Since its launch by Richard Riordan seven years ago, the mayor’s holiday party for the media had become something of a tradition for reporters covering L.A. City Hall. Held at the Getty House in Hancock Park, the mayor’s official residence, the gathering typically granted several dozen reporters unfettered access to the mayor, his staff and some city department heads.
This year, the holiday party has been canceled. The official reason: Mayor James Hahn, who happens to be running for re-election and could use all the free publicity he can get, is too busy, according to spokeswoman Sahar Moridani.
“We tried to get a night where it would fit into the mayor’s schedule, but could not find a date,” she said.
Perhaps. But there might be some other reasons why Hahn would have wanted to cancel it.
For one, the party has always been sponsored and funded by Fleishman-Hillard Inc. the public relations firm accused of overbilling the city on contracts and using L.A. Department of Water & Power funds to promote Hahn’s image.
Also, a revolving door has been turning with the comings and goings of Fleishman employees and Hahn’s mayoral staff. Last year, then-deputy mayor Matt Middlebrook left Hahn’s staff to join Fleishman; around the same time, Fleishman exec Shannon Murphy became Hahn’s director of communications.
In reaction to the mounting allegations surrounding the PR firm, Hahn earlier this year cut all Fleishman contracts with city departments. Meanwhile, Fleishman banned all contributions to candidates or ballot issues.
“We did not hold any discussions about a holiday party with Mayor Hahn’s office,” said Richard Kline, general manager for the firm’s L.A. office. “What’s more, since Mayor Hahn is now a candidate, even if we were asked to contribute to a holiday party, our policy would prohibit us from doing so.”
While Moridani flatly denied that the Fleishman controversy played any role in the decision not to hold a party, the administration was clearly sensitive to the issue. Hahn’s aides took a week to concede that the party was not being held this year.
With Fleishman out, the Hahn administration would have had to find someone else to fund it.
L.A. Movers, Shakers
As term limits continue to churn in Sacramento, L.A. area lawmakers are gaining more clout especially in the state Assembly.
Assembly Speaker Fabian N & #250; & #324;ez, D-Los Angeles, announced a 14-member Democratic leadership team, with seven of its members from L.A. County. It is by far the highest percentage of local powerbrokers in recent history.
Topping the list is majority floor leader Dario Frommer of Glendale. Both majority whip Karen Bass and Democratic caucus chair Mark Ridley-Thomas hail from South Los Angeles. Rules Committee chair Cindy Monta & #324;ez is from Mission Hills, while fellow Rules Committee members Betty Karnette and Mervyn Dymally represent Long Beach and Compton, respectively. Finally, Monterey Park Assemblywoman Judy Chu chairs the powerful Appropriations Committee.
The impact of term limits is also being felt in other ways, most notably in the dwindling importance of seniority. Nowhere is this more on display than in N & #250; & #324;ez’s appointment of Bass as majority whip, the person responsible for keeping party discipline within the Democratic caucus. Bass won election to the state Assembly for the first time last month and just took the oath of office last week.
Bass said last week she was surprised by her appointment to the post. “I definitely didn’t lobby for this,” she said.
Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached by phone at (323) 549-5225, ext. 227, or by e-mail at