Tag Archives: Los Angeles Ethics Commission

On Monday Serena Oberstein Quit Her Position As Ethics Commission President — Evidently To Run For Mitch Englander’s Council Seat — She Was A Corrupt And Horrible Commissioner And Would Doubtless Be A Corrupt And Horrible Councilmember — But At Least Some Supporters Of Her Likely Opponent Brad Smith Are A Zillion Times Worse — Repellent Misogynist Neanderthal Piggies Who Think She Shouldn’t Run Because She Has A Young Child — And Other Attack Vectors Too Gross To Put In A Headline — As Bad As She Is There Are Worse Things Out There

According to the incomparable Emily Alpert Reyes, worst-of-the-bunch Los Angeles City Ethics commissioner Serena Oberstein resigned her position on Monday, apparently to prepare a run for Mitch Englander’s to-be-vacated seat as Council District 12 repster. As an Ethics Commissioner Oberstein was so horrible, so corrupt, so willing to betray the interests of the City in favor of her own interests, the interests of her employer, and the interests of her weirdo buddies in the non-profit community, that I have no doubt she’ll fit right in on the Council, at least until the inevitable FBI raid.

And it looks like Brad Smith, who ran unsuccessfully against Mitch Englander in 2011 is going to run against her for the seat.1 And yesterday, evidently because of my incisive, revelatory, and critical reporting2 on Serena Oberstein’s corrupt and destructive habits, I was contacted by some guy calling himself Howard P. Cohen and claiming to be involved with Brad Smith’s campaign and asking for my help to defeat Serena Oberstein.

So I agreed to help cause Brad Smith was endorsed by Democrats last time he ran so that’s good, and she’s so bad. But then later in the day I was CCed on this email from Howard P. Cohen explaining exactly why he thinks Serena Oberstein should be defeated, which seems to boil down to the facts that first, she’s “a YOUNG JEWISH FEMALE,”3 and second, that she, as a woman, shouldn’t run for office, shouldn’t “prioritize POWER,” because she has a young child. In his estimation this makes her a bad mother and therefore unfit to serve on City Council. This is wrong on so many levels it’s really hard to express.

First, it doesn’t make her a bad mother to run for office or to seek power no matter what the age of her child. Second, what about her husband, who has the same kid she has and also has a high power high visibilty political job. Where’s the attack on him for being a bad father? Third, even if she were a bad mother who freaking cares? The only relevant question is whether she’s a good politician. I’m sure there have been plenty of bad mothers who were good politicians. God knows there’ve been plenty of bad fathers.

And there’s worse, which I don’t even want to soil my keyboard by discussing. The email is transcribed after the break, though. And now I can’t have anything to do with either of these people. Howard P. Cohen and anyone who associates with the guy politically are at least a zillion times worse than Serena Oberstein. She will be bad for the City of Los Angeles in the kind of mainstream sell-out way that our City’s mainstream politicians have been bad for us since Harry Chandler invented Los Angeles.

The office of Councilmember in Los Angeles was purposely designed by Chandler and his criminal cronies to encourage selling out to developers, so it’s not a surprise that the job attracts sell-outs. We can survive her like we’ve been surviving people like her for well over a century. But anyone who associates with people who think like Howard P. Cohen thinks will be bad for the City in deep, cosmic, existential ways.

A campaign opposing Serena Oberstein’s candidacy because she’s Jewish and a woman and a mother seeking power rather than because she’s a corrupt politician is intrinsically damaging and is unsupportable by sane people. That’s surely no reason to vote for Serena Oberstein, but it’s certainly a reason not to vote for Brad Smith. And as I said, turn the page for a transcription of the email.
Continue reading On Monday Serena Oberstein Quit Her Position As Ethics Commission President — Evidently To Run For Mitch Englander’s Council Seat — She Was A Corrupt And Horrible Commissioner And Would Doubtless Be A Corrupt And Horrible Councilmember — But At Least Some Supporters Of Her Likely Opponent Brad Smith Are A Zillion Times Worse — Repellent Misogynist Neanderthal Piggies Who Think She Shouldn’t Run Because She Has A Young Child — And Other Attack Vectors Too Gross To Put In A Headline — As Bad As She Is There Are Worse Things Out There

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In December 2016 Carol Schatz Arranged For Lobbyist Laura Mecoy To Ghostwrite Anti Street Vending Talking Points For Studio City Neighborhood Council Representative Barry Johnson, Who Was Appearing Before The Public Works Committee To Give A CIS — Although Potentially Illegally — Demonstrating Infiltration Of Neighborhood Councils By The Zillionaire Power Elite And Their Lobbyists And Minions To A Hitherto Unsuspected Degree

At least since 2015 a vast coalition of business improvement districts along with the Schatzian nightmare horror show known as the Central City Association have been fighting, clawing, hissing, and paying lots and lots and lots of money to counter any inclination our pusillanimous City Council might have towards creating even minimal legal space for street vendors to ply their life-affirming trade in the City of Los Angeles.

