has kept in frequent contact with the union.

A Times review of the controller's calendars from September 2009 through June 2012 found that Greuel scheduled nine meetings with Brian D'Arcy, president of Local 18, and set up 20 dinners, social events or meetings with lobbyists for his union. However, some of those meetings were unrelated to the DWP.

Greuel also scheduled two appointments with Don Attore, co-founder of Working Californians, during that period.

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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

twitter.com/davidzahniser

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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