MAY 21, 2007
The powerful elected officials of the nation’s most populous county have repeatedly and knowingly violated campaign contribution laws over the years by secretly accepting millions of dollars from special interests.
It has been more than a decade since any of the five Los Angeles County Supervisors has faced competition in an election yet they have raised more than $8 million from businesses, labor unions and wealthy individuals with stakes in decisions made by the influential politicians.
As the nation’s largest county government, the Los Angeles County supervisors yield tremendous power because they oversee the $21 billion annual budget of a 4,084-mile area with a population of more than 10 million.
Perhaps this is why a lot of the donations have come from developers (and their relatives) whose mega projects have been approved by the supervisors and companies that have been awarded lucrative county contracts. An example is a janitorial services firm, with a $5 million deal to provide county services that contributes heavily to the supervisors’ personal coffers.
In the mid 1990s voters passed a strict campaign contribution measure that limits single donations to $1,000 yet the law has been repeatedly violated and the county has participated in a cover up by not making the contribution data easily available for public scrutiny.
Other local governments have such databases yet L.A. County officials claim they are too busy dealing with more pressing issues. A local newspaper actually created such a database in just four months and now the damaging information that the veteran lawmakers would rather keep private is available on its website. It identifies more than 15,000 contributions made to the supervisors.
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