As part of this conspiracy, and even though the CCA essentially does nothing but lobby the City of Los Angeles, the BIDdies and their minions and allies hired a bunch of outside lobbyists to help fight their weirdo battle. One of these ringers was Laura Mecoy, who hooked them up with the LA Times editorial board and then had some trouble getting paid by the BIDdies for her work.

And all of a sudden, here’s Laura Mecoy again! Very recently I received a copy of this fascinating email chain, and here’s what it reveals!1 It seems that on December 8, 2016, Rita Villa of the Studio City Neighborhood Council got in touch with Carol Schatz about an upcoming hearing of a Council committee at which street vending would be discussed.2 They were evidently trying to coordinate on who was going to attend the meeting to make sure the fascist viewpoint was heard.

Villa mentioned that our old friend Mr. John Walker of the Studio City BID couldn’t make it, and some other names about were bandied. Eventually Rita Villa arranged for Barry Johnson to attend, and Carol Schatz asked lobbyists Laura Mecoy and Fred Muir to write some talking points for Barry Johnson, which Laura Mecoy cheerfully did!

And there’s nothing at all interesting in the talking points.3 It’s the same old “one-size-does-not-fit-all we-respectfully-request-opt-in-please” jive-ass crapola that we’re used to out of these people. The interest in this episode is entirely in the effort that Carol Schatz and her hired lobbyists are putting into shaping the narrative coming out of the mouth of someone who’s putatively speaking for a neighborhood council.
Continue reading In December 2016 Carol Schatz Arranged For Lobbyist Laura Mecoy To Ghostwrite Anti Street Vending Talking Points For Studio City Neighborhood Council Representative Barry Johnson, Who Was Appearing Before The Public Works Committee To Give A CIS — Although Potentially Illegally — Demonstrating Infiltration Of Neighborhood Councils By The Zillionaire Power Elite And Their Lobbyists And Minions To A Hitherto Unsuspected Degree

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Buscaino Staffer And Erstwhile CD9 Candidate David Anthony Roberts Doesn’t Just Expedite The Usual City Permits And Similar Chump-Change Jive For His San Pedro Zillionaire BID Buddies, He Also Sends Them His Resume And Hits Them Up For A Job Using His Official City of Los Angeles Email Address, All While Running An Eponymous Freaking Lobbying Firm As A Side Gig

In the high and far off times, O best beloved, there was a candidate for Los Angeles City Council District 9, endorsed by the L.A. Times in 2013 and a favorite of both Bernard Parks and Jan Perry. Well, nothing works out like one expects in this mean old world and in these latter days our hero, whose name, by the way, is David Anthony Roberts, rather than having his own council district to do with as he might please, is instead some kind of high mückety-mücklischer poo-bah type guy in Joe Buscaino‘s employ over at CD 15.

And of course, if you’re going to be on Joe Buscaino’s staff you’re going to spend a lot of time working with the San Pedro Historic Waterfront BID. It goes with the territory. If the BID or its constituent conspirators need to get criminal trash-dumping charges fixed or maybe if they need to get criminal dog-grooming charges fixed or, I don’t know, need some bodies weighted down and dumped into the deeps off Terminal 26 or something, CD15 staff are gonna get a call or an email from Lorena Parker, San Pedro BIDdie extraordinaire. And, just because it goes with the job and stuff, sometimes the staffie under the gun is going to be David Anthony Roberts.
Continue reading Buscaino Staffer And Erstwhile CD9 Candidate David Anthony Roberts Doesn’t Just Expedite The Usual City Permits And Similar Chump-Change Jive For His San Pedro Zillionaire BID Buddies, He Also Sends Them His Resume And Hits Them Up For A Job Using His Official City of Los Angeles Email Address, All While Running An Eponymous Freaking Lobbying Firm As A Side Gig

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Worst-Of-The-Bunch Ethics Commission Veep Serena Oberstein, Who’s Paid $87,500 Annually By Her 501(c)(3) Employer Vision To Learn, Both Of Whom Were Poised To Reap Benefit From Version Of Municipal Lobbying Ordinance Revision Pushed Hard By Serena Oberstein, Suspiciously Neglected To Mention This Fact In Any Of The Literally Zillions Of Public Forums Held On The Matter

It hasn’t even been two weeks since the Los Angeles Ethics Commission put our City’s Municipal Lobbying Ordinance in danger of being made meaningless, primarily at the instigation of worst-of-the-bunch Commission Veep Serena Oberstein, with respect to 501(c)(3) nonprofits, so it’s not surprising that all the ramifications of their misfeasance have not yet been completely understood. Along those lines, therefore, here’s another episode from the ethical Twilight Zone in which at least some members of the Commission seem to dwell in these latter days.

