DreamWorks Trio Lend Clout to Exec’s Council Bid

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Los Angeles Times

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They may be boffo at the box office, but will the three media moguls behind DreamWorks SKG prove to have potent political pull at the local polls?

DreamWorks founders Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen have been active for years in politics at the national level, raising and contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to candidates and causes. Wildly successful filmmaker Spielberg even slept in the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House during the Clinton administration.

But now the trio of entertainment industry giants are jumping into a local race in a big way, putting their considerable clout into efforts to elect DreamWorks executive Wendy Greuel to the Los Angeles City Council.

Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen are hosting a major fund-raiser for Greuel, scheduled Oct. 18 at Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment on the Universal Studios lot. The event is expected to draw more than 1,000 people.

“They don’t necessarily get you elected, but they can raise money, and money can help you get elected,” said Larry Levine, a political consultant not involved in the race. “I don’t think there is any magic in those names for voters, but they can reach out and touch people who have money.”

That support is important because Greuel is up against the formidable candidacy of Assemblyman Tony Cardenas (D-Sylmar), one of the most prolific fund-raisers at the state level.

“I have known Wendy for years and believe she is truly dedicated to public and community service,” said Katzenberg, the former Disney Studios chief. “Her knowledge and experience has helped us establish important after-school and job training programs in the community.”

Congress Could Get Its First Sister Act

Six years after her sister vanquished “B-1 Bob” Dornan from Congress, union organizer Linda Sanchez-Valentine wants to join Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Santa Ana) in D.C.

Sanchez-Valentine, a Democrat, has opened a campaign account and is raising money to run in the newly configured 39th Congressional District, which includes Artesia, Cerritos, Hawaiian Gardens, Lakewood, La Mirada, Lynwood, Paramount and South Gate, as well as portions of North Long Beach, Whittier and unincorporated Los Angeles County.

If elected, Linda and Loretta, who represents the 46th Congressional District, would be the first sister act in Congress. Sanchez-Valentine acknowledges the novelty but said she’s earned her own political stripes.

“She’s pledged to be helpful in any way she can,” Linda said of Loretta. “That’s going to mean a lot.”

The primary could be fierce. There is no incumbent in the district, where Democrats have 55% of voters and Republicans 28%. In the latest census, 61% of district residents identified themselves as Latino. Other Democrats looking at the race include Assemblywoman Sally Havice (D-Cerritos), who is termed out of her current job; South Gate Councilman Hector De La Torre; and Chuck Fuentes, an aide to Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Norwalk).

Riordan Looking for New Campaign Advisor

Even as former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan is tentatively scheduled to announce Nov. 6 that he is running for governor, some see his campaign as a largely dysfunctional operation.

Last week, campaign consultant Dan Schnur, who worked on the 2000 presidential campaign of Arizona Sen. John McCain, quit Riordan’s effort. Schnur said he left to make way for a new campaign manager.

“I continue to believe Dick Riordan should be California’s next governor, but because there are slight differences in the way we would operate a campaign, I feel the best role for me is as a supporter, admirer and friend,” Schnur said.

Riordan has indicated he would like Noelia Rodriguez, who was his chief press aide as mayor, to join his state campaign, and Schnur predicted the mayor would get his way. Rodriguez, the press secretary for First Lady Laura Bush, did not return calls seeking comment.

New Prominence for GOP’s New Majority

Mark C. Johnson was criticized two years ago when he helped found Republicans for a New Majority with a goal of stripping ideological strings from GOP money. Then he put up $1.5 million in hopes of replacing Rep. Christopher Cox of Newport Beach if he became a judge, which didn’t happen.

Now Johnson may get a shot at yet another plum: handling statewide fund-raising for Riordan’s campaign for governor.

The high-profile post shows how far Johnson’s New Majority has come. So far, the group–co-founded by Thomas Tucker and Larry Higby–has been wooed by the three major GOP governor candidates–Riordan, Secretary of State Bill Jones and millionaire Bill Simon Jr. It hasn’t rendered an official blessing, though one can probably guess where they’re headed.

“It’s a highly sought-after endorsement,” said group consultant Chris St. Hilaire. “Two years ago, the phones weren’t ringing off the hook, and these guys had their money two years ago. This year, we’ve heard from every Republican candidate [of note ] in the state.”

St. Hilaire said the New Majority has “quietly positioned itself as the leading Republican organization in the state of California.” Quietly, that is, except for the shouting.

Wachs Discloses Novel 30-Year Delaying Tactic

On his last day in office, Los Angeles City Councilman Joel Wachs confessed to his colleagues that he pulled off a parliamentary maneuver that may have set the record for stalling an ordinance.

Wachs recalled that in 1971, the year he was first elected, he and former council President John Ferraro opposed an admissions tax for theaters and sports arenas.

“John came to me one day and he said, ‘When the city attorney gets you the ordinance back to your committee, just hold it,’ ” Wachs recalled.

Fast-forward 30 years to last month. Wachs was emptying his desk when he found the old file, still not acted on all these years later.

“For 30 years, we have not had this admissions tax because it has been in my desk,” Wachs announced to the council, holding up the old, yellowed file triumphantly.

Parting Shots

The battle may be largely over now that the state Public Utilities Commission has reached a settlement to allow Southern California Edison to avoid bankruptcy, but a leading opponent of any bailout condemned the utility for playing on concerns about the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

John Bryson, Edison‘s chief executive, urged shareholders in a letter to tell legislators, “During this time of national crisis we need stability in the California electric system.”

Responded Harvey Rosenfield, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights: “That you would dare equate what has happened to this nation in the last three weeks with your company’s self-inflicted financial wounds is a grievous offense to the memories of the 6,000 men, women and children who were killed on Sept. 11. . . .”

Quick Hits

* Former state Treasurer Matt Fong disappeared back to private law practice after losing in the 1998 election for the U.S. Senate, but he is returning to government service, having won an appointment from President Bush. However, the new appointment may not provide Fong with an escape from obscurity. Bush appointed Fong as chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

* In a recent speech urging Americans to get back to normal lives, President Bush couldn’t help promote a certain state that was instrumental in getting him elected and which is governed by his brother. “Fly and enjoy America’s great destination spots. Get down to Disney World in Florida,” Bush said. No mention of Disneyland in California, a state in which Bush’s campaign did not fare as well.

* Not since O.J. Simpson listed his Brentwood mansion has a piece of real estate with such notoriety been put on the market: Rep. Gary Condit’s Washington apartment is for sale. The one-bedroom, 1 1/2-bath condominium in the Adams Morgan neighborhood is listed for $130,000. It features high ceilings and a washer and dryer. Many television viewers would recognize the building from nightly news footage showing the California Democrat entering and exiting after reports that he had a relationship with Chandra Levy, a 24-year-old woman who disappeared in Washington five months ago.

Word Perfect

“It’s like living with a boil on your tongue so long you kind of miss it when it’s gone.”

Senate leader John Burton (D-San Francisco), responding to a question about whether he will miss legislating on the energy issue now that a PUC settlement with Edison pretty much eliminated the need for another special session of the Legislature this month.

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