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Becoming an Engaged Citizen: By Calling Out Corruption & Cronyism!

Independent Commentary, Opinion & Political Analysis by local activist & community organizer, Michael McCue

The “Revolving Door” that we decry in Washington, where so many of our highly-paid Congressional reps become even higher-paid corporate lobbyists immediately after being kicked out of office, selling their influence with the congressional contacts they’ve made during their tenure on the Hill, is something every Engaged Citizen deplores.

Look at Sarah Palin, who quit her elected office as Governor of Alaska the moment when she realized that she could make millions more in income as a commentator for Fox News. 

She simply abandoned her job to go into the Propaganda & Punditry business, right in the middle of her first term!

When one can’t wait to complete their term to get their hands on the big bucks, it sort of makes you wonder about their level of commitment to their constituents in
the first place…right?

Do the American People think of Palin as a dedicated public servant?...or as a
grasping, greedy opportunist?

Or look at Jane “War-Hawk” Harman from the old 36th Congressional District (before Re-Districting). 

Not even a few months had passed after Harman’s hard-fought re-election, after a terrific primary battle with Progressive, Anti-War Democrat, Marcy Winograd (who had been gaining on her in each election cycle, getting 40% of the vote in 2010), when Harman, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, suddenly quit, and headed for the “greener” fields of a much higher-paying, corporate “think tank”
job.   

Why did she run for re-election in the first place if she knew she was headed for the Revolving Door in a matter of weeks? 

Shouldn’t the donors to her campaign demand a refund?

What special brand of betrayal is it to our voters when candidates go through all the bother of a campaign, fundraising from their constituent’s pockets, wearing out their dedicated volunteers, etc…only to then abruptly abandon them all weeks later?  What kind of professional politician/public service hypocrite does it take to pull a trick like that without getting tarred and feathered?

The type that sits on our City Council, that’s who.

You may remember that CD-2 Councilmember, Paul Krekorian, “pulled a Palin” and dumped his 43rd Assembly District constituents, in the Glendale/Burbank area, only 6 months after taking office for his second term in Sacramento, to announce his run for L.A. City Council. 

At the time Krekorian was 2nd in command as Assistant Majority Floor Leader
serving under Karen Bass (now in Washington) and on the fast track for even
more party notoriety.  Why would any politician abandon his post literally weeks after re-election?  Why “pull a Palin?”

Perhaps, the money was better on L.A. Council, (almost $200,000 per year—the highest-paid city council in the nation!) and the state budget deficit was a shameful disgrace, so there wasn’t much of a record to run on there, but in situations like these, perhaps the Democratic Party Machine needed to move a few pieces on the state of California chess board to ensure perpetuity of the party. 

And Krekorian, with the alacrity of an Italian cruise ship captain, was all too willing to jump ship, abandon his Assembly district (and all those who had contributed to his Assembly campaign), to start a new campaign for CD-2, where many called him a carpetbagger because he didn’t even live in the district at the time of his decision.

When an Engaged Citizen makes a contribution to a political candidate’s campaign, that citizen rightfully expects that candidate to do as he or she promised, and serve out their promised full term…right?

And who picks up the tab for the high cost of a special election to fill a vacant
Assembly seat? 

Of course, it’s We, the People,…we taxpayers, who must foot the bill. 

By doing so, we all subsidize the bald ambitions of professional politicians who have greener pastures in their sights, and in this case, Krekorian’s eye fixed on
the extended years (16 years potential?) of a different taxpayer-funded gravy
train. 

Perhaps former-Assembly-member-turned-City-Council-member, CD-5’s, Paul Koretz, had tipped him off about the easy pickings here, having also come from the Sacramento Assembly to L.A. City Council the year before (unfortunately displacing a popular grassroots citizen candidate by a hair), in an election that had a questionable final vote tally problem as a result….but I digress.

Jumping ship early costs candidates nothing, and it costs taxpayers dearly.  That’s wrong. 

They keep all the funds donated to their campaigns, and start up a new campaign right away, while We, the People, are left picking up the bill for a special election
to replace the Assembly member who bailed on us…Why?

A remedy is called for.

There’s a reform begging to be introduced in the State Assembly, but will Democrats be the ones to introduce such reform?

It seems highly implausible after the Democrats couldn’t even get their act together enough to support the Disclose Act, or confirm SB 810 to provide single-payer Health Care for all Californians, a betrayal of the highest order. 

Democrats themselves sunk both of those initiatives, betraying the
values they say they represent in the process and invalidating everything they
say about Social Justice, etc….