You see, Serena Oberstein is not just the City’s most corrupt Ethics Commissioner, what with her sub rosa agenda-pushing for her nonprofit buddies Shyaam Subramanian1 and Nancy Berlin, amongst others, not to mention her refusal to agendize a perfectly reasonable request that her Commission disclose their ex parte communications,2 she’s also the Chief Operating Officer of some Westside do-gooder outfit called Vision to Learn.

And while I had some inchoate notion that her involvement with 501(c)(3) nonprofits might explain at least some of her motivations in the recent fiasco, whereby mostly at Serena Oberstein’s instigation, the Commission ended up recommending to the Council that all 501(c)(3)s with gross annual revenues under $2 million be exempt from registration as lobbyists, I hadn’t taken the time to investigate. But recently it occurred to me to look at Vision to Learn’s3 Form 990s to see how the modifications pushed by Serena Oberstein would affect her employer.4 I published the last few years here on Archive.Org, or you can go directly to the PDFs here:

So take a look at the evidence yourself, or turn the page to see what I found!
Continue reading Worst-Of-The-Bunch Ethics Commission Veep Serena Oberstein, Who’s Paid $87,500 Annually By Her 501(c)(3) Employer Vision To Learn, Both Of Whom Were Poised To Reap Benefit From Version Of Municipal Lobbying Ordinance Revision Pushed Hard By Serena Oberstein, Suspiciously Neglected To Mention This Fact In Any Of The Literally Zillions Of Public Forums Held On The Matter

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Los Angeles Ethics Commissioners Fail To Understand Their Powers And Duties Under The City Charter And Thereby Inadvertently (??) Set The Stage For Exempting Nearly All 501(c)(3) Tax Exempt Organizations In Los Angeles From The Municipal Lobbying Ordinance

It seems like forever now, although it’s only been two years, that the Los Angeles Ethics Commission has been discussing proposed changes to the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance (MLO). At this point I just don’t have it in me to summarize the discussion any more, although you can find links to most of my posts on the subject in this post on the penultimate phase of the matter.

At the Commission’s meeting on Tuesday, which you can watch in its entirety right here (or here on Archive.Org if you prefer), there were only two matters left to settle. One was the issue of detailed reporting of contacts between lobbyists and City Officials. I hope to write on what happened with that later on. The other, and the subject of today’s post, had to do with exemptions from the MLO for 501(c)(3) nonprofits. You can watch the whole discussion beginning here. These organizations enjoy some exemptions now by virtue of LAMC §48.03(E,F). You can read the statute for yourself, but essentially it exempts 501(c)(3)s1 which have “… the purpose of representing the interests of indigent persons and whose primary purpose is to provide direct services to those persons…”

As they are wont to do, the staff, in the persons of Director of Policy Arman Tarzi and Mark Low, head of the lobbying program, provided the Commission with a detailed set of recommendations. There were four different options given that had to do with nonprofits, which you can read in the proposal. Of these, three were developed by staff and the fourth2 was provided by nonprofits and proposed to exempt all nonprofits, no matter what they do, which have gross annual receipts of under $2.5 Million.

Never content to leave well enough alone, these hyperorganized nonprofits presented the Commission with a so-called “Option 5,” which they circulated at the meeting. This option proposed to modify LAMC §48.03(E) to exempt from the MLO:

E. Any organization exempt from federal taxation pursuant to Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code that:
1. Provides assistance, such as food, clothing, shelter, child care, health, legal, vocational, relief, educational, and other similar assistance to disadvantaged people for free or at a significantly below-market rate; OR
2. Has gross receipts of less than $2.5 million.
This exemption also applies to the organization’s employees and board members while engaged in official duties. This exemption does not apply when an organization is seeking funding, property, or a permit from the City on its own behalf.

Continue reading Los Angeles Ethics Commissioners Fail To Understand Their Powers And Duties Under The City Charter And Thereby Inadvertently (??) Set The Stage For Exempting Nearly All 501(c)(3) Tax Exempt Organizations In Los Angeles From The Municipal Lobbying Ordinance

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Ethics Commission Veep Serena Oberstein Announces That She Is Very Excited To Have Found A Way To Evade The Public Records Act While Claiming That She’s Evading It “In The Spirit Of Transparency Which The Ethics Commission Represents.”

