Riordan Funds for L.A. School Board Races Come With Strings Attached
Most of the $1.4 million Mayor Richard Riordan has raised for four Los Angeles Board of Education candidates will be spent on their behalf by his political strategists rather than given directly to the candidates’ campaign coffers, representatives of the mayor confirmed Wednesday.
The money will be controlled by Riordan’s committee, Coalition for Kids, and his consultant, William Carrick, a veteran of numerous political battles who ran U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s 1994 reelection campaign against Michael Huffington.
Carrick said two of the mayor’s candidates--incumbent David Tokofsky and community activist Genethia Hayes--will probably have more input in how to spend the mayor’s money than San Pedro Boys and Girls Club director Mike Lansing and IBM manager Caprice Young.
“Mike and Caprice are newcomers, so we’ll be involved with them in more of a hands-on kind of way,” Carrick said.
Political observers say the strategy raises questions about Riordan’s goals, and his confidence in his own candidates.
“Giving him the benefit of the doubt, one could argue that he wants the best people elected out of his deep, deep concern about our education system heading down the toilet,” said Sheldon Kamieniecki, political science department chairman at USC.
“On the other hand, one could raise the issue of trying to influence the election so that once your people are in office you can influence their decisions on education proposals,” he said. “Only the candidates know whether they feel beholden to the mayor, or whether he feels they are the best candidates.”
Board member Jeff Horton, who is running against Young, labeled Riordan’s candidates “puppets.”
“The fact that [Riordan’s strategists] control the campaign money is a sign that my opponent will be subject to control by other forces,” he said. “If you don’t trust a candidate to run their own campaign in their own district, you don’t trust them to run the school district.”
School board President Victoria Castro agrees.
“It’s clear he has no confidence in his candidates to run their own campaigns,” said Castro, who is not up for reelection this year. “What we’re seeing here is who will be picking up the phone and telling people how to vote.”
Lansing’s campaign manager, Tom Shortridge, said he is satisfied with the mayor’s strategy for spending the campaign funds in the effort to unseat incumbent George Kiriyama. “We’re not waiting for money,” he said.
“I trust Bill Carrick. They are running a coordinated effort,” he said. “I have full confidence they will get out the message: The district needs change.”
Three weeks before the election, the Riordan camp has started to spend its money on mailers, radio and television spots, signs, telephone banks and precinct walking.
“We’re on TV as of last week and we’ve gotten two pieces of mailers from them,” Shortridge said. “One was a ‘vote by mail’ piece and the other was a ‘vote for Mike’ piece. There will be many more to come.”
Young also said she is satisfied with the assistance of Carrick. “He’s the best,” she said. “Any candidate would be pleased to have him as their lead consultant.”
As of Feb. 27, Riordan had raised more than $1.4 million. If it was divided equally among his four preferred candidates, they would be able to far outspend their opponents.
Reports issued by the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission listed 157 donors to the Coalition for Kids, many of them leading figures in business, finance and law. Many had also contributed to Riordan’s slate of charter commission candidates in 1996.
“Our expectation is to revolutionize the school board and run effective campaigns to do that,” said Veronica Davey, who heads Coalition for Kids. “It’s a coordinated effort between the candidates and the campaign managers to win.
“Mike and Caprice are new to politics,” she added, “but they are excellent candidates and ready to be board members.”
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