With the Los Angeles mayoral election five weeks away, City Controller Wendy Greuel began airing the first television ad of the campaign Tuesday in an effort to introduce herself to voters before rivals get a chance to define her in more unflattering terms.
City Councilman Eric Garcetti, Greuel's top rival in the March 5 primary, is expected to follow suit within days by launching his own TV ad campaign.
The ability of Greuel and Garcetti to afford extensive TV advertising, thanks to their aggressive fundraising, sets them apart from the six other mayoral candidates on the ballot.
Greuel's opening ad stresses her experience as controller. She tells viewers that she has uncovered $160 million in waste and fraud at City Hall.
"As mayor, I can stop the waste because I know where it is," Greuel says. "And I'll use the savings for job creation, better schools and faster emergency response in every part of our city."
Garcetti's campaign immediately challenged Greuel's claim, saying she has exaggerated the waste and fraud found in some 78 audits of city departments. The city councilman's aides referred reporters to annual reports on the controller's website for the last three fiscal years, which show a total of $96.7 million in "avoidable costs" and "potential revenue" to the city.
The total of potential funds uncovered by Greuel still falls short of $100 million, even when adding in additional audits the controller's office has performed since the last annual report in June of last year, Garcetti's representatives said.
After reviewing the audits, her rival said that just $239,000 had actually been recovered for the city treasury.
"It is absolutely the worst kind of flim-flam math I've ever seen in my life," said Bill Carrick, Garcetti's chief strategist. "The $160 million does not exist. There is no $160 million in savings."
The Greuel ad suggests she would use "savings" like those found in her audits for "job creation, better schools and faster emergency response in every part of our city."
Garcetti's camp said in a statement the actual savings "would have a negligible impact on education, emergency response and job creation,"
Greuel political consultant John Shallman accused Garcetti of "baseless attacks."
"It's clear now why Mr. Garcetti has failed to stop the wasteful spending in City Hall—he's not reading the Controller's audit reports," Shallman said in a statement. "If he had, he would know that the Controller has identified more than $160 million in waste, fraud and abuse."
Times staff writer James Rainey contributed to this report.