Taxpayers Raise Brows at DWP’s ‘Fat Cat’ Ad Purchase


It might surprise you to learn the identity of the latest political “fat cat” in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power paid $7,500 to be listed as a “fat cat” in the printed program for an annual political roast, which this year skewers county Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke.

“Fat Cat” is the top category for those who buy ads in the program, and includes some of the city’s top lobbyists. Those who give $4,500 are listed in the program as “Power Brokers,” and those who pay $1,200 are listed in the “Influence Peddler” category. All money benefits the American Diabetes Assn.


DWP spokesman Frank Salas said the city agency has bought ads in the printed program for about three years. “It’s part of our public-outreach effort,” Salas said, adding that the department strives to be a “good corporate citizen” by contributing to worthwhile charities.

Still, the expense drew some roasting of its own from taxpayer advocates.

“Notwithstanding the great wealth the DWP is getting for gouging the rest of the state with its energy sales, I think this is not an appropriate use of ratepayers’ funds,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn.

VALLEY RALLY: Want to be the next mayor of Los Angeles? Go Valley, old pol, go Valley.

On Saturday, Rep. Xavier Becerra opened a campaign office in Sherman Oaks, joining the herd of mayoral candidates stampeding into the San Fernando Valley--home to a whopping 48% of all voters who cast ballots in the latest citywide election. Becerra’s headquarters is in downtown Los Angeles, but the campaign plans to add yet another Valley office later this month.

“The Valley is an exceedingly important vote,” said Allyson Laughlin, a Becerra spokeswoman. “It’s also an area where they don’t feel that government has heard them, and we just want to show that as mayor, Xavier will listen.”

Three of the six leading candidates have already opened campaign headquarters in the Valley: City Atty. James Hahn, businessman Steve Soboroff, and, of course, Councilman Joel Wachs, a bona fide Valleyite who has represented the area for 30 years.

“I say, welcome to the Valley,” Wachs said. “Where have they been until now?”

Another major contender, former Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, is also poised to fling open his doors in the Valley. Villaraigosa’s campaign, now based in the Mid-Wilshire area, is branching out to a storefront office in Van Nuys--”the heart of the Valley,” according to aide Jimmy Blackman.


“I would say Antonio will spend at least as much time, if not more time, working out of the Valley office” as he will at other campaign hubs in Mid-Wilshire and Boyle Heights, Blackman said.

All the jockeying for suburban advantage leaves state Controller Kathleen Connell the only major candidate without a Valley hub, although she did announce her candidacy in front of Van Nuys City Hall. Connell also frequently points out that her children attend a magnet school in Northridge.

John Shallman, Connell’s campaign strategist, said Connell might open a Valley office to complement her headquarters in West Los Angeles.

“We’ve been looking at it,” he said. Working another Valley angle, Shallman went so far as to suggest that Connell “in a way” has a foothold in the Valley because Shallman’s communications firm is based in Sherman Oaks.

Wachs, for his part, brushed aside the Johnny-come-lately competition on his home turf: “I think that people in the Valley know that if anyone’s going to give them their fair share, it’s going to be me.”

ON HIS OWN: Just days after he announced his candidacy for the Assembly seat now held by his powerful boss, Stuart Waldman resigned from his post as a field deputy to Speaker Bob Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks) to pursue his campaign full time.


“I was essentially given a choice,” Waldman said. He could keep his job, making the rounds at community meetings as a Hertzberg representative, and quit campaigning--or he could pack up and hit the campaign trail. So Waldman, who has been planning to run for the 40th Assembly District seat for some time, gave two weeks’ notice and submitted a letter of resignation.

Paul Hefner, a Hertzberg spokesman, said that Hertzberg “believes it is not appropriate to have people both representing him in the community and running for office at the same time. After discussing that policy with the speaker, Stuart Waldman chose to resign.”

Waldman and Hefner both said that no specific incident prompted the resignation--Waldman was not, for example, actively campaigning during the hours he was working as a Hertzberg aide.

The move comes at a relatively early stage in the race to succeed Hertzberg, who is facing term limits in 2002 in the Van Nuys-centered district. The primary is more than a year away, but Waldman, who has worked for Hertzberg for six years (beginning before Hertzberg won his seat), said he wanted to get a speedy start.

“I need to attract substantial support from community leaders and raise a considerable amount of money,” said Waldman, 32, who has loaned himself $100,000 for the race. “This requires a great deal of focus, which I can’t do while I’m representing the speaker and the community.”

Aides to politicians do not always quit if they decide to run for public office. For instance, Francine Oschin, a longtime deputy to Councilman Hal Bernson, is on leave from Bernson’s office while she campaigns for the 3rd Council District seat now occupied by Laura Chick.


Waldman, whose last day on the job was Friday, said he is looking forward to devoting himself fully to his Assembly bid.

“I couldn’t talk to people about running because I had to represent the speaker’s office,” Waldman said. “Now I can work for myself.”