Flickr photo by Rob PoetschLos Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
New amendments up for debate by the Fair Political Practices Commission this week could soon prove fitting bookends to a recent flap involving Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has accepted upward of $50,000 in free tickets to concerts and sporting events since 2005 without disclosing them as gifts on his conflict of interest reports.
The rules, which are up for discussion Thursday, would require public officials to disclose online any tickets they received while performing "ceremonial" functions, along with information about the source, value of the ticket and the role the official played at the event. The rules would also clarify the conditions under which such tickets would have to be disclosed.
Most of the time, when a politician accepts tickets to a Dodgers game, Shakira concert or the finale of American Idol, they're supposed to disclose the gifts on a regular conflict of interest report, so the public can see who might be trying to ply their favor with front-row seats.
But as Villaraigosa showed us earlier this summer, those disclosure rules aren't always so cut and dried. Several Los Angeles media outlets reported that the mayor received expensive tickets to various events without disclosing them on his reports. The allegations culminated in an LA Weekly piece that outlined an estimated $50,000 to $100,000 in free tickets Villaraigosa received but did not disclose since 2005.
In the story, Villaraigosa's team argued that because the mayor attended the events as part of his official duties, he was exempt from typical gift limits and disclosure rules. The issue was particularly thorny in LA, which is well-known for maintaining some of the strictest ethics rules in the country.
Not long after the LA Weekly story ran, the FPPC announced an investigation into the matter. A memo attached to next week's commission agenda says a vote on the amended regulations could come as soon as next month.