The Los Angeles Ethics Commission held its December meeting this morning, and I recorded the whole thing1 and you can watch it either on YouTube or else on Archive.Org. Of course the main event was the last two items to be discussed regarding proposed updates to the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance, and I’ll have something to say about that whole mishegaas later in the week I hope. And there was also an instance of silence speaking louder than words, as the Commission completely ignored my recent request that they consider adopting a disclosure rule for ex parte contacts between Commissioners and those who would influence them.

Such contacts, of course, are a serious problem with our Ethics Commissioners, not least Serena Oberstein, the lobbyists’ best friend, who was involved in a minor yet horrifying interlude at this morning’s meeting which is the subject of tonight’s rant. The issue was whether and how the Ethics Commission’s investigators should disclose to the targets of their investigations that the investigations have become inactive.

This came up at the October meeting, and you can watch the whole episode here if you’re interested. The short version is that the investigators presently do not inform investigative targets when they’ve stopped investigating due to confidentiality mandated by the City Charter. Commissioner Serena Oberstein is deeply concerned that all these targets are going to be unsettled and anxious by not knowing that they’re not being actively investigated and she wanted staff to issue closure letters.

Such letters turned out not to be legally or politically possible, but at today’s meeting Sergio Perez, Director of Investigations, presented this proposal, adopted unanimously by the Commission, which recommended that policy be changed to allow oral notice to those being investigated that their investigations had become inactive. This recommendation putatively avoids the confidentiality requirement by invoking LAAC §24.29(c)(2), which states that:
Continue reading Ethics Commission Veep Serena Oberstein Announces That She Is Very Excited To Have Found A Way To Evade The Public Records Act While Claiming That She’s Evading It “In The Spirit Of Transparency Which The Ethics Commission Represents.”

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Open Letter To The Los Angeles Ethics Commission Asking Them To Consider Adopting A Policy On Disclosure Of Ex Parte Communications

I reported last week that Serena Oberstein, Vice President of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, had engaged in undisclosed ex parte communications with a couple of (unregistered) lobbyists regarding a proposal to revise the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. Of course, at present, there’s no requirement for any City commissioners, except Harbor Commissioners, to disclose such communication.

However, the example of the Board of Harbor Commissioners shows that it is possible for City commissions to adopt more stringent requirements than the rest of City government is subject to. Given the role of the Ethics Commission in defending the public interest in transparency and disclosure, it seems like a natural candidate for such a policy.

Hence, as promised, I’ve written a letter to the Commission asking them to put an item on the agenda for December 19 asking the staff to draft a policy proposal for such a requirement. Here’s a copy of the letter, and you can read a transcription after the break. If you’re moved to write about this yourself, you can, as far as I know, send communications to the Commission at ethics.commission@lacity.org.
Continue reading Open Letter To The Los Angeles Ethics Commission Asking Them To Consider Adopting A Policy On Disclosure Of Ex Parte Communications

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Ethics Commissioner Serena Oberstein’s Undisclosed Ex Parte Communication With Lobbyists Shyaam Subramanian and Nancy Berlin In Hallway Fifteen Minutes Before Ethics Commission Meeting Casts Some Doubt On Everyone’s Commitment To Transparency

Shyaam Subramanian and Nancy Berlin talking to Ethics Commissioner Serena Z. Oberstein in the hallway before Tuesday’s Ethics Commission meeting. She thanked them for giving her language, presumably to do with the MLO, and actually took notes on it in her phone. Click to enlarge.

In August the Ethics Commission continued the multiyear discussion about revising the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. The next stage in the process was three interested persons’ meetings held in September, and then on to more discussion at yesterday’s Ethics Commission meeting. The meeting was essentially interminable,1 and I recorded the whole lobbying discussion. You can watch it either on Archive.Org or on YouTube:

Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IV •.

Ethics Commissioner Serena Z. Oberstein taking notes on “language” provided to her by lobbyists Shyaam Subramanian and Nancy Berlin. Click to enlarge.

I hope to write about the outcome of the discussion as soon as possible, although things are ultra-busy here at MK.Org secret headquarters. The short version is that the Commission accepted most of what staff recommended with a few changes and two items to be discussed even more at the December meeting. In any case, it turns out that the most interesting part of the meeting, and I don’t think this is so uncommon in City Hall, took place in the hallway fifteen minutes before the call to order.

