Why Is The City Of Los Angeles Paying More Than Six Million Dollars To Registered Lobbying Firm Liner LLP, Recently Famous For Violating The Municipal Lobbying Ordinance In The Course Of Helping To Sink The Skid Row Neighborhood Council?

Powerhouse zillionaire litigation and lobbying firm Liner LLP has come up a lot around here recently, mostly due to the fact that shady anonymous Delaware-registered probably-a-front-for-Capital-Foresight shell corporation United DTLA hired Liner, and specifically ethically challenged non-lobbyist Liner partner Rockard Delgadillo, to violate a bunch of laws in the course of convincing1 suprisingly humanlike CD14 repster Jose Huizar to change up all the rules at the last minute in a truly shameless yet tragically successful effort to torpedo the recent Skid Row Neighborhood Council formation effort.

So what a surprise it was to see Liner LLP come up in yesterday’s crop of automated emails from the City Clerk,2 specifically here in Council File 17-0648. It turns out that Liner has been acting as outside defense counsel for the City in the recently settled DWP class action lawsuit. According to this letter from DWP to the City Council they have blown through the original allocation of $4,800,000 and need another $1,622,200 to finish the job. To do this they evidently need the Council to adopt this amendment to the contract, and the issue is on the calendar for June 30.

In one sense there’s nothing unusual about this situation. Even the City Attorney can’t be expected to retain staff experts on every possible kind of litigation, just as other City departments can’t be expected to have staff who know how to handle every possible situation that might come up in the course of governing a city as complex as this one. The potential need for outside expertise is even anticipated and regulated by City Charter §1022.

On the other hand, there’s something deeply wrong with the idea that the City of Los Angeles pays millions of dollars to a law firm which is, in turn, also paid millions of dollars by local zillionaires to lobby the City. Lobbyists are forbidden by municipal ethics laws from sitting on most boards and commissions, from making campaign contributions,3 and from bunches of other things designed to preserve at least the appearance of City independence from paid influence. As far as I can see, there’s no law against the City hiring lobbyists for this kind of work, but it sure seems as if there ought to be, because it looks very bad.

Just for instance, the Liner partner who’s handling the City’s litigation, Maribeth Annaguey, has, according to her Liner LLP bio page, as her clients other than the City, “…high-net-worth individuals, real estate developers, [and] commercial property owners.” How is it consistent with clean government for the City of Los Angeles to pay millions of dollars to a woman whose other clients are quite likely the very people who also pay her employer millions of dollars to influence the City for them? Even if Liner doesn’t specifically advertise to its lobbying clients how cozy it is with the City the clients can certainly understand the situation on their own.

And not only that, but it’s also disconcerting that the City has hired a lobbying firm that’s apparently incapable of following the City laws which regulate lobbying. Most4 City contractors are required to comply with the Contractor Responsibility Ordinance, which, in part, requires contractors to follow all relevant laws. I understand that the City won’t, can’t, and shouldn’t be able to sanction contractors before they’re convicted, and Liner hasn’t yet been convicted, but it’s all such a slimy stew of back-slapping, hand-shaking, jaw-dropping, inbred, incestuous, six fingered, under-ye-olde-table influence that it’s hard not to wish that something could be done. Perhaps, eventually, something will be.

Image of Maribeth Annaguey started out on her Liner LLP bio page and I’m appropriating it under a fair use claim. The palm trees in the background came from here, where they have been released under the CC0 No Rights Reserved license. The resulting mash-up, my work, is ©2017 MichaelKohlhaas.Org.

  1. I say “convincing,” but really, when zillionaires come seeking favors of José Huizar, convincing is barely necessary. Even asking is often far more than is required, so sensitive is José Huizar to the needs, wants, and desires of his high-net-worth individual supporters.
  2. As absolutely despicably disgustingly enabling as the Los Angeles City Clerk is with respect to the criminal shenanigans of this City’s business improvement districts, they have also accomplished some truly admirable things, and this notification system is one of them. It’s a treasure of City government, and they should be proud of it. Of course, it’s a whole different department from the one that’s supposed to oversee the BIDs.
  3. On their own behalfs, at least. The law here is a complex mess that I don’t yet fully understand.
  4. But not all — if you guessed that BIDs aren’t subject to the Contractor Responsibility Ordinance, you win!

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