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Villaraigosa attends Laker games, other events free of charge. He says it's part of the job of promoting L.A.

May 29, 2010 | 10:11 am

It's been hard to miss Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa courtside during the Lakers playoffs.

But there is a back story to the mayor's cheering for the team.

Since taking office in 2005, Villaraigosa has sat next to movie mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg at three Lakers games at Staples Center. He has cheered alongside Tommy Lasorda and Dodgers owner Frank McCourt in the owner's box at Dodger Stadium. Rarely has he missed an awards show: the Academy Awards, the Grammys, the Emmys and the BET Awards — anywhere there was a red carpet in Los Angeles, odds were Villaraigosa was photographed standing on it.

It's no surprise that the mayor attends many of the city's premier sporting and cultural events. But Villaraigosa acknowledged this week that he goes to some of them free of charge. He said he considers those appearances to be part of his official duty to promote and represent Los Angeles.

Antonio Villaraigosa, Jeffrey KatzenbergState and city laws require politicians to report gifts they receive — and say who gave them — and limit the value of tickets they can accept to $420 from any one source in a year. Elected officials are exempt from those requirements, however, if they conduct official business or have a "ceremonial" role at an event.

Villaraigosa has taken a more expansive view of that exception than his predecessor: Former Mayor James K. Hahn publicly reported tickets he received to similar sporting events and award shows, including the Academy Awards, the Grammys, a Rose Bowl game, Dodgers and Angels games, a Lakers game and a UCLA- USC football game.

When Hahn went to the 2003 Oscars, he paid $400 out of his own pocket and declared only a portion of the total ticket value — $100 — as a gift, his financial disclosure reports show.

Similarly, a Villaraigosa contemporary, billionaire New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, pays his own way to entertainment and sporting events, including Yankees games, said spokesman Andrew Brent. The only exceptions are events in which the mayor is speaking or otherwise participating.

Read Phil Willon's full story here. He also discusses the issue in the video above.

Photo: The mayor and Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg at Lakers game. Credit: Associated Press