Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been “comped” like a Vegas celebrity. Scandal ensues since the politician “lost” documentation related to some of the 80 free events he attended. Are there similarities between Villaraigosa and Blagojevich?
The Lucrative Business of Being the Los Angeles Mayor
The L.A. Weekly published an account of 80 events that Mayor Villaraigosa attended. Comped like a celebrity, the value of the free tickets he allegedly received from third parties falls between an estimated $50,000 and $100,000. Part and parcel of the free tickets were valet parking, free booze and food.
Examples of the events include the American Idol Finale; 82nd Academy Awards; 52nd Annual Grammy Awards; Lakers vs. Utah courtside seats on May 2, 2010; the July 13, 2009, Beyonce Concert; and plenty of other sports or entertainment occasions.
A Politician’s Very Own Celebrity Scandal?
Who would give the L.A. mayor free tickets that potentially cost thousands of dollars? Why would a business or private person comp an elected official with free tickets in the first place? Is Antonio Villaraigosa corrupt? Star struck? Unaware of the ethics implications?
When taking office, the L.A. mayor was bound by a regulation not to “accept more than $100 annually from anyone doing business with L.A.” The dollar value goes up to $420 a year if the politician is engaged in an official duty. Moreover, meticulous records are to be kept. It is noteworthy that at least one free ticket “donor,” the Anshutz Entertainment Group, is involved in negotiations with Los Angeles.
The Mayor Promises to Come Clean
Antonio Villaraigosa – as outlined by the L.A. Times – promised to release records that outline any official duties he performed while attending the events to which he received free tickets. In a surprising turn of events, the embattled politician – who, thus far, claimed that he had lost some documents, and also that his very presence at a venue equates an official representation of the City of Angels – now suggests that “this is the entertainment capital of the United States of America and, yes, I am in the job of promoting our city and promoting that.”
A Blast from Blagojevich’s Past?
The last big-time politician who vowed to come clean while under extreme media scrutiny was Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Readers of the New York Times may remember the former statesman’s vow to fight. “I’m here to tell you right off the bat that I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing,” said then-Governor Blagojevich. Convinced of his personal invincibility, he presented much the same picture as Antonio Villaraigosa, who is steadfast in his protestations that he did nothing wrong.