There, I was lucky enough to witness lobbyists2 Shyaam Subramanian of Bolder Advocacy and Nancy Berlin of CalNonprofits engaged in an intense conversation with Ethics Commissioner Serena Z. Oberstein about proposed revisions to the MLO involving nonprofit corporations, whose interests both of them are compensated to represent to the City. At one point she even thanked them for giving her “language,” presumably having to do with their preferred outcome in the upcoming meeting, and went so far as to take notes on it in her phone!
Continue reading Ethics Commissioner Serena Oberstein’s Undisclosed Ex Parte Communication With Lobbyists Shyaam Subramanian and Nancy Berlin In Hallway Fifteen Minutes Before Ethics Commission Meeting Casts Some Doubt On Everyone’s Commitment To Transparency

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How I Reported Fashion District BID Executive Director Rena Leddy To The Ethics Commission For (a) Failing To Register As A Lobbyist And (b) Failing To Recuse From A DLANC Vote For Conflict Of Interest

As you may already know quite well, in the City of Los Angeles, people are required by the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance to register with the Ethics Commission if they’re compensated for 30 hours of lobbying activity over three consecutive months.1 This year I’ve been working on reporting BID consultants to the Ethics Commission for failure to comply. So far I’ve filed two complaints, both against Tara Devine, one for her work on the Venice Beach BID and another for her work on the South Park BID.

But consultants aren’t the only BID people who spend their time trying to influence municipal legislation.2 BID staff actually spend a huge amount of time on this as well, and they never ever register as lobbyists. Also, they have never, in the entire history of Los Angeles, ever been called to account for failing to register. In fact, they’ve fought vigorously against the very idea that their work is even subject to the MLO.3

Consequently I’ve been working on expanding my unregistered lobbyist reporting project to BID staff as well. I kicked off the modern era of this project4 today by filing a complaint against Rena Leddy, executive directrix of the Fashion District BID, for failing to register and also for violating conflict of interest laws. You can read the whole complaint if you wish, and there’s a detailed discussion after the break.5
Continue reading How I Reported Fashion District BID Executive Director Rena Leddy To The Ethics Commission For (a) Failing To Register As A Lobbyist And (b) Failing To Recuse From A DLANC Vote For Conflict Of Interest

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Video Of Third Interested Persons’ Meeting Now Available, Featuring Among Other Things Some Exceptionally Whiny Non-Profits Whose Whole Argument Against Regulation Seems To Be That The Ethics Commission Is Strapping Extra Pianos To Their Back Just Like Donald Trump Does To Poor People, Conveniently Forgetting The Fact That Nonprofit Status Is A Huge Freaking Public Subsidy

No doubt you recall that the Los Angeles Ethics Commission is presently working on proposing revisions to the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance (MLO) and that part of the process has been to hold a bunch of meetings to gather input. I recorded the first of these, which turned out to be quite interesting. The second focused on neighborhood councils and I’m working on obtaining an audio recording of it.

The third meeting focused on nonprofit organizations that lobby the City. I wasn’t able to make it, but fortunately for all of us, it was recorded by Bobby Buck, a brave citizen journalist. He posted his recording on YouTube for all to watch and listen. The main issue under discussion here is which 501(c)(3) organizations will be exempt from the registration and disclosure requirements of the MLO. Currently the law at §48.03(E) presently exempts 501(c)(3)s from the requirements if they receive:

… funding from any federal, state or local government agency for the purpose of representing the interests of indigent persons and whose primary purpose is to provide direct services to those persons, if the individual or individuals represented by the organization before any City agency provide no payment to the organization for that representation.

The Ethics Commission staff is proposing1 that this be tightened up to exempt only:

501(c)(3) organizations that receive government funding and are created primarily to provide basic life assistance to disadvantaged clients at a rate that is significantly below market (and their employees engaged in the same activity).

The meeting is more than 90 minutes of the usual bitching and moaning, and I’ll write on various episodes as I have time. Tonight’s installment concerns these comments by yet another genius, this one from the Inner City Law Center, who thinks that just because he claims to be doing good in the world no one really has the right to question anything he says or does, let alone subject his organization to any kind of registration or disclosure requirements.2 Turn the page for a transcription of some of his remarks and some commentary.
Continue reading Video Of Third Interested Persons’ Meeting Now Available, Featuring Among Other Things Some Exceptionally Whiny Non-Profits Whose Whole Argument Against Regulation Seems To Be That The Ethics Commission Is Strapping Extra Pianos To Their Back Just Like Donald Trump Does To Poor People, Conveniently Forgetting The Fact That Nonprofit Status Is A Huge Freaking Public Subsidy

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