Nobody Gives to Politicians Like Westside Donors

Times Staff Writers

Beverly Hills investment adviser Mark Ross Weinberg says he'd like to do more for his friend, Mayor Tom Bradley. But after giving $84,000 to Bradley's mayoral campaign over the past two years, Weinberg already has contributed nearly as much as the entire San Fernando Valley.

"As a human being, I like Tom very much," the 30-year-old Weinberg said. "I would have given him more . . . but it's been a rough year for business."

Weinberg, Bradley's single biggest contributor, represents an extreme example of Westside largess. When it comes to giving money to the two main candidates in the Los Angeles mayor's race, however, nobody does it bigger or better than Westside contributors.

Dwarfed Valley Gifts

A Times computer study of campaign statements shows that Westside residents and organizations contributed nearly half of the $2.5 million given to Bradley and his chief opponent, Los Angeles City Councilman John Ferraro, between Bradley's unsuccessful 1982 gubernatorial campaign and the end of 1984. Valley contributors, by comparison, gave about 7% of the total money received by the two candidates.

Besides Weinberg, the major Westside contributors include Friends of Tom Bradley ($75,175), Taxpayers for Responsible Government ($20,600 between Bradley and Ferraro), contractor-developer Si Un Park ($20,000 to Bradley), the Memel, Jacobs, Pierno, Gersh & Ellsworth law firm ($13,700 between Bradley and Ferraro), Knapp Communications ($13,500 between Bradley and Ferraro) and Communicom Corp. ($9,500 to Ferraro).

Celebrity contributors include recording executive Herb Alpert ($3,250 to Bradley), Gene Autry ($250 to Ferraro), motion picture director Norman Jewison ($300 to Bradley), singer Lionel Richie ($500 to Bradley), television executive Aaron Spelling ($8,500 to Bradley) and Lakers basketball player Jamaal Wilkes ($950 to Bradley).

The list also includes firms involved in major development deals with the city. One is Occidental Petroleum Corp. ($13,500 between Bradley and Ferraro), which recently won a long-running battle to drill for oil in Pacific Palisades. Another is the A.F. Gilmore Corp. ($9,000 between Bradley and Ferraro), a partner with CBS in a project that would transform the Farmers Market area into the city's largest complex of studios, offices and theaters.

People involved with city campaigns said they were not surprised by the proportion of Westside money. Bruce Corwin, treasurer for Friends of Tom Bradley, a political action committee based on the Westside and financed chiefly with Westside money, said the Westside traditionally represents affluence and activism.

'People Get Involved'

"It's an activist community," Corwin said. "I think you can make that kind of a generalization. People like to get involved and be a part of the process."

"Everybody I know, whatever they're running for, will always manage to make a visit to the Westside," added Weinberg, a Republican. "Westside businessmen . . . have a lot of money to donate to candidates."

Westside residents contributed $1,118,627 to Bradley and Ferraro, the Times survey showed. Eighty percent of the money came from people living within the city of Los Angeles, according to the survey, and 20% came from other areas such as Beverly Hills, Marina del Rey and Culver City. Bradley received nearly 70% of the contributions. The survey, however, did not cover contributions made since Ferraro entered the mayor's race in January.

Of the 1,573 contributors surveyed, 559 live or work on the Westside.

The typical Westside contributor is a middle-aged white property owner making more than 80,000 a year, the survey showed. Forty-seven percent of the Westside contributors were Democrats and 38% were Republicans; 43% were Jewish and 10% belonged to unions. Almost 40% said they made more than $200,000 a year.

Forty-three percent of the Westside contributors said that they had some business connection with the city, and 7% of the Westside survey respondents said they expected to receive some direct benefit by giving.

The big Westside contributors who agreed to speak to The Times generally maintained that they gave because they believed in the candidates and/or feel friendly toward them.

Beverly Hills commodities adviser Weinberg said he gave because he appreciated the fact that Bradley introduced him to a lot of people who became "clients and friends." Sherwin L. Memel, a partner in the Century City law firm that gave $2,500 to Ferraro and $11,200 to Bradley, said the mayor has done an "incredible" job of running the city, but added, "To my memory we've never gone to Tom Bradley in all the time we've contributed to him."

But many givers and elected officials acknowledge that big contributions help ensure access to political leaders, and some maintained that such access may play an important role in shaping the growth of the city.

That access can help speed projects through the city bureaucracy, according to San Fernando Valley Councilman Ernani Bernardi. "Campaign contributions have a magical effect," he said.

"People on the Westside are more politically educated than people anywhere else in the city," said San Fernando Valley Councilman Howard Finn, who cited rent control as one result of Westside power. "Unfortunately, because they're more politically mature, they do have greater influence on people who are in office," Finn said. "They want certain things in government and they back people who agree with those things. They don't have to ask for anything any more."

Westside businessmen like to "maintain the friendship" of elected officials and to be recognized by city commissioners who recommend policy on issues such as transportation, planning and park development, said Chuck Schneider, board chairman of the Los Angeles West Chamber of Commerce. He added that many Westside fund-raisers are the scene of "glad-handing" by businessmen eager to become known by political leaders.

"Let's suppose something comes up . . . a year from now, when we might need a zoning variance," Schneider said. "Or if we're trying to get a (traffic) light in an area . . . I think it helps."

Memel agreed that contributors generally have to become involved in the political social circuit of fund-raisers and parties to make their contributions pay off.

"As a practical matter, it's not the contribution that counts so much," Memel said. "I doubt very much that politicians remember everyone on the list unless you've given an extraordinary amount of money. But if you go to the parties, show up and your face becomes familiar . . . you'll at least get your phone calls returned."

