Perfectly Forgetful Pacheco
Los Angeles City Councilman Nick Pacheco has skirted the bounds of propriety before, but this time he’s outdone himself. He gave tens of thousands of public dollars to a nonprofit group with the same address as a political committee that reported spending an equivalent amount to campaign for his reelection. Instead of thoroughly explaining this doesn’t-pass-the-smell-test coincidence, he and his supporters are on the attack against challenger Antonio Villaraigosa, whose campaign first unearthed the questionable funding reported in Friday’s Times.
While the county district attorney’s office launches yet another investigation into the councilman’s campaign practices, Pacheco claims he did not even know of the connection between the nonprofit group and the campaign committee. Let’s review the connections and decide whether Pacheco’s claim makes sense. You may need a white board to keep track:
Between Dec. 30 and Jan. 21, Pacheco gave $36,500 -- on top of $30,000 in recent years -- to Madres del Este de Los Angeles-Santa Isabel, an Eastside nonprofit organization headed by Juana Gutierrez. Mothers for Nick, the political committee that shares Gutierrez’s Boyle Heights address, reported to the City Ethics Commission in late January that it was spending $36,085 to campaign independently for Pacheco. According to the California secretary of state’s Web site, Mothers for Nick took over the name La Colectiva, a now-disbanded group that was run by Gutierrez’s son, Martin GutieRuiz, a college friend of Pacheco’s. La Colectiva’s claim to shame was its role in the 2001 mayoral race, in which Pacheco backed James K. Hahn over Villaraigosa. A woman impersonating county Supervisor Gloria Molina placed recorded phone calls to voters slamming Villaraigosa. The district attorney’s office investigated and found that La Colectiva used a phone bank owned by CAL Inc., a nonprofit group formed by Pacheco -- who said he knew nothing about the calls.
In November, when Villaraigosa announced that he would run against Pacheco, district voters received particularly nasty mailers attacking him. La Colectiva’s former attorney, Ricardo Torres, another college pal of Pacheco’s, claimed responsibility. Pacheco -- you guessed it -- said he knew nothing about the mailers. These tactics are one reason The Times endorsed Villaraigosa over Pacheco in the City Council race.
Taxpayers deserve better than these insults to their common sense. They also deserve an explanation of the $250,000 “discretionary” account that Pacheco tapped for the Madres -- in $5,000 dribs and drabs so as not to have to follow city contracting guidelines.
City Controller Laura Chick, who adamantly denies Pacheco’s contention that she authorized his expenditures, needs to audit how the city clerk oversees these slush funds. The City Council, in turn, has Pacheco to thank for this suspicion-fueled attention.