The Daily News of Los Angeles
In life, you are judged by your enemies as well as your friends. These days, Controller Laura Chick is piling up plenty on both sides as she has emerged as a central figure in the investigations of how the city’s big three departments – Airports, Harbor and Water and Power – issue contracts.
It was Chick’s audit of the Department of Airports that prompted a county grand jury investigation and, later, a federal probe into all three agencies.
Among her friends, Chick is being told the sky’s the limit for her politically, even as she prepares for re-election next year to a second and final term before looking at other options.
Among her enemies, however, it is a far different story.
There is almost daily speculation of potential opponents to her next year, with a host of names being advanced – all of which are being shot down by the individuals who are named.
“I would think she will be very hard to take out next year,” said Steve Afriat, the consultant who handled Chick’s campaign in 2001 but has not been signed on yet for her next effort.
“I’m sure people will be shopping for a candidate, but I can’t imagine anyone who would run that she couldn’t take out.”
While the allegation surrounding the city agencies is that there is a “pay-to-play” system at work, its fallout has come down on city commissioners and their role in politics.
In what is lightning-like speed for government – a matter of three weeks – the City Council is prepared to take up a proposal that would ban city commissioners from any fund raising.
The speed with which the matter has gone through City Hall has left some amazed – and others more cynical.
“There must not be that much fund raising done for council members if it went through that quickly,” said one official, who scanned a list of commissioners and said only a handful were considered political activists.
In fact, most of the money raised over the past several years went to either Mayor James Hahn or other candidates for mayor in 2001 as well as other citywide officials, such as City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo and Chick.
The major exception was the 2002 secession campaign, where Hahn raised some $8 million to defeat the breakup proposal.
Somewhat less efficient has been the Los Angles Lobbyist and Public Affairs Association, the lobbyist group formed to represent lobbyists on city issues.
The group announced its formation in early January and has been trying to get the 137 registered lobbyists in the city to join with them to present a unified voice on matters affecting their jobs.
Afriat, one of the leaders of the group, acknowledged it has been difficult getting others to join in.
“We hope to have a meeting in March,” Afriat said. “About 20 or 25 people have expressed some interest, but I don’t know how many will show up.”
Part of the problem is the secrecy inherent among lobbyists, both in what they are trying to do and out of fear of losing a client to a competitor.
The folks with the self-proclaimed consumer watchdog group arnoldwatch.com have been closely monitoring the political activities of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and they couldn’t ignore some irony they saw last week.
“Arnold has said that he has been receiving calls from (former Gov.) Gray Davis congratulating him on the outstanding job that he has done and that the former Gov was even coming over for dinner,” noted Jamie Court and Doug Heller in an e-mail missive sent out last week.
Of course, it was Schwarzenegger who won in the election last November where Davis was recalled for his political fund-raising activities and the problems facing the state.
Court and Heller said they believe it is because Schwarzenegger has managed to make Davis’ own fund-raising activities as governor seem puny.
Among other contributions, they noted Schwarzenegger recently collected $100,000 from Chevron, $50,000 from Sempra Energy, $25,000 from Walgreens, $10,000 from Longs Drugs and $500,000 from two developers, AG Spanos and Castle & Cooke.
While Schwarzenegger has seemingly co-opted much of the state Democratic Party leadership in support of Propositions 57 and 58 on the March 2 ballot, state Treasurer Phil Angelides has gone on the attack against the governor.
That might not be getting him many friends in Sacramento these days, but as he looks to the next gubernatorial election in 2006, it might help him among Democrats.
Last week, Angelides was selected as the “New Democrat of the Week” by the Democratic Leadership Council. The recognition is given to various Democratic officeholders across the country by the Democratic Leadership Council – a group which has promoted moderate views in the past but fallen on hard times in recent years.
Angelides is generally considered a moderate Democrat in the DLC mode. He was selected for his use of public pension funds by investing in environmental technologies.
Contact the author: Rick Orlov, (213) 978-0390 or [email protected]