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New independent fundraising group backing Garcetti

February 14, 2013 |  4:04 pm

 Los Angeles mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti answers a question during a debate at Loyola Marymount University on Feb. 5. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

This post has been corrected. See below for details.

Supporters of Los Angeles mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti are launching an independent campaign to raise and spend money on his behalf in an effort to even the playing field with his chief rival, Wendy Greuel.

The campaign’s organizers are Mary Jane Stevenson, who was the California director of President Obama’s reelection campaign, and Rick Jacobs, a Democratic fundraiser and founder of the liberal Courage Campaign.

They hope it will serve as Garcetti’s counterweight to independent spending by public employee unions, Hollywood moguls and other supporters of Greuel, the city controller.

FULL COVERAGE: L.A.'s race for mayor

“We are not going to sit idly by and watch a small group of institutions and billionaires put up all the money for an election,” Jacobs said.

Independent groups, led by unions for police officers and employees of the city Department of Water and Power, have reported raising more than $1 million to spend for Greuel. Their billboards and TV commercials have given Greuel an advertising edge over Garcetti, a city councilman who, until now, has not had the benefit of any independent spending.

Donations to mayoral candidates are capped at $1,300, making it hard for campaigns to raise enough for the TV advertising they need to communicate effectively with the city’s 1.8 million voters. But contributions to independent committees are unlimited, giving major donors outsized influence over Los Angeles elections. Legally, the independent groups cannot cooridnate their activities with candidates or their campaigns. 

The Los Angeles Police Protective League has reported spending $305,000 on TV advertising for Greuel.

The DWP union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, has put $250,000 into another group, Working Californians to Elect Wendy Greuel for Mayor 2013. Dreamworks movie studio co-founders David Geffen, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg have donated $50,000 each to that committee. Greuel oversaw government relations and political fundraising for the DreamWorks trio before her election to the City Council in 2002.

[For the record, 8:05 p.m.: A previous version of this post incorrectly named the DWP union as the  International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 18.]

With the March 5 mayoral primary less than three weeks away, the new Garcetti group is getting a late start. If it succeeds in raising a substantial sum of money, it could prove most helpful to Garcetti in the May 21 runoff, should he finish first or second in the primary.

“We’re going to fight fire with fire,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson brings operational heft to the group. As state director of Obama’s reelection campaign, she oversaw a sprawling operation of California volunteers who were deployed in presidential battleground states. She will try to build a quick and efficient field operation to maximize turnout of Garcetti supporters.

Jacobs brings one of the city’s most prized Democratic fundraising Rolodexes to the effort, as well as expertise in grass-roots organizing from his work building Courage Campaign into a major force for liberal causes in California. Jacobs said the committee would raise money at least in the “mid-six figures” from a broad base of donors for both field work and advertising.

--Michael Finnegan


Twitter: @finneganlatimes

Photo: Los Angeles mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti answers a question during a debate at Loyola Marymount University on Feb. 5. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times