Sunday, October 30, 2016

Suspicious political donations linked to approval of a $72-million apartment project in Los Angeles

LATimes:

Blanco is among more than 100 campaign contributors with a direct or indirect connection to Samuel Leung, a Torrance-based developer who was lobbying public officials to approve a 352-unit apartment complex, a Times investigation has found.

Those donors gave more than $600,000 to support Hahn, Mayor Eric Garcetti and other L.A.-area politicians between 2008 and 2015, as Leung was seeking city approval for the $72-million development in L.A.’s Harbor Gateway neighborhood, north of the Port of Los Angeles, The Times found.

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At one critical point, Garcetti invoked a mayoral prerogative — which he has used only twice — to reduce the number of council votes required to approve the project. In several cases, elected officials received the money as they were poised to make key decisions about the development, known as Sea Breeze.

Many of the contributions were reported on the same day, in the same amounts, for the same politician, contribution records show. They came from the handymen who fixed Leung’s buildings; the landscaper who tended his gardens; the chef who prepared meals in a hotel run by his company.

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Among the donors contacted by The Times, 11 denied making contributions or said they didn’t remember giving. Several others were unable to provide basic details about their donations, such as why they gave, to whom and how many times.