L.A. Now

Garcetti-affiliated nonprofit raises $14.6 million in first year

A nonprofit created by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to advance civic initiatives raised $14.6 million in its first full year of operation, less than a third of which it has spent, according to tax records filed recently with the federal government.

The Mayor's Fund for Los Angeles, which Garcetti modeled on a similar nonprofit established by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, submitted its tax return last week for the fiscal year that ended in June.

The tax return, along with the fund's annual report, show an enviable first year of fundraising for a startup organization in a region where competition for philanthropic dollars can be fierce.

"We really exist to support bringing private sector resources together with civic programs," Mayor's Fund President Deidre Lind said. "And we have had a pretty successful first year."

The fund has not been as quick to spend money as to bring it in, an imbalance Lind attributed in part to the group's accounting practices and the timing of its tax return.

She said that the fund must record donations that have been pledged but not received as revenue — which has the effect of exaggerating the amount of cash it has on hand — and that spending over the past eight months is not reflected in the tax records.

The Mayor's Fund spent about $4.7 million in the fiscal year ended in 2015.

According to the fund's annual report, programs that received significant sums included an expansion of the popular Summer Night Lights program, which keeps parks in dangerous areas open after dark for civic programs; new domestic-violence response teams at police stations; and Garcetti's "Save the Drop" public-information campaign, aimed at reducing Angelenos' water use.

"We're starting to spend money," Lind said. "It was sort of slow in the first year as we kind of ramp up and get going."

Donors have included charitable foundations and the philanthropic arms of major banks and other corporations, including a number of firms that would be barred from donating money directly to Garcetti under the city's campaign-finance laws.

Garcetti asserts that he has no control over the fund and that it is intended to serve the needs of future mayoral administrations as well as his own.

Some have nevertheless questioned whether the fund provides a back-door means of currying favor with the mayor's office. Many donors have been solicited for money directly by top Garcetti aide Rick Jacobs, who also sits on the nonprofit's board of directors.

Lind said the fund's board — and not the mayor's office or any other city agency — decides how its money is spent.

"The truth is, we don't approve every single program. There is some structure and rigor behind it," she said. "We do take very seriously our independence."

Twitter: @petejamison

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