And now, the New Revolving Door between Sacramento and Los Angeles City Hall begins to spin in the opposite direction.

Krekorian’s Chief of Staff, Adrin Nazarian, has announced as a candidate for State Assembly in the 46th district.  But there’s a problem. 

An ethics problem.

You see, whenever a staff member working for a Council member throws their hat into the ring, it is customary (but not law…) that the staff member quit their position to campaign, and to avoid the question of ethics improprieties.

When Mitch O’Farrell, one of Eric Garcetti’s top staffers, announced he was running for Garcetti’s termed-out seat in City Council, Garcetti made O’Farrell resign as soon as O’Farrell declared his intentions.

That only seems appropriate in light of the fact that voters may get the perception that insider influence through campaign contributions is being peddled in the worst possible manner, from right inside our Councilmember’s office.

So here are the important questions for any Engaged Citizen keeping an eye on the 46th District Assembly race…the one with candidates, Laurette Healey (D?), Brian Johnson (D) , Andrew Lachman (D), Adriano Lecaros (R), Adrin Nazarian (D), and Jay Stern(R).

Why is Adrin Nazarian still working at Krekorian’s office as his Chief of Staff?

Wouldn’t it be proper for Nazarian to have resigned months ago?

May I draw our Engaged Citizens readers’ attention to a recent CityWatch blog
post
by Joseph Mailander, just published last week? 

From Mr.Mailander’s post….

“When you check Nazarian's donor lists, sure enough, there are a large number city lobbyists who routinely deal with Krekorian on committees and in office who are also big donors to Nazarian's Assembly campaign. They include lobbyist John Ek, Servicon (the LA Convention Center management company), and city vendors like Dasher & Lawless, the parking systems firm, city taxi companies, and the highly politically active firm Waste Management, not to mention Oshin Harootoonian, a Valley planning commissioner appointed by Mayor Villaraigosa.’

“Nazarian's donations may all have been culled legally, but their sheer
superabundance of city lobbyists on Nazarian's donor list--in a four person
race where fundraising differences in a given quarter are otherwise not significant
among the top three contenders--is indeed very suggestive. (Charter school
potentate Brian Johnson has a large overall financial lead, garnered from
predictable sources).’

“If, for instance, Harootoonian's contribution was not solicited in a blanket mailing, but rather garnered as an element of direct solicitation, any such donation would violate Calif. Govt. Code Sec. 3205(a), which says "An officer or employee of a local agency shall not, directly or indirectly, solicit a political contribution from an officer or employee of that agency, or from a person on an employment list of that agency, with knowledge that the person from whom the contribution is solicited is an officer or employee of that agency."

When contacted about this perceived cronyism, and the fact that Nazarian’s donors list includes the many of our usual lobbying suspects such as…

  • Veronica Perez (Holland
    & Knight)
  • Mayer Brown &
    Rowe
  • MZA Events
  • Christopher Alan
    (Dasher, Lawless Inc. & Auto Parkit LLC)
  • Robert Glushon
  • Arnold Bergoff
  • Sam Garrison
    Vanessa Rodriguez
    (Mercury Public Affairs)
  • John Ek
  • Beverly Hills
    Transit Cooperative,
  • Clear Channel
    Worldwide
  • G&S Transit
    Management
  • Tri-City
    Transportation Systems
  • Afriat Consulting
    Group
  • Waste Management,
  • Hal Dash (Cerrell
    Associates)
  • Mora Melen
    (Supershuttle)
  • Brad Rosenheim,
  • Kindel Gagan,
  • Gaines &
    Stacy

...Krekorian issued the following statement ….

…"While I don't normally comment on personnel matters, I can say that Adrin Nazarian has always served the people that we represent with complete devotion and has been a relentless advocate for the San Fernando Valley. When the time is right, I expect that Adrin will take a leave of absence to focus on his campaign. Until that time, he will retain his role as my chief of staff, and I will continue to
insist upon the same extraordinarily high level of service to our constituents
that I have always expected of Adrin and the rest of my staff. To be clear, I have never spoken to any lobbyist or anyone with business before my committee to solicit contributions for Adrin or request support of any kind for his campaign, nor will I.
"

When Mailander contacted Mayoral citizen-candidate, Kevin James about the situation, James said...

"Councilmember Krekorian's statement attempts to deflect the issue of
concern.  The issue here is neither Mr. Nazarian's job performance as Councilmember Krekorian's Chief of Staff, nor whether Councilmember Krekorian would speak to anyone with business before his committee about contributions for Mr. Nazarian's Assembly campaign (I am sure that Mr. Krekorian would not do that). The issue is whether Mr. Nazarian should stay on as Chief of Staff to Councilman Krekorian while actively seeking contributions for his own Assembly campaign.’

