Eric Garcetti says donations don’t break anti-Wal-Mart pledge
Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti made a show last month of his anti-Wal-Mart credentials, promising not to take campaign donations from the retail giant during his upcoming mayoral bid.
But money from Wal-Mart employees is a different story for Garcetti, who is looking to replace termed-out Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in next year’s election.
Garcetti filed paperwork this week saying that he has raised $2.2 million for his mayoral bid. That money included $100 from Javier Angulo, Wal-Mart’s director of community affairs.
Asked about that donation, Garcetti campaign spokesman Bill Carrick said the pledge applies to money from the retail giant, not the people who work for it. Carrick also called the donation irrelevant, since Garcetti has publicly opposed Wal-Mart’s plans for a new grocery store in Chinatown.
That view was not shared by Maria Elena Durazo, head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which pushed candidates to sign the anti-Wal-Mart pledge last month.
“It is one thing if a Wal-Mart cashier or warehouse worker makes a contribution to a candidate,” Durazo said in a statement. “It’s a different kind of political contribution altogether when a senior-level representative of Wal-Mart who is actively organizing for a Wal-Mart store in Chinatown writes the check. Wal-Mart money is Wal-Mart money.”
Garcetti’s mayoral campaign also received $1,800 from Glenn Gritzner and Cecilia Cabello, two executives of Mercury Public Affairs, which handled public relations and lobbying duties for Wal-Mart in Los Angeles until last month. The firm’s contract ended after one of its employees was caught posing as a reporter at a union news conference.
Mercury spokeswoman Becky Warren would not say whether Gritzner or Cabello worked on Wal-Mart’s L.A. expansion efforts. “We do not discuss clients,” she said.
Garcetti’s campaign described both donors as longtime friends. Gritzner volunteered on Garcetti’s 2001 campaign, while Cabello spent several years as a Garcetti aide, he said. Garcetti “didn’t make a commitment to not take money from Mercury employees or Wal-Mart employees, so I just don’t know what the issue is,” Carrick said.
Wal-Mart’s plan for a Chinatown store has stirred its longtime critics, particularly labor organizations that are assiduously courted by L.A. politicians. Two of Garcetti’s opponents, City Controller Wendy Greuel and Councilwoman Jan Perry, also have vowed to reject Wal-Mart money.
Angulo, the Wal-Mart representative, has also donated in the past year to Councilman Jose Huizar and Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes (D-Sylmar), who is running for the seat being vacated by Councilman Richard Alarcon. Garcetti called last month for L.A. politicians to give back any Wal-Mart money they have received.
The promise by Garcetti and Greuel to reject Wal-Mart cash was announced by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, an advocacy group that focuses on labor issues and has been at odds with Wal-Mart for years. Amy Wakeland, Garcetti’s wife, is co-chair of that group’s advisory board, according to the group’s website.
A spokeswoman for the alliance had no comment on Garcetti.
Times staff writer Kate Linthicum contributed to this report.
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