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.