Inglewood stadium developers gave $118k to city officials, mayor calls this “free speech”

Inglewood Mayor James Butts has been an enthusiastic backer of Stan Kroenke’s Hollywood Park stadium-and-development project, even saying that “no tax dollars have been requested or will be used for this project if approved” when that’s not exactly true. Now it turns out that Kroenke’s development partners gave $118,500 in campaign contributions to Butts and two city councilmembers in recent years, and Butts may have turned around and given some of that cash to two more councilmembers:

Campaign finance records show that in 2013, Hollywood Park Land Co. contributed $42,500 to Butts’ 2015 campaign. Last year, the company contributed $15,000 to his 2014 campaign fund, according to campaign records…

Butts’ campaign lent about $160,000 to other candidates, including Councilmen George Dotson and Alex Padilla, finance records show. The development company contributed $5,000 to Councilman Ralph Franklin in 2011 and again last year, campaign records show. Councilman Eloy Morales Jr. received five donations totaling $18,500 from the developers between 2006 and 2014.

Butts and the councilmembers reported receiving the donations, and there’s no cap on campaign contributions in Inglewood, so there’s nothing illegal here. Still, it certainly doesn’t look good when city officials who are considering approving a major development deal while evading both a public vote and an environmental impact review got paid hundreds of thousands of dollars from the beneficiaries of such a vote. Or at least, it doesn’t look good unless you’re Butts, who defended such a system as just good politics, or good business, or something:

“Won’t it be unusual if somebody who had so many projects in a community that they won’t want to exercise their free speech to try and ensure that people are in government that have good governing sense and business skills?” Butts said. “I would find that unusual if they didn’t.”

The issue here, just to be clear, isn’t whether the Hollywood Park development would be a good one for Inglewood — that’s something that we simply don’t know yet, since both the public costs and the economic, traffic, and other impacts of such a project haven’t been determined. Which is exactly why an EIR, or at least a year-long public debate during an initiative campaign, could shed more light on the pros and cons of the deal than the council just voting to approve it, which they could do as early as next week.

Instead, we have people in elected office who apparently consider it “good governing sense” to approve development plans without due diligence — which just happens to be the position of the people giving money to their campaigns. That’s not unusual, no, but it is kind of a problem.

8 comments on “Inglewood stadium developers gave $118k to city officials, mayor calls this “free speech”

  1. So, the basic objection is, “not enough red tape here”?

    I happen to doubt that the Inglewood stadium/development is going to be all that good, but if there were significant opposition we would’ve seen it already given the size of this project.

  2. I like how you turned ‘voting’ into ‘red tape.’

    USA Today did a huge spread on this guy in the Sports section yesterday. I think it was meant to largely be a flowery puff piece (and it did nothing to challenge the fiction that stadia are the way toward economic Nirvana) but, reading between the lines, Butts comes off like a total a-hole. Not that I’m for taxpayers in either California or Missouri getting put on the hook, but if Inglewood ends up being the leverage that makes St. Louis make a bunch of bad decisions, I’m going to laugh at Butts.

  3. Regardless of what you think about red tape a political system where businesses seeking decisions from elected officials have funded those officials campaigns is not desirable.

    I know that is anathema to a portion of the population that thinks money should equal speech, but we have got to come up with more effective ways of selecting representatives.

  4. For once in my life, I have to agree with Ben Miller. Environmental impact reviews frequently have little to do with the environment; they more resemble extortion. God-awful environmental catastrophes somehow are mitigated when Green palms are greased, and the right pockets are lined with a bit of developer dough.

    Developers vs. Greens is like the Iran-Iraq war: I’m not gonna root for either side.

  5. Butts has uised gestopo tactics in Inglewood/ Residents should throw the rascals out.Inglewood is not a boogie town/ We need technology science and youth programs and remove IUSD from receivership. Return schools to school board/No coucilmember has any business experience.

  6. This development has already gone through an EIR in 2009. There is even a provision for a “possible 80,000 seat stadium.”

  7. DTLA: Are you sure about that? The only reference I can find to a stadium in the EIR is as an “alternative to the proposed project” — i.e., the EIR studied the impact of building the original Hollywood Park plan in comparison with several other scenarios, including a stadium. I don’t see anything in there about studying a Hollywood Park + stadium plan.

    Anyone who wants to play along at home, start here:

  8. Best quote from the Mayor Butts when asked about the stadium: “Let me put it to you this way, buddy. It’s going down. This is a happening thing. As far as everybody being all in, everybody’s all in.” Capeesh, dogg? I guess you can talk like that when you have led a SWAT team, worked undercover in narcotics, led raids and been shot at 4 times.