Mayor Invites Business Leaders on Tour of Asia
Mayor James K. Hahn announced Friday that he will take a delegation of about 15 business officials to Asia next week, many of whom contributed tens of thousands of dollars to his anti-secession campaign.
Hahn said he invited leaders of businesses that would benefit from increased Asian trade and tourism. Their role in helping him defeat secession measures earlier this week was not a factor, he said.
“Politics doesn’t have anything to do with this,” Hahn said at a news conference at the Hollywood & Highland shopping center. “It’s about economics.”
The business executives will be paying their own way on the 10-day trip, which is being billed as a trade and tourism mission. At one stop in Tokyo, Hahn will be accompanied by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dodgers pitcher Kazuhisa Ishii to encourage travel to Los Angeles.
Hahn will meet with tourism operators and officials in Seoul, Beijing, Tokyo, Shanghai, Taipei and Hong Kong, as well as airport and shipping line executives. He hopes to boost tourism, which has sharply declined, particularly among Asians. He also wants to return with agreements from airlines to use Ontario International Airport for passengers and cargo, and encourage Asian officials to hire Los Angeles firms for work in those countries. Critics of the mayor view the trip as a reward for those who helped him in his bid to prevent the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood from creating separate cities. Hahn’s L.A. United campaign, which raised more than $6 million, was successful; citywide, voters rejected secession in the Valley 67% to 33%. And 71% of voters rejected a separate Hollywood city in Tuesday’s election.
Richard Katz, the former state assemblyman who helped lead the Valley secession effort, said the delegation includes the downtown business elite that helped the mayor beat back secession.
“It’s the same in-crowd,” Katz said. “It’s a harmonic convergence of good politics and good prospecting.”
The firms represented on the trip contributed at least $333,000 to the mayor’s anti-secession campaign. They include several of the city’s largest contractors, including architectural and engineering firms that have plans to expand Los Angeles International Airport and that are hoping for more work at Ontario.
Ray Landy, president of DMJM, a contractor on LAX projects that gave $40,000 to L.A. United, will be traveling with the mayor. Edward McSpedon, executive vice president of engineering firm HNTB, is also joining the mayor; he donated $1,000, and his firm gave $100,000. HNTB has been awarded a contract to help with the city’s master plan for expanding the Ontario airport.
Also traveling with the mayor is Shawn Anderson, chairman of WH Smith, which owns concessions at LAX. The company gave $50,000 to the mayor’s anti-secession campaign after the Airport Commission awarded the Atlanta-based firm a three-year extension of its contract.
Fleishman Hillard, which was one of the earliest donors to L.A. United and contributed $35,000, will have two representatives on the trip. The Department of Water and Power is paying their way as part of the firm’s contract to coordinate public relations.
The business delegation also includes: Andrew Cherng, chief executive of the Panda Restaurant Group, whose business gave $50,000; Peter Woo, who heads Megatoys, which contributed $10,000 to L.A. United; and Shu Kwan Woo, the CEO of ABC Toys, where associates gave a total of $20,000 to the mayor’s campaign.
Other executives invited on the tour are: Lynne Haraway, vice president of the Bechtel Infrastructure Corp., which gave $5,000; C.S. Ha, director of the Korean Centennial, publisher of the Korea Times newspaper, whose chairman gave $100; and Earl Gales, chairman and chief executive of Jenkins/Gales & Martinez Inc., which gave $5,000.
Frances Kao, an attorney with the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, is also part of the delegation. Her firm held a fund-raiser for the mayor’s campaign in September, pulling in nearly $18,000 from partners and others.
A couple of executives were not solely on the mayor’s side in the secession fight. Jim Dunn, president and chief executive of the Airtel Plaza Hotel across the street from Van Nuys Airport, provided rooms for secession events, including a major kickoff last August. The mayor used rooms there for a significant address the morning after the election. Alan Skobin, a vice president and general counsel of Galpin Ford, is also traveling with the mayor; his boss, Bert Boeckmann, is a police commissioner who supported secession but who did not contribute as much as expected to that effort.
Leaders of two business organizations also are going on the trip -- Bruce Ackerman, president and chief executive of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley, and Lee Harrington, president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. Neither the executives nor the organizations were listed as donors to L.A. United.