"The problem here is clear: as long as Mr. Nazarian stays on as Mr. Krekorian's Chief of Staff while raising campaign funds as an Assembly candidate, the possibility of potential conflicts of interest exist, as well as the possibility of questionable 'influence peddling.”

Mr. James also wasn't convinced that merely saying you're not soliciting
illicit contributions goes far enough.

"The concern that such a continued relationship could signal to those with important business before the City's powerful Budget and Finance Committee now chaired by Mr. Krekorian, or even to those with potential business before the Committee, that a contribution to Mr. Nazarian's Assembly campaign could in some way promote their specific matters before the Committee cannot be ignored -- no matter how 'above board' Councilmember Krekorian and Chief of Staff Nazarian maintain their working relationship. On the other hand, if Mr. Nazarian takes a leave of absence from Councilmember Krekorian's office, the potential for such conflicts or influence peddling is greatly diminished."

Krekorian has previously served on the City Ethics Commission in a Pre-Assembly life.  He should know better than to try to justify this type of perceived naked cronyism.

Lobbyists with business before the city should NOT be making large donations to Nazarian’s campaign, not while Krekorian is still holding deciding votes on their business before the city.  This is an end-run around our recently-passed,
ethics reform Measure H, which forbids contributions from those lobbyists and
others with pending business before the Council or their committees.

Is it proper for Nazarian to receive donations up to $3,900 when city elections place limits of $500 per donor?...at least, while he is still being paid by city taxpayers as Krekorian’s Chief of Staff?

Perhaps the apple cart for Nazarian got upset when Krekorian bailed on his Assembly district to run for City Council.  If Nazarian has been promised to assume the Assembly District himself with Krekorian’s blessings and list of donors’ support, after Krekorian’s final term, that’s one thing.

But if lobbyists’ arms are being willingly twisted for insider donations with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge...then we are dealing with the worst of corruptions and the epitome of what is wrong with politics in America today.

Is it a case of outright corruption, or merely complicity among
like-minded insiders who have prospered for decades by scratching one another’s
backs?

And…what we are describing is a structure in which elite career politicians and
bureaucrats are in complete control of our democratic process and have
corrupted them thoroughly and completely. 

The fault lay not in outright corruption, as Krekorian’s statement deflects, but rather in this decades-old, highly-developed Culture of Collusion.

For years now there has been an extremely unhealthy relationship developing between the State Democratic Party Political Machine in Sacramento and our own Los Angeles City Council, where it seems a pneumatic tube is beginning to feed professional, career politicians back and forth, not in the spirit of representing their communities, but in the hopes of staying in power forever, and then handing that power down the next in line, like a royal coronation.

Mitch Englander's seat on City Council is an expample of this type of "lock" on a seat and the cycle of cronyism of which I speak.

And like the worst of royal families, you might even say it’s become incestuous…and a strong reason for feeling revulsion….a revulsion for more “Revolving Doors.”

Big Money buys and sells our candidates and our elections like so many shares on the stock market…there’s no doubt, and political parties are moving their player-pieces from one game board to another, keeping the doors locked to citizen outsiders who merely wish to serve their communities.

We, the People, must rise to the challenge to bring new candidates from our communities to the fore.

Assembly members Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian both blocked popular, grassroots, citizen-candidates with their Big Money campaigns when they won their seats on our L.A. City Council. 

The frightening trend is that many of those grassroots, citizen-candidates were
then absorbed by the corrupt, Big Money machine, becoming a part of their Big Money Tango, hoping to still hold sway over the decisions at City Hall, as they
continued to represent their communities and neighborhoods, still bringing
their concerns forward to Krekorian and City Hall, always hopefully demanding a
more transparent and democratic process, and getting this kind of behavior in
return.

I wonder how they feel now?

Now that they've seen this betrayal of the contract between constituents and candidates of the highest order.

For Engaged Citizens…two remedies jump to mind.

The first is to demand that Nazarian leave Krekorian’s staff immediately, if, after these revelations, he still intends to stay in the Assembly race to represent outraged Valley Voters.

The second is for Valley Voters to express their revulsion for this chicanery, and CLOSE the Revolving Door between corrupt Assembly incumbents and LA City Council staff members, by selecting one of the homegrown, grassroots candidates for the 46th Assembly District….one who fully abides by our ethics rules, for the 46th Assembly District.

