Rick Jacobs of liberal advocacy group joins Garcetti team

Share via

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has named Rick Jacobs, a high-profile Democrat who raised more than $2 million to help Garcetti win the May election, one of his senior advisors at City Hall.

Jacobs’ appointment is the latest in a series of top-tier City Hall jobs Garcetti has awarded to key campaign supporters. He will counsel Garcetti on communications, external affairs, scheduling, protocol and strategic partnerships.

Jacobs’ title, deputy chief of staff for operations, belies the clout he is likely to wield. He is a key player in the upper ranks of California politics and a longtime friend of Garcetti and his wife, Amy Wakeland. When Jacobs headed the California operation of Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential bid, Wakeland was a local advisor to the campaign.


Garcetti said Jacobs brings an outsider’s perspective to City Hall.

“I think in the past, I’ve been good at bringing diverse personalities together for a common purpose, and I’m really excited to have Rick on board,” Garcetti said Tuesday after a youth forum at Dorsey High School in South L.A.

Jacobs is the outspoken founder of Courage Campaign, an advocacy group that has championed gay rights, gun control and a wide array of liberal causes, including a fight by organized labor to stop the conservative Koch brothers from buying the Los Angeles Times.

Jacobs’ appointment reflects a willingness by Garcetti to surround himself with big-personality political figures who are not shy about clashing with powerful adversaries. It follows Garcetti’s hiring of two other key players in the mayor’s race: Jan Perry and Kevin James. Both ran against Garcetti in the primary, then backed him in the runoff.

Perry, a former City Council member, feuded openly with Council President Herb Wesson, a crucial governing partner of the mayor. Garcetti put Perry in charge of the city’s Economic Development Department.

James, a Republican talk-radio veteran whose fuming against alleged corruption at City Hall won him a following among conservatives in the San Fernando Valley, is Garcetti’s president of the Board of Public Works.

The City Hall appointment announced Tuesday will be the first government job for Jacobs, a Tennessee native who makes his living managing investments for Beverly Hills philanthropist Erika Glazer. A onetime Occidental Petroleum Corp. vice president, Jacobs was a partner of former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker in Newstar, an investment firm based in Washington and Moscow.


In recent years, Jacobs has been known for drawing a who’s who of Democratic politics to frequent parties he hosts at the Hollywood house he shares with his partner, documentary filmmaker Shaun Kadlec.

Jacobs is also a prodigious fundraiser. In the mayor’s race, he formed an independent committee to back Garcetti when it became clear that city employee unions, Hollywood moguls and other backers of rival Wendy Greuel were going to spend heavily on ads attacking Garcetti.

The committee, Lots of People Who Support Eric Garcetti for Mayor 2013, raised and spent $2.3 million on the campaign, most of it targeted at get-out-the-vote efforts in predominantly Latino neighborhoods that Garcetti wound up winning by wide margins.

The group also aired a controversial TV ad describing Greuel as a Republican “during the anti-immigrant era of Pete Wilson.” Antonio Villaraigosa, who was mayor when the ad ran, said the spot was “out of line, out of step with a diverse city, and has no room in politics.” But Jacobs stood by it.

Greuel, who switched her party affiliation from Republican to Democrat in 1992, opposed Proposition 187, the 1994 ballot measure on illegal immigration that turned former Gov. Wilson into a pariah among many Latinos.

The pillars of Jacobs’ fundraising are the disparate worlds of wealthy Westside liberals and organized labor. For the Garcetti committee, Jacobs raised money from some big-name Hollywood supporters, including $30,000 from comedian Jimmy Kimmel.


But private-sector unions were a bigger source of donations: $250,000 from International Longshore & Warehouse Union, Local 13; $197,257 from SEIU United Service Workers West, which represents janitors and security guards; $121,000 from Laborers’ Local 300, which represents construction workers; and $100,000 from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The unions have at times sought City Hall support to expand their ranks and strengthen their hand in disputes with business.

Jacobs, whose annual salary will be $177,499, said he planned to remain on the board of Courage Campaign and continue to raise money for Democrats.

Times staff writers Maloy Moore and David Zahniser contributed to this report.