L.A. council candidate received, then swore off developer donations

Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, shown at a Nov. 14, 2012 council meeting, will be termed-out in June 2015.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

At a forum Tuesday night in Hollywood, nearly a dozen candidates vying to replace termed-out Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge were asked a question: Will you accept campaign contributions from developers?

Among those answering “no” was candidate Teddy Davis, who once worked for former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

City ethics records show Davis previously received several campaign contributions from developers.

Davis said Wednesday that he was aware of the developer contributions when he answered the question Tuesday night. His campaign manager, Anthony Holland, said Davis understood the questioner to be asking whether he would accept future campaign contributions from developers, not whether he had done so in the past.


Davis said his answer concerning developer campaign contributions wasn’t misleading. On Wednesday, he said he is returning more than $3,500 in donations from developers.

The candidate said he decided he would forgo developer donations during the Tuesday forum, after hearing opponents in the crowded contest give answers similar to one another on a question about development.

“I quickly realized that saying you’re going to be different is not enough,” Davis said. “You actually have to behave differently.” He estimated that 3% of his contributions so far had come from developers.

Davis said he told campaign staffers on Tuesday night to return all donations from developers. In a campaign email sent Wednesday afternoon, Davis said he was challenging other candidates to swear off money from developers and called it his “clean money pledge.”

Holland declined to provide a list of the campaign contributions that Davis was returning, saying that it would be publicly available in Davis’ campaign financial filing next week.

At the Tuesday forum hosted by the Hollywood Heights Assn., candidates Jay Beeber, Sheila Irani and John Perron also said they would not accept campaign contributions from developers.

Several other candidates said they would only accept money from developers who did work that they believed in. Joan Pelico, who works as chief of staff to Councilman Paul Koretz, said she had turned down a donation from the developer of the large Millennium project in Hollywood, but had accepted at least one other contribution from a developer. Others said they would gladly take such donations.

“Yes, I will take money from developers,” said Oscar Winslow, a deputy city attorney running for the seat. “I will take money from just about anyone who’s willing to give me money.... What you really want to know is, when those people donate, have they bought me? Absolutely not.”

More than a dozen candidates have entered the race to replace LaBonge, whose district includes parts of Hollywood, Hancock Park and Sherman Oaks. The council seat comes with an annual salary of more than $184,000.

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Times staff writer David Zahniser contributed to this report.