With independent expenditures totaling well over $3 million, the Los Angeles Unified school board election has become a battle of special interests — of unions, charter schools, and surprisingly, stadium operators — and the candidate winning the greatest share of that pie is Luis Sanchez in District 5.
At first glance, the race seems to be a battle of the unions. Independent expenditures — both supporting and opposing Sanchez — have totaled about $955,000. More than a third of that money has come from the Service Employees International Union, which raised nearly $335,000 in support of Sanchez. And United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), which sponsors candidate Bennett Kayser, has spent a little more than $322,000 opposing him.
But the nearly $255,000 spent by the Coalition for School Reform to support Sanchez makes it one of the key players in this election, which is now just a day away. And among the coalition's biggest spenders is Phil Anschutz of the Anschutz Corporation, whose sister company AEG has plans before the city for a $350 million football stadium in Downtown Los Angeles (which could top $1 billion when factoring in interest repayment).
So, what links a major corporation with dreams of building an NFL stadium to a candidate for LAUSD school board? Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
The Los Angeles City Council races aren't the only game to watch in the March 8 citywide elections. In fact, they aren't even attracting the biggest bets.
Independent expenditures in the Board of Education races are about to top $1 million, compared with just over half a million raised in the fight for a city council seat.
So far more than $500,000 in independent money has been spent on Los Angeles City Council races, the City Ethics Commission announced Wednesday.
The vast majority of those independent expenditures — money spent by outside groups on radio, TV, and print ads to support or oppose candidates — is being funneled into the 8th District race between incumbent Bernard Parks and union-backed Forescee Hogan-Rowles.
In 2007 the 8th District race received less than $2000 in outside money, all of which went to support Parks. With almost three weeks still to go, the same district has already pulled in more than $446,000 — more than a 22,000 percent increase.
No one was really expecting Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks to have much trouble defeating Forescee Hogan-Rowles in the upcoming city election. But that was before big labor got involved with the race for Council District 8.
The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO has spent more than $80,000 in support of Hogan-Rowles, and the IBEW—the electrical workers union—more than $125,000. Through an innocuously named group, Working Californians to Support Forescee Hogan-Rowles, the IBEW is prepared to spend almost a quarter million more on the race. And Hogan-Rowles has drawn further endorsements from the SEIU local 721, the firefighter's union and the policemen's union, which just put in its opening ante on Friday: $47,550 for Hogan-Rowles and $54,000 for radio ads attacking Parks.
So why do the unions have it in for Bernard Parks?