City Attorney Carmen ‘Nuch’ Trutanich kicked off fundraising for his campaign to become District Attorney with a lavish cocktail reception in San Pedro. The April 27, 2011 cocktail reception was co-hosted by the notorious City Hall lobbyist John Ek, and came less than a week after Trutanich’s ties to Ek were revealed in the Los Angeles Weekly in an expose “How Lobbyist John Ek Gets His Way In City Hall.”
At the time of the LA Weekly article, Trutanich was proving to be a true ally in Ek’s efforts allow his client, HMS Host, to hold on to its concessions at Los Angeles Airport where, according to the LA Weekly, HMS Host has given LAX a reputation for “lousy food.” Few would disagree that LAX food is horrible and expensive, and LAX had selected new concessionaires to replace HMS Host. But Trutanich raised a conflict of interest issue that allowed HMS Host to continue to supply “lousy food.”
The Tru Is False blog also raised questions about Trutanich’s relationship with Ek, noting that while Trutanich was a criminal defense attorney, he represented Ek when Ek was called to testify in a Grand Jury proceeding regarding campaign finance issues. Ek never testified.
Given the question marks surrounding Trutanich’s close relationship with the LAX lobbyist, one might have thought that Trutanich would seek to distance himself from Ek as he attempts to bunny hop from the from the City Attorney’s Office to the DA’s Office. Apparently not. Today the LA Times revealed that Ek had been a co-host at Trutanich’s cocktail reception with the ink barely dry at the LA Weekly.
Trutanich had probably planned his San Pedro cocktail reception well in advance of the embarrassing details of his relationship with the LAX lobbyist being revealed, but was clearly not bothered by what many might well think is the appearance of impropriety, perhaps even a conflict of interest. Some might think that Trutanich’s lack of concern is indicative of an arrogance of office, a “F you, I’m the City Attorney and I can do what I like!” mentality that epitomizes Trutanich’s reputation as a bully and a thug.
As a host listed on Trutanich’s mailer, Ek is expected to produce $25,000 in campaign contributions – that’s the price of getting the top billing on the mailer. But today, Trutanich’s campaign spokesman, John Shallman, told the LA Times that “Ek did not raise any money or give any contributions at the event.” Apparently the Times did not get a satisfactory answer to the obvious follow-up question “Well, if Ek wasn’t giving Trutanich and money, nor persuading any of his clients to do so, why is Ek listed as a host where the invitation clearly states ‘$25,000 Host/Raise’?” There must be an innocent explanation, surely?
Trutanich has to report all campaign contributions by the end of this month. His ever growing list of enemies will be examining that list carefully to see if any of Ek’s clients are listed as contributors.
Although it is perplexing to some that Trutanich, who projects himself as a “do the right thing kinda guy,” would align himself so closely and publicly with a lobbyist, it is not the first time that Trutanich’s conduct has raised eyebrows. Barely days after taking office, Trutanich claimed that there were “criminal aspects” to AEG’s handling of the Michael Jackson Memorial at Staples Center, and announced that his Bureau of Investigation was gathering evidence. A year later, the criminal aspects investigation abruptly ended without either criminal charges or a statement from Trutanich. A search of Trutanich’s campaign finance records showed a his Office Holder committee had received free tickets to a Lady Gaga concert at LA Live, a venue operated by, AEG. There’s surely an innocent explanation, but, like the LAX concession “assist” to John Ek, it really looks bad.
Some might think that voters have a reasonable expectation to demand they highest of ethical standards from a candidate seeking to be the county’s top prosecutor. That Trutanich should forgo campaign contributions that look questionable, even if there is plausible innocent explanation. That does not appear to be Trutanich’s belief,
It has also been pointed out that Trutanich’s invitation lacks the required disclosure notice stating “Paid for by the Committee to Elect …” A small detail, perhaps, but again, the job of District Attorney is one that demands an attention to detail, and that too seems lacking.
The primary election for Los Angeles County’s next District Attorney will take place on June 5, 2012.