On Friday, reporter Jim Rainey at the LA Times published the above photo.
The photo shows Rick Jacobs, one of Mayor Garcetti’s closest advisors, acting as if he’s grabbing the crotch of a blurred-out, unnamed person at the 2017 US Conference of Mayors in Miami. It’s a group shot, with Garcetti just on the other side of the person who Jacobs is pretending to grope, giving a double thumbs-up.
This photo arrives after a month of allegations regarding Jacobs’s history of sexual harassment and assault while in Garcetti’s circle — with multiple victims claiming that his misconduct took place with Garcetti’s knowledge. This is happening as the Mayor is being vetted for a position in Joe Biden’s cabinet.
All of that is, of course, the most important stuff going on in this picture. But it’s also worth looking at who else is in it. Everyone in the group shot is very relevant to the operation of LA city government — and the fact that they’re all standing together for this photo at the US Conference of Mayors tells a story about how LA works, I think.
So here’s who they all are. From left to right:
- One of Garcetti’s closest advisors, largely known for his ability to raise money for PACs and nonprofits that have served Garcetti’s political interests.
- Ran a $2.3 million+ PAC for Garcetti in his first mayoral election back in 2013, then joined Garcetti’s mayoral office as senior advisor.
- Formerly ran Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign in California. Also worked for Occidental Petroleum and founded the Courage Campaign, a state progressive PAC.
- Left Garcetti’s mayoral office in 2016, but still maintained outsize influence over the Mayor. Journalist Yashar Ali reported that Garcetti’s schedule was fully given over to Jacobs on Tuesdays, known as “Tuesdays with Rick.”
- On the Board of the Mayor’s Fund, an independent nonprofit through which the Mayor solicits donations for local causes, including relief payments during the pandemic, from wealthy individuals and corporations (with the largest donation coming from the State of Qatar).
- Co-founder, with Garcetti, of Accelerator for America — a nonprofit that offers grants to local governments across the country, seen as a mechanism for Garcetti to build his national profile. Jacobs was CEO but has recently been scrubbed from the website.
- Personal wealth advisor to developer Erika Glazer, whose father developed the Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance, which was the biggest mall in the country for the entire 1980s.
- This person’s name hasn’t been revealed, so I won’t name him either. But he works closely with LA city government, including the Mayor’s office.
- He is the Mayor.
- Founded the lobbying firm Kirra Consulting in 2009. Kirra lobbies the city of LA — including the Mayor’s office — for major corporations including American Airlines, Uber, and Live Nation.
- Very good friends with Garcetti. I’m told they went to high school at Harvard-Westlake together. He was on Garcetti’s mayoral transition team.
- From 2001 to 2005, beginning the same year Garcetti was elected to City Council, Perttula served as Special Assistant City Attorney, working primarily on issues related to LAX, the Port of LA, and the Department of Water and Power — all of which he now lobbies on behalf of corporate clients.
- Major donor to Democrats. He co-hosted a fundraiser for Joe Biden in Beverly Hills in September 2019.
- Also a founding partner of Abington Emerson, a real estate company with investments all over the country (including at least one in LA).
- Perttula isn’t allowed to make donations to city campaigns because he’s a lobbyist, but his wife Kimberly has made max donations to the campaigns and officeholder accounts of at least seven sitting City Councilmembers. Four people with the last name Perttula also gave max donations to Garcetti in both of his mayoral campaigns.
- Senior Vice President of civil engineering firm CH2M Hill (at the time of this photo)
- Former aide to City Councilmember Richard Alatorre. His wife was also Alatorre’s Chief of Staff.
- CH2M Hill is a massive Colorado-based engineering firm that specializes in government services — including water, transportation, environmental infrastructure, and nuclear energy. In other words, this kind of firm runs on public sector contracts.
- CH2M Hill has a lot of contracts with LA local government, including at least $10 million to overhaul LA city trash collection, at least $32 million to manage new automated wastewater systems, and at least $46 million from Metro to design a new bike path to close a gap along the LA River. Some complained that the bike path contract should have gone to an “equally qualified” contractor that made a much lower bid.
- CH2M Hill is represented by Josh Perttula’s Kirra Consulting to lobby the City of Los Angeles, including the Mayor’s Office.
- CH2M Hill also has a record of penalties for overbilling governments and paying kickbacks (though probably not unusual for a big firm of this type)
- CH2M Hill was bought by Dallas-based Jacobs Engineering (no relation to Rick Jacobs) in 2017 in order to “bolster its reach in the high-margin government services and infrastructure sectors.” The company is now fully absorbed into Jacobs Engineering, including the name. Orozco is still a VP, and Jacobs Engineering continues to be represented by Kirra Consulting for lobbying services in LA.
- Over the last 20 years, Orozco has given $83,550 to various city campaigns, including $4,650 to Garcetti’s campaigns and officeholder accounts.
- His current parent company, Jacobs Engineering, gave $50,000 in behested payments to Garcetti’s inauguration fund the same week this picture was taken. A “behested payment” is a donation requested by an elected official, in this case Garcetti. (Jacobs didn’t officially buy CH2M Hill until two months after the picture).
- VP, LA Board of Public Works (at the time)
- Garcetti lifer. She worked on his first campaign for City Council, then in his council office, then on his mayoral campaign, then in his Mayoral office as Director of External Affairs.
- Nominated (by Garcetti) to sit on the Board of Public Works in 2015. The Board of Public Works is powerful — they oversee the administration of very big contracts. If you are a civil engineering company like CH2M Hill/Jacobs Engineering, you need to go through the Board of Public Works to get a lot of your money.
- Stepped down from the Public Works in 2018 to make an unsuccessful run for LAUSD school board. Rick Jacobs, Josh Perttula, and Gerard Orozco all made max $1,200 contributions to her campaign.
- Nominated (by Garcetti) to sit on the Metropolitan Water District board in 2019. The MWD board is also powerful — it’s the largest treated water supplier in the United States, and Repenning is a Vice Chair representing the City of LA on the board.
- Repenning also now works for Metro as executive officer of Sustainability Policy. This position is also relevant when it comes to distributing contracts, including civil engineering contracts, like the one CH2M Hill got from Metro in 2018.
So that’s who’s hanging out together at the US Conference of Mayors. They are all friends. They’ve worked together for many years, even decades. And they’ve all relied on each other for career success.
I’m not accusing anyone in this picture of doing anything illegal or flagrantly corrupt. This is just how it works. These are all preeminent members of the City Family — as members themselves often refer to it — and the City Family runs on loyalty. Everyone in this picture has seen their loyalty manifestly rewarded. They’ve built relationships. They were all presumably at the US Conference of Mayors to build more relationships.
All of them have done time working for the city, and then either profited from their government connections in the private sector or saw their status in City Hall grow significantly — in no small part with the assistance of the people they’re standing next to. Again, this is just how it works. When you’re in the City Family, you help each other.
And when one of the City Family commits sexual misconduct in your peripheral vision, you smile and look straight ahead.