In many cases, city commissioners, who are appointed by the mayor, are chosen from the ranks of Westside campaign contributors. When Bradley announced a shake-up of the city's 32 commissions late last year, for example, he appointed 120 new commissioners, six of whom had given or loaned at least $4,500 to his previous campaigns.

Three of those six were Westside residents--former board member Si Un Park of the Convention Center Authority (who had given $13,000), Robert Anthony of the Planning Commission ($5,000), and Richard Riordan of the Recreation and Parks commission (who had given Bradley a $300,000 loan). A fourth big contributor, Cultural Affairs commissioner Michael Kassan of Sherman Oaks ($12,000), practices law in the Westside.

On Commissions

Westsiders are heavily represented on city commissions, including the Police Commission (four of five members), the Transportation Commission (three of seven), the Recreation and Parks Commission (four of five) and the Water and Power Commission (three of five). Of the city's 175 appointed commissioners, at least 75--or about 42%--live in the Westside.

Deputy Mayor Tom Houston said commission appointments are intended to represent all areas of the city equally and that only a few commissions make decisions that may favor one geographic area over another. Those include planning (where one of five members lives on the Westside), transportation and parks and recreation.

Candidates for the commission jobs often approach the city independently or are recommended by council members or city staff members.

Generally, Houston said, residents of affluent areas often have more time or a greater inclination to serve in the unpaid positions.

"If you look at the applications that come pouring in . . . many are from attorneys . . . (members of) the League of Women Voters . . . or people who are involved in government," Houston said. "We get more of those types than grocers, mechanics or car dealers."

Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, whose district represents largely blue-collar areas of Watts, Wilmington and San Pedro, said she has seen no evidence that the heavy Westside representation results in deliberately favorable treatment for Westside interests. But she said there may be a subconscious effect on Westside commission members when Westside contributors have business before them or with those who have received funds.

"Just the fact that (a contributor) has a recognizable name may have some psychological effect," she said. "The name recognition may spark some positive note . . . you're not just some unknown guy out there in the community."

Access to City Hall

Lobbyist Phil Krakover, a Westside resident and Valley businessman who gave $29,100 to Bradley and Ferraro, is an example of a contributor who has access at City Hall, Flores said. Krakover has had exceptional success in winning approval for projects proposed by his clients, Flores said, although she cautioned that some of the success may result from his careful selection of clients.

Krakover has said he makes contributions as a way to be among the first in line when it is time to plead his case to city officials.

Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, whose district is based in the Westside, said he was not surprised that Westside residents gave the most money to political candidates. But he heatedly denied that the money buys special attention for Westside interests.

Asked about the heavy Westside representation on city commissions, Yaroslavsky said that Westsiders are chosen because they have the most time to devote to community service.

"You have to find people who have the availability and the time, as well as the capability," Yaroslavsky said. "You can't have somebody who has to get a note from home. . . . These people tend to be independent businessmen and attorneys, people who aren't tied to a boss . . . and they don't live in a lower-class section of the city."

Despite their generosity, several Westside contributors said they would prefer to give a lot less. Many said they supported a proposed City Charter amendment on the April 9 ballot that would limit contributions to $500 per council candidate per election and $1,000 for each citywide candidate per election.

"I think the limit on contributions should be something like $2,500 or $5,000," Weinberg said. "But there definitely should be a limit. I'm sick to death of it. It doesn't bother me with clients I like, but because I'm on the list I hear from any Tom, Dick or Harry that's running for anything."

"I've been involved in raising money since I was very young," Memel added. "These people literally become your friends. It's almost a failure to live up to your friendship not to support these people. . . . And it's very hard to say no. I guess it would be some relief to put a cap on it."

The Top 10 Westside Contributors Mark Ross Weinberg Beverly Hills/investment adviser: $84,239--Bradley Friends of Tom Bradley West Los Angeles/Bruce Corwin, treasurer: $75,175--Bradley Si Un Park West Los Angeles/contractor-developer: $20,000--Bradley Taxpayers for Responsible Government West L.A./Elaine Wior, treasurer: $10,600--Bradley and $10,000--Ferraro Metropolitan Theatres Good Government Committee West L.A./Jill Cowan, treasurer: $11,000--Bradley and $6,000--Ferraro Committee for Tom Bradley Hollywood/Ethel Narvid, treasurer: $16,781--Bradley Memel, Jacobs, Pierno, Gersh & Ellsworth Law Firm Century City: $11,200--Bradley and $2,500--Ferraro Occidental Petroleum Corp. West L.A.: $7,500--Ferraro and $6,000--Bradley Knapp Communications Corp. Mid-Wilshire: $7,500 Ferraro and $6,000--Bradley Communicom Corp. Culver City: $9,500--Ferraro Demographics of Westside Contributors By percent of total in each category Ethnic background White: 87% Asian: 5% Latino: 4% Black: 3% Other: 1% Party affiliation Democrat: 47% Republican: 38% Other: 15% Annual family income 0-$40,000: 3% $40,000-$60,000: 10% $60,000-$80,000: 11% $80,000-$100,000: 11% $100,000-$200,000: 24% Over $200,000: 39% Uncertain: 2% Have contributors or their clients done business with the city? No: 57% Yes: 43% Religion Jewish: 43% Protestant: 27% Catholic: 16% Other: 14% Source: The Los Angeles Times Poll surveyed 1,573 contributors who gave $100 or more to Mayor Tom Bradley or City Councilman John Ferraro after Bradley lost the California governor's election in 1982 up to the end of 1984. Of the 1,573 people surveyed citywide, 559 came from the Westside. All contributions were made before Ferraro annouced that he would oppose Bradley for mayor. The Westside data is based on a 65% response rate, except for the income category, which had a 52% response rate.

Research for this story was conducted by the Times Poll, under the direction of Susan Pinkus.

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