In today's Daily Breeze, David Zahniser looks at the nearly $1.5 million being spent on the mayoral runoff outside the usual $1,000-per-person contributions limit. Legally, the money has to be spent without the approval or input of the campaigns, but nobody on the inside believes that's what happens. Nearly a third of the $864,000 spent on behalf of Mayor Jim Hahn is from the United Firefighters of Los Angeles, which likes all the new fire stations built under Hahn. But the union's president is the brother of Hahn's City Hall chief of staff, Tim McOsker. Two other city unions are spending big sums for Antonio Villaraigosa — $200,000 in radio ads by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (DWP employees) and $75,000 by the Engineers and Architects Association. Zahniser also has a piece on Richard Meruelo, a real estate speculator who is part of Villaraigosa's Florida connection. He is spending $82,000 to send mailers to Republicans in the Valley and to have voters get a prerecorded telephone call from Tirso del Junco, former head of the California Republican Party. Meruelo is a major downtown land holder whose family and business associates have poured another $54,000 into the Villaraigosa campaign. Reports Zahniser:
Meruelo's aggressive approach to real estate, and the ongoing campaign, is drawing the ire of neighborhood activists, who warn that he is seeking to boost his clout at City Hall as he carries out development plans.
"He's trying to buy influence," said Jonathan Jerald, who serves on the Historic Cultural Neighborhood Council in downtown Los Angeles and favors Villaraigosa. "It's the reason anyone gives money. He's trying to buy Antonio's ear."
Meruelo, a Republican, attended two fund-raisers for Villaraigosa last month, both held in Miami, including one held by a contractor at Miami International Airport. Villaraigosa, in turn, attended Meruelo's surprise birthday party in December and met with him and his lobbyist, Fernando Guerra, a month later, according to his schedule.
Is this the same Guerra who had an op-ed piece in today's Times arguing that "Villaraigosa — if he is elected — has the ability to coalesce other decision makers to build a powerful office out of a weak institution?" Yes. When he's not a lobbyist, he is director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles and associate professor of political science and Chicano studies at Loyola Marymount.
Also: Guest columnist Sharon Woodson-Bryant writes in the Daily News that the Miami milieu where Villaraigosa went to raise money is "a lawless frontier populated by political scoundrels and contract rustlers."...Hahn and schools chief Roy Romer will be on KCRW with Warren Olney tonight at 7 p.m....Times columnist Steve Lopez talks about the race with Kitty Felde Wednesday at 2 p.m. on KPCC.