Quotes from Joseph Mailander’s CityWatch article were used with express permission.  My personal thanks to Mr. Mailander.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Michael McCue March 12, 2012 at 04:18 PM
I made an error...it's the 46th Assembly District that Adrin Nazarian is running in...not the 30th! Apologies to our readers!
Mike Szymanski March 12, 2012 at 04:22 PM
It's changed, don't worry!
Lightnapper March 12, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Outstanding. About time someone tipped the cart. As they say, follow the money.
David Hernandez March 12, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Also need to correct listing Adriano Lecaros as a Republican, he is a registered Democrat. Thanks,
Marty Vergari March 13, 2012 at 11:10 PM
I was going to read your rant but decided against it after the 4th Palin funny. I glanced over the rest of it and found no really new information other than that both democrats and republicans make a good living and then go on to make an even better living away from politics on TV and radio. As long as they are not breaking any laws, what exactly are you beefing about here? I think making a living as far as your talents will take you IS the American way. Yes? If you truly wish to save taxpayers money, elect a bunch of conservatives and watch them do away with so called "entitlements" and cut back on "services". But no, we keep electing liberals and up go our tax. I was happy to see that you at least blamed both Democrats and Republicans for the mess we are in. Thanks.
Frank "frazgo" Zgonc March 14, 2012 at 06:02 PM
This list should have drilled down further and looked at cronyism right here in Monrovia. Follow the money from the pockets of Athens, Samuelson & Fetter and a few construction companies to that of local officials.
Steve Buckner March 15, 2012 at 02:00 AM
Follow the money. Read thru this. Adoption of an Enforceable Obligation Payment Schedule, Resolution No. SA2012-03
Jerry Baker March 15, 2012 at 03:03 PM
> But no, we keep electing liberals and up go our tax. I still find this attitude humorus, albeit a bit sad. Ronald Reagan was a master politician who taught the middle class how to go and screw itself. If you are in the middle class, your taxes *are* higher. Do you know why they're higher? It's because so-called conservatives made HUGE tax cuts for wealthy people and raised your taxes to cover some of the difference. But wait, there's more! They're not so dumb as to just cut wealthy people's taxes and raise tax rates on the middle class. That would be too obvious. Instead, they cut nominal tax rates on the middle class but eliminate deductions and credits so that your *effective* tax rate is increased. Explaining that political trickery exceeds the 30-second attention span of most, and so they ignore it. Political genius! Taxes for most of us reading Patch are higher, but guess what? They're not higher for everybody. They're much lower for wealthy people. That, folks, is why your taxes are higher. I'm very well aware that some ideologues will take issue with what I say, but they're facts. There's no opinion here, other than the bit about Reagan.
Robin Gilbert March 16, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Many good points as usual Michael. It is not only the assurance of an elected official that he/she is following the law but the appearance of ethical activities.
Michael McCue March 16, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Marty...What do you mean by the term "Palin funny?" Absolutely no jokes were made in this post about Palin. We merely cited her record and there is nothing funny about that. Also..."glancing over" is not the pratice of Engaged Citizens. An engaged citizen will READ THROUGH IT ALL TO EDUCATE THEMSELVES. This post was FULL OF NEW INFORMATION (and specific information...) about Krekorian and Nazarian's questionable ethics. Your off-topic comments have merely repeated nonsensical talking points from those who are not representing your own best interests. This makes you sound like a FOX News viewer...not an engaged citizen. Please READ THROUGH before commenting. This post is full of new information about the questionabe ethics of Krekorian and Nazarian. What do you think about that? On this blog, we want to hear from engaged citizens who care enough to actually read the article before commenting on it. Without that practice, your comments carry little weight and you disqualify yourself as a valid voice. Please read through and try again to make a thoughtful comment that relates to the topic. Good Luck to you, Marty!
Michael McCue March 16, 2012 at 10:23 PM
Frank is obviously an engaged citizen because he points us to a logical follow-up topic to the one we are discussing Thank you, Frank! Please contact my Patch editor to request a follow-up to this topic. I agree with you...follow the money, and you'll find the crooks!
Michael McCue March 16, 2012 at 10:25 PM
Robin hit the bullseye and is a totally engaged citizen who understands the main point of this post. Congrats, Robin! You are our Engaged Citizen of the day!
Michael McCue March 16, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Thank you, Lightnapper! Flattery will get you everywhere! Please join our regular readers' comments anytime.
Alter Mudd March 20, 2012 at 03:41 AM
Why did you conveniently leave out the part when you ran for CD2 against Krekorian, taking part in the very system you now decry? Sounds like sour grapes to me...
Irene DeBlasio March 20, 2012 at 05:10 AM
The past tense of sink is sank (not sunk).

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