Challenger Demands LA Councilman Joe Buscaino Return 'Sea Breeze Scandal' Campaign Cash

Candidate Caney Arnold calls for incumbent Buscaino to give back contributions from developer Samuel Leung

LA City Council candidate Caney Arnold has called for Councilman Joe Buscaino to immediately return all campaign contributions he received from controversial developer Samuel Leung and his associates. In an explosive Los Angeles Times investigation about City Hall's controversial handling of a mega-project known as "Sea Breeze," the paper revealed that Buscaino had been given $94,000 in campaign cash.  

Arnold is running against Buscaino in the City Council District 15 race. The brewing Sea Breeze Scandal has rocked LA City Hall, with the Los Angeles County District Attorney reviewing whether Leung and his associates illegally gave more than $600,000 to Buscaino, Mayor Eric Garcetti and other politicians. 

Leung received special spot-zoning favors to build an apartment complex in Buscaino's district -- even though the city's planning department and planning commission opposed the zone-breaking mega-project. 

According to the LA Times, "Buscaino has also promised to return any campaign funds found to be improper by investigators."

But Arnold believes the councilman should not wait, and return all contributions related to the Sea Breeze Scandal. The challenger also demands that the city's Ethics Commission undertake an active investigation.

"From a review of the Ethics Commission contribution reports," says Arnold in a press statement, "we can see that Councilperson Buscaino has still not returned the contributions that were clearly demonstrated to have been laundered by the developer of the Sea Breeze Apartments. I call on Councilperson Buscaino to return the contributions as soon as possible. His continued holding of these funds shows a disappointing lack of ethics on his part."

Arnold adds, "The Councilperson and his office were clearly negligent in accepting these contributions given that they have adequate staff to review contributions. Now the Councilperson is showing a clear intent to disregard the City Ethics rules." 

In November, the Coalition to Preserve LA, which sponsors Measure S, called for the California Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney's Office to investigate "whether City Hall leaders, in ex parte meetings, sell their votes to developers seeking 'spot zoning' that enriches the developers."

The U.S. Attorney's Office won't say whether or not an investigation is taking place, and the California Attorney General has not yet responded for a comment.

The Sea Breeze Scandal is just one instance of developers shelling out major campaign cash. The Coalition to Preserve LA found that developers and the Big Real Estate industry have handed over at least $6 million in campaign contributions to LA political candidates

A recent LA Times report also found that billionaire developer Rick Caruso and his associates distributed hundreds of thousands in LA political money while seeking City Hall zoning approvals.

It's why many neighborhood activists and civic leaders believe LA's planning and land-use system is rigged and broken -- and favors developers seeking special spot zoning favors for mega-projects that are not normally allowed under the city's zoning rules.

As a result, there's citywide support for Measure S, which dramatically curtails LA politicians' ability to hand out spot zoning approvals to developers and, therefore, prevents soft corruption at City Hall -- if the City Council and mayor have nothing to sell to developers, then developers have nothing to buy with their campaign cash. 

Yes on S on March 7.

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