Just a little more than two weeks before the Los Angeles mayoral election, candidate Eric Garcetti is redoubling his attack on rival Wendy Greuel with a television ad that calls her “the DWP’s mayor” and asks viewers: “How much will it cost you?"
Garcetti, a city councilman, has built his critiques of Greuel, the city controller, around the $3.6 million in independent campaign spending that has helped her, about $1.5 million of it from the union that represents workers at the city’s Department of Water and Power.
The new ad, complete with creepy music and pictures of a squinting Greuel, opens with a narrator repeating a statement from a Los Angeles Times editorial that said Greuel had “disappointed” as city controller.
It then hits the candidate’s audits, saying they “returned less than 1% of what she claims” and that audits of the city utility had “uncovered zero waste in the DWP’s $7-billion budget.”
Greuel has claimed that her audits have uncovered $160 million in “waste, fraud and abuse” but said she cannot specify exactly how much of that amount could be returned to the city treasury. She has blamed the City Council for not realizing most of the savings because of its failure to act on her findings.
The Times found in January that two audits that projected the biggest potential dollar gains for the city relied on an accounting maneuver – shifting funds from one city account to another — and on a projection the controller’s office itself said was unrealistic from the start.
The Garcetti ad focuses its wrath on Greuel’s relationship with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, whose local previously supported her run for controller.
“She never audited DWP’s massive salaries and pensions,” the ad charges. “Now the DWP union super PAC is breaking spending records to elect Greuel. And tells the L.A. Times they’re expecting raises.”
Greuel has responded that the City Charter requires that the city’s proprietary departments — including the DWP and those that run the airport and port — be audited every five years. On that schedule, the DWP does not come under a comprehensive audit until 2014.
The tit-for-tat over the city utility has been central in the campaign for mayor for weeks. Greuel charges that Garcetti has approved pay raises for DWP employees, who already earn more than other city workers and workers at private utilities.
Garcetti retorts that he played a role in getting the position of ratepayer advocate on the ballot, where it was approved by voters.
[Updated, 12:02 p.m. PDT May 6: Last week, United Firefighters of Los Angeles City Local 112 gave $100,000 to Working Californians for Wendy Greuel, a campaign committee controlled by the union that represents Department of Water and Power employees. The firefighters union, which is set to negotiate a new contract next year, has made $350,000 in pro-Greuel “independent expenditures” -- contributions that do not have to comply with the city’s contribution limits.
Over the last two weeks, Working Californians produced eight blistering mailers attacking Garcetti while running positive TV spots highlighting Greuel’s support from former President Clinton.
Meanwhile, the Garcetti super PAC known as the Committee for a Safer Los Angeles picked up $80,000 in union contributions Friday, including $50,000 from International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 13. That super PAC created a Web advertisement highlighting text messages sent by Greuel to former mayoral candidate Kevin James.
Greuel courted James’ endorsement in a series of texts and tweets but denounced him after he endorsed Garcetti, saying his statements about President Obama and immigration were inappropriate.]
[For the Record, 12:34 p.m. PDT May 6: An earlier version of this post stated that the super PAC the Committee for a Safer Los Angeles received $65,000 in union contributions Friday. The figure was $80,000.]
Staff writer David Zahniser contributed to this report.Twitter: @latimesrainey