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In Violation of Pledge, Ryu Has Accepted Tens of Thousands Worth of Comcast, NBCUniversal Donations

The media giant has been actively lobbying the city over land use decisions pertaining to Ryu’s district since 2013.

A fun exhibit at Universal Studios Orlando. Comcast NBCUniversal executives and lawyers across the country have been moved to contribute to David Ryu. (Photo: Inside the Magic)

During the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association debate between Council District 4 candidates Nithya Raman and David Ryu, Councilmember Ryu doubled-down on his assertion that he does not accept donations from developers.

But how accurate is Ryu’s assertion that he no longer accepts developer donations? Since the time he was caught with his hand in the developer cookie jar last year, has Ryu truly changed his ways?

Not one bit. Unless you are willing to give exception to massive international media conglomerates that are developing mixed-use theme parks and business districts.

As Raman recently drew attention to, the borders of CD4 have changed over the years. It includes this odd little slice here:

A select portion of the CD4 map. (Source: lacity.org)

This little piece contains a valuable piece of real estate — Universal Studios and Universal CityWalk. The political geography is clearer here:

Yellow represents the existing city-county boundary-lines, red represents the land owned by Comcast/NBCUniversal in this figure from planning documents submitted to the City on behalf of NBCUniversal (Source: cao.lacity.org)

The land shown above is a major piece of real estate owned by Comcast and its now subsidiary, NBCUniversal. It is also a critical piece of infrastructure for Universal Studios.

Comcast NBCUniversal has had big plans for that real estate over the last several decades. As early as 2013, they have operated under what they call the “Evolution Plan.” The plan seeks to better integrate that real estate into theme park operations at Universal Studios. That plan is also a decades long development project to take advantage of the land and the theme park. Of course, such development comes with government scrutiny.

Further detail on Comcast NBCUniversal’s expansion plans. (Source: cao.lacity.org)

So, when corporations are involved and the government is involved, what do you get? Lobbyists. Lots of them.

Since the early 2000s, Comcast and NBCUniversal have retained 13 different lobbying firms to lobby the City of Los Angeles. This includes companies like Mercury Public Affairs, Latham & Watkins, Psomas, Greer/Dailey, and Ek & Ek. Since at least approximately 2007, NBCUniversal has been engaged in extensive lobbying related to the development of the Universal City site.

As lobbying records show, in 2013, Comcast and NBCUniversal Media began lobbying the City of Los Angeles regarding land use and development issues in connection with the Evolution Plan. As recently as this year, Comcast and NBC Universal have identified themselves as lobbying clients of Latham & Watkins and Mercury Public Affairs. Those two lobbying firms are specifically lobbying the City on behalf of Comcast and NBCUniversal on matters including “General Land Use & Transportation Matters; Community outreach & advocacy for [the] ‘Evolution Plan’” and “[i]ssues relating to filming and development.

Mercury Public Affairs is notable: Ryu last week signed a letter requesting that Mercury Public Affairs “sever ties with Turkey.” But, as Rob Quan of UnrigLA pointed out, Ryu is also simultaneously deploying Mercury Partner Antonio Villaraigosa to make robocalls on behalf of Ryu’s reelection campaign.

At the same time that Comcast and NBC Universal are lobbying the City regarding development on the Universal Studio site, Ryu (whose district includes the Universal City development site) has accepted nearly 50 significant donations from high-level executives and lawyers at Comcast and NBCUniversal.

For one example: Thomas Williams, the Chairman and Chief Executive for Universal Parks and Resorts who serves on the NBCUniversal Executive Committee (and whose contribution receipts identify himself simply as a “Manager”) gave Ryu the maximum contribution ($800) just over two months ago:

One of nearly fifty contributions from Comcast or its employees to David Ryu. (Source: ethics.lacity.org/)

Ryu has collected donations worth tens of thousands of dollars from these Comcast and NBCUniversal executives and lawyers. At least 30 of those donations come from executives and lawyers who work for Comcast/NBCUniversal and who do not live in Los Angeles. Ryu accepted at least 14 of those donations since the primary in March of this year. Ryu has also accepted multiple maximum dollar donations directly from NBCUniversal, the corporate entity, itself.

Despite Ryu’s promise to reject and return developer donations, and despite the fact that Comcast and NBC are actively — this year — registered as lobbying the City for development and land use purposes, Ryu has not returned these donations.

Update: It was pointed out that Ryu has also had approximately one hundred thousand dollars in behested payments made on his behalf from Comcast and NBCUniversal.

KNOCK.LA is a project paid for by Ground Game LA. This article was not authorized by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate.

Nithya Raman, David Ryu’s opponent, is one of several candidates endorsed by Ground Game LA.

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