With Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s ambassadorial nomination stalled in the U.S. Senate, his parents have taken a step more typical of industries or governments: They hired a national lobbying firm to help clear the way for a vote.
Gil and Sukey Garcetti retained McGuireWoods Consulting in April to help their 51-year-old son, according to lobbying registration forms submitted to the Senate last week. The appointment was first reported by Politico.
President Biden elected the mayor as his ambassador to India in July, but the nomination has been postponed for several months following allegations of harassment involving a former top adviser to Garcetti.
“We are a close family. If something happens to one of us, it happens to all of us – and everyone helps,” Gil and Sukey Garcetti said in a statement to The Times. “So we got a trusted counselor to help tell the truth. We don’t think about the unkind things a critic can say, we think about our family, and how important it is to stand by each other, show integrity and be truthful. . ”
Lobbying experts said they could not recall a similar situation. They also said the mayor himself could have hired the consultants.
State and local government agencies and elected officials can hire lobbyists, but “I’ve never heard of a similar case where the parents of a major elected official hired a lobbyist to help,” said Jeff Birnbaum, president of BGR Public Relations and an expert on lobbying issues.
Gil Garcetti, 80, a former LA County District Attorney, and Sukey, 82, are regularly pictured by the mayor’s side. When the mayor appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in December, his parents, rather than his wife or young daughter, attended the hearing.
The Garcettis have not indicated how much they will pay the company or how long the event will last.
The mayor is worth millions, according to a financial revelation he gave to the government as part of his application for the post in India. His annual salary is more than $ 290,490, and he has interests in commercial and residential real estate and investment funds, according to the revelation.
Many lobbying companies in Washington, DC have a minimum monthly amount of $ 10,000 or $ 15,000, but some companies charge $ 50,000 a month, or sometimes more, said Beth Rotman, director of money in politics and ethics at Common Cause, a good government organization.
She compared Garcetti’s parents to a couple who are betting on getting their child into a top school.
“It’s a bit like when parents hire the most expensive coach they can find to get them into the most expensive university,” Rotman said.
“There is nothing unusual about the family reaching out to help the family,” Garcetti spokesman Harrison Wollman said. “Mayor Garcetti has been a public servant for over two decades and keeps his focus on serving the people of Los Angeles – and will not let this process get in the way of the demanding work of running this city.”
Garcetti’s nomination remains in limbo as some Democratic senators seek more information about allegations that a top adviser sexually harassed others in the mayor’s office. The mayor testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he was not aware of any inappropriate behavior.
“I will say unequivocally that I was never a witness, nor was it made aware of the conduct that has been alleged, and I would also assure you that if it had been, I would have taken immediate action to stop it, “Garcetti said.
A report released by Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) concluded that Garcetti probably knew or should have known about the aide’s alleged behavior.
A city report from an external investigator paid for by taxpayers acquitted both the adviser, Rick Jacobs, and the mayor. Jacobs has denied harassing anyone.
The city also pays for Jacobs’ lawyers in the ongoing lawsuit filed against the city by a Los Angeles police officer who claims Jacobs harassed him in front of the mayor.
Gil Garcetti’s name has come up in that lawsuit. Jacobs said in testimony that the mayor’s father told him the officer could file a lawsuit. The mayor’s parents also reached out to Jacobs after the lawsuit was filed to express their support for him, according to a text introduced at Jacobs’ deposition.
Like his son, Gil Garcetti has navigated tumultuous political times. His eight years in office included the failed assassination of OJ Simpson, culminating in the loss of his re-election to one of his deputies, Steve Cooley. The older Garcetti became a famous photographer.
Lobby registration forms filed by McGuireWoods Consulting listed Garcetti’s and a Brentwood address, which was later changed to a Wilshire Boulevard address attached to the couple.
McGuireWoods Senior Vice President Breelyn Pete, a former Garcetti staffer who works on behalf of the mayor’s parents, told The Times she would “use my knowledge of Senate processes and belief in the mayor’s integrity by helping share truthful information with senators. and their employees. “
The effective date of registration was April 5 according to the form.
“Lobbyists know how to move the wheels,” Common Cause’s Rotman said. Lobbyists have relationships with specific lawmakers and can represent multiple interests or help raise money for the lawmaker, and make sure their clients donate, she said.
The McGuireWoods Federal PAC has donated more than $ 900,000 in the 2021-22 election cycle, donating money to both Republican and Democratic senators.
Ronald Neumann, president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, who has held three ambassadorial posts, said he has never heard of anyone hiring a lobbyist to help secure an ambassadorial confirmation, but that does not mean it has not happened.
“Most career foreign service officers could not afford to hire a lobbyist,” Neumann said. Garcetti, a political nominee, supported Biden as it was far from clear he would win the Democratic nomination and served as co-chair of Biden’s campaign.
The State Department referred questions about Garcetti’s parents’ hiring of a lobbyist to the White House.
“The president trusts Mayor Garcetti and believes he will be an excellent representative in India. The White House continues to pressure senators and pushes to engage with any unresolved senators and answer any questions they may have,” he said. a White House official.
Garcetti has traveled to Washington several times in the past year and has met with senators to discuss his nomination. His former communications director Naomi Seligman has also held meetings to oppose his nomination.
Seligman claims that the mayor witnessed Jacobs’ alleged harassment by others, and says she was kissed on the mouth against her will by Jacobs, which he denies.
John Tye, a lawyer from the nonprofit organization Whistleblower Aid, which works with Seligman, said he is not required to register as a lobbyist to meet with Senate offices.
“We have made education and we are allowed [to do so] under nonprofit rules, “Tye said.
Bob Stern, former president of the Center for Governmental Studies, said it is likely that Gil and Sukey Garcetti do not care about the optics of hiring a lobbyist and compared the move to a “Hail Mary.”
“It’s desperation,” Stern said.