$4.2 million spent 'independently'

That was the amount in so-called independent expenditures — not subject to limits — during this year's city election campaigns, the Times' Jeff Rabin reports. In the mayoral runoff, one in three dollars was spent by committees able to raise and spend as much as they like, supposedly unconnected to the candidates. Says Rabin:

Virtually all of the independent spending in the 2005 mayoral race came from labor unions and one individual, Richard Meruelo, a major downtown landowner and developer.

Meruelo gave $5,000 directly to Villaraigosa's campaign, then spent $193,311 in the runoff on an absentee ballot effort, automated phone calls to voters and radio ads urging Republicans to vote for the councilman...

He and his family own property throughout downtown Los Angeles, including near the Staples Center, next to an architectural school near the Los Angeles River and in the produce and garment districts. In March, Meruelo sparked controversy by acquiring a site in Glassell Park that the Los Angeles Unified School District wanted for a high school.

In the 11th council district, executives and developers of Playa Vista dumped in $91,000 trying to defeat Bill Rosendahl. He won anyway and tells Rabin: "Independent expenditures are out of the control of the process. It's a problem. It has to be addressed."

Monday politics notes: Nothing has run in the English-language papers or the Spanish-language press following up Saturday's Korea Times report on Councilman Martin Ludlow taking the top job at the County Federation of Labor...Villaraigosa will push speedy conversion of traffic signals and pedestrian-crossing lights via a $22.3 million contract with a private Northern California firm, the Daily News says...Rick Orlov speculates that anonymous phone attacks like the one aimed at Councilman Greig Smith last weekend may be the wave of the future...Board of Education president Jose Huizar was named to the Princeton University Board of Trustees.

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