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Lakers Better Win for Villaragosa Under Ethics Investigation

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by underthesea

underthesea's picture
In The News

Mayor Villaragosa's current jig seems to be up, though he might be able to finish out the Angeles Lakers NBA Finals season before the Ethics Committee is able to complete its investigation. C'mon, Lakers--better get on the ball and knock it out that championship in only two more games. The Mayor doesn't have much time before his current "freebies" are yanked, and he deserves to be front-and-center at those prime NBA games. Villaragosa is, after all, just doing his job, according to him.
The Los Angeles Lakers game tickets scandal marks Villaragosa's 32nd investigation by the Ethics Committee--it seems the mayor's reputation really does precede him, but then there's a lot of other cliches that could also be fitting.
Mayor Antonio Villaragosa has been scoring some seriously valuable Los Angeles Lakers NBA playoff tickets without disclosing the source of the gifts. Some of those game tickets range in the thousands, up to $3,000 per ticket-and the mayor's been enjoying those prime Lakers seats. Fox revealed that the giver of the Los Angeles Lakers tickets is indeed Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), owner of Staples Center and LA Live and a major lobbyist for city favors.
Nooo...that's impossible. That type of connection migiht insinuate that the Los Angeles mayor could be trading favors with a lobbyist, in exchange for some impossible-to-obtain, prime seats that are worth thousands apiece.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's really been appreciating those free tickets to Lakers games, Dodgers games, concerts and other events. One might even say he looks like he's enjoying himself-though Mayor Villaraigosa will tell the public otherwise: the mayor calls it "work", but then there's that weird conflict of him not claiming the amount of the tickets through the city.
So after Fox News has tailed the Mayor, repeatedly asking questions as to the source of those tickets and ethical nature of Villaraigosa's receipt of the seats as gifts, Mayor Villaraigosa is now going under formal investigation by the Ethics Committee. The Mayor? He says he "welcomes the investigation"--yeah, and pigs can fly.
Now the Ethics Committee is particularly interested, with a formal investigation begun into Villaragosa's most current "gifting" structure he seems to have in place. Those gifts, Villaraigosa claims, are entirely legitimate. So legitimate, it seems, that Villaragosa has a bit of a difficult time releasing names of where those expensive Lakers tickets, he's been receiving for free, are coming from. When Fox News asked, Villaragosa's response is "I couldn't tell you [where the Lakers game tickets came from]'ll have to get that [information], at some point, through the Ethics Committee." A display of transparency the Mayor is not. Well, he's just not transparent with certain things--some might argue the mayor has all kinds of things that are nothing but glaringly transparent.
The Ethics Committee wants is now demanding records from Mayor Villaragosa-in fact the committee would appreciate lots of records, all records and even emails pertaining to receipt of those prior 81 sports and events tickets--and then there are those most recent NBA Finals Games in Los Angeles, that aren't yet included in that 81 tally. Looks like Mayor Villaragosa's going to have a bit of 'splaining to do.
This isn't Villaraigosa's first round with "ethics" in the role of Los Angeles mayor. While the mayor's ethics have been questioned by many LA residents, they've also formally been questioned--31 times, in fact. Villaraigosa's first act as Los Angeles mayor was an ironic one: to require all of Villaraigosa's first act as mayor was to require all city commissioners, his entire staff, and all city employees to sign an ethics pledge.
By May 2, 2007, the Los Angeles Times newspaper had reported that Mayor Villaraigosa was already under investigation for ethics violations in less than two years into the term--investigation into lots of ethics violations pertaining to the grinning mayor. "The executive director of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission accused Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of 31 violations of campaign finance and disclosure laws stemming from his 2003 campaign for the City Council.
That's right: Villaragosa campaigned for Los Angeles Mayor on a promise of restoring trust and confidence in City Hall.
Fox has been investigating Mayor Villaraigosa's "gifts": the Los Angeles Mayor has received 13 LA Lakers game tickets so far, for this NBA basketball season alone. Then there's been that separate allotment of a dozen Dodgers tickets received over a five-year period, including tickets to four opening-day Dodgers baseball games.
At least some of the NBA Lakers game tickets have come from AEG, a company known for high-powered lobbyists working LA City Hall-receiving beneficial terms from Los Angeles city, including land and loans for Staples Center and LA Live. Villaraigosa's Los Angeles Lakers basketball prime seats are said to be worth $2,000 to $3,000. AEG states it didn't give Villaraigosa any $2,000-$3,000 floor seats, which could have come from other sources, however AEG doesn't dispute the fact that the Los Angeles city Mayor did receive some Lakers tickets from the company.
Mayor Antonio Villaragosa has made public claims, including those to Fox News, that his attendance and gift tickets for the Lakers' basketball games is in an official city capacity. In fact Villaragosa has specifically cited that supposed city capacity as the need to recognize an athlete with an official city certificate--stating he doesn't have to disclose the value and source of the Lakers tickets as would be required for other gifts.
"This is a major loophole," Robert M. Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies told Fox News. "It's important for the public to know where these gifts are coming from ... It's the people who want something from the [Los Angeles] city who are providing them [city officials such as Villaragosa] gifts." Stern stated the Los Angeles mayor should stop accepting the Lakers game tickets.
In 2005, when running for office, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa repeatedly told voters that he would "restore trust and confidence" in City Hall. Voters might have expected a mayor who set the highest standards of ethical conduct and transparency based on Villaraigosa's campaign premise. The new mayor followed what Villaraigosa liked to call "the most investigated administration since Frank Shaw."
Fox News and The Times have featured the mayor, all-inclusive of his arrogance, claiming that his role as chief executive and promoter of Los Angeles entitles Villaraigosa to accept tens of thousands of dollars' worth of free tickets to concerts and sports events alike.
Villaraigosa can't have it both ways, but like many politicians, he'd obviously like to: the Mayor seems to want the best of both personal and business worlds.

var adSkipCounter = 0; // If Villaraigosa attended the sports events on personal time, it'd mean he should have paid his own way. If Villaraigosa accepted the Lakers, sports and concert tickets as gifts, the mayor should have reported the Lakers and Dogers game tickets, observing the annual $420-per-donor limit. If Mayor Villaraigosa is truly representing Los Angeles city at these sports events, like he insists, in there should be a demonstration that a majority of the mayor's time was devoted to official business--instead of his rubbing elbows that appears to be occurring.

Villaraigosa's arrogance and sense of entitlement are certainly not attributes making the Mayor popular with Los Angeles residents.
Villaraigosa claims he doesn't legally need to report his freebies as gifts, pursuant to city law, because his courtside presence at a Lakers game is "working".
Whil the Los Angeles Mayor claims he's observed all city laws, the ethics committee might disagree with that claim on about the same scale as Los Angeles residents.
Villaraigosa's been highly criticized because of the frequency in which he holds press conferences, attends photo-ops, and spends time and money traveling out of town--including campaigning for Hillary Clinton. A September 11, 2008, LA Weekly article presented an analysis of a 10-week period from May 21 to August 1:
The Villaraigosa results: "On direct city business—such as signing legislation and meeting with city-department heads—his [Villaraigosa's] schedule shows the [Los Angeles] mayor spent 11 percent of his time...Yet [of] the 11 percent of Villaraigosa's time that the Weekly has identified as being spent in L.A. on actual city work—running, fixing or shaping government policies and actions—reveals that he [Villaraigosa] frequently spends that limited time [instead] huddling with special-interest groups who have helped him [Villaraigosa] attain higher [political] office

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