City Gets C Grade In Curbing Power Of Big Corporations

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Los Angeles Daily News

By James Nash
Staff Writer

Tuesday, December 23, 2003 – Corporations in Los Angeles have too much power to promote their brands on public facilities, pollute the environment and control what people see and hear in the media, according to a report card released Tuesday by a group critical of corporate excesses.

The Los Angeles-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights gave Los Angeles a C grade in reining in the power of large corporations, placing it behind San Francisco (A-), Portland (B) and Seattle (C+), and ahead of Philadelphia (C-) and New York (D). Boston also got a C.

The left-of-center group noted that 15 Los Angeles radio stations are owned by media giants Clear Channel and Infinity and that major facilities such as Staples Center and the Walt Disney Concert Hall bear corporate names. In addition, the city of Los Angeles has no municipal laws protecting consumer privacy or protecting whistle-blowers from retaliation, the report says.

“If your kid came home with a C, you’d want him to do better,” said Jamie Court, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. “Los Angeles just hasn’t put up enough walls to stop corporate greed, to increase corporate accountability.”

But business groups say the city, region and state already are seen as hostile to corporations. They note that heavy regulations and high taxes have discouraged businesses from moving to Los Angeles and contributed to an exodus of large corporations. Only four Fortune 500 companies are based in Los Angeles.

“That’s what’s ironic about this report: Corporations have left Los Angeles over the years,” said Brendan Huffman, public policy manager for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

“I guess this is one way of looking at it, but from a business perspective, Los Angeles is a great place to do business; but when you look at the business taxes and regulations we have here in Los Angeles, it’s not competitive with neighboring cities or other major cities across the country.”

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights’ report gives Los Angeles B grades in empowering people to counter corporate control and in limiting the influence of money in the political process.

The group notes that the city of Los Angeles gave voters in the San Fernando Valley, Hollywood and the Harbor area the right to secede from the rest of Los Angeles, although efforts to do so in the Valley and Hollywood failed last year.

And the group said the city has generally strong protections against allowing money to go to corrupt municipal politics. The report cites the city’s $500 cap on contributions to City Council candidates and the $1,000 contribution limit on candidates for citywide office.

James Nash, (213) 978-0390 [email protected]

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