Antonio Villaraigosa City Government Los Angeles Times Media

The Antonio and Rocky Show: Winners, losers, but who’s the producer? UPDATE**



Betting on a knock-out: When Rocky falls, watch Antonio loyalists, Wendy and Jack, rise.

Was it just an odd coincidence that personal and political problems emerged at nearly the exact same moment this month for both Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, L.A.’s top two estranged leaders?
Unless you believe in the tooth fairy and expect your 401k to earn 45 percent this quarter, you probably shouldn’t believe that the past two weeks of political theater was an impromptu show. More likely, some of the best acts were scripted. The back-to-back crises even raise questions about whether the mayor’s office masterminded some of the Rocky scenes, adhering to the classic plot of punishing an adversary, rewarding allies and, by doing so, making City Hall a nicer place for the mayor, particularly if he sticks around for a full second term.

Like how could this be a mere coincidence? On Friday, June 8, the mayor sends out a press release announcing that his marriage is ending and that he’ll hold a press conference the following Monday. The next day, on Saturday, we read in the L.A. Times about the first transgression by Rocky’s wife: she got a traffic ticket in 2005 while driving her own car on a suspended license. Minor, but things got more serious in Tuesday’s paper. Along with coverage of the mayor’s say-nothing press conference, we learned that Rocky stuck taxpayers with the $1,222 repair bill for his city-owned SUV, damaged when his wife drove on a suspended license while he partied it up at the Democratic Convention in Boston three summers ago.

Sure, these two nuggets broke within days of Paris Hilton’s early release from jail on June 7, raising suspicions at the time that Rocky’s disgruntled staffers leaked word of wife Michelle’s misfortunes to embarrass the sanctimonious, hypocritical city attorney, who was getting his fix of media-face time by criticizing Sheriff to the Stars Lee Baca’s handling of the heiress. And that may be true. Rocky’s detractors could fill several courtrooms, and it’s quite possible that the mayor’s office, if it did act, did not act alone.

But look what happened when Rocky couldn’t figure out how to respond to the SUV accident story. For at least eight days, he refused to answer reporters’ questions about his wife’s use of the city-issued SUV. No new revelations about Rocky or his wife emerged during this silent period. What sheer brilliance. Flinging any new dirt would have been a waste and run the risk of taking pressure off Rocky to come clean about his mishandling of his wife’s minor accident. Finally, Rocky held a news conference on June 18, which he bungled by failing to give correct answers to simple questions. And guess what? Over the next four days, the negative stories about Rocky and his wife once again flowed, in timed doses that took on a sense of a preordained order, with the Daily News and Times breaking the same story on Michelle’s unpaid business fees in Saturday’s papers. By then, the hits seemed calculating and methodical, more than random shots fired by fed-up civil servants or fresh developments uncovered by diligent investigative reporters relying on shoe leather alone.

The take-down campaign ingeniously served up an array of misdeeds, as though designed to offer at least one sin to rankle even the most permissive Angeleno’s soul, from Michelle’s unauthorized use of the SUV, her bench warrant, the couple’s insurance problems, leaning on staffers for babysitting and household chores and the wife’s missing business license.

Is it too far-fetched to see in the anti-Rocky avalanche the inspiration of Ace Smith, the king of opposition research? This guy has a national reputation for carving up political enemies and now heads Hillary’s campaign in California. Ace was Jerry Brown’s campaign manager in the Attorney General’s race last year and was Antonio’s campaign manager in 2005 and remains a trusted adviser. Wouldn’t he likely have a file or two overflowing with documentation of the missteps and screwed-up judgment of Rocky and Michelle? He probably knows as much as anyone about the depths of Rocky’s political problems and had little reason to use much of the material during the lopsided campaign last year. (A message left for Ace at the mayor’s office Sunday went unreturned. In an email Monday night, Ace said he never got the message.)

But why go after Rocky now? Maybe it was simply an effort to distract reporters snooping around the mayor’s marital problems. Or, maybe it’s part of a bigger plot to bruise Rocky or push him from office to ensure the mayor’s top lieutenants inherit the City Attorney’s and City Controller’s offices in 2009. Or, maybe all of the above, and more.

It could be that an Antonio sympathizer leaked some of the stories, knowing that Rocky’s office harbors a roster of attorneys and other staffers with animosity toward the boss who would keep alive the attacks with their own contributions to the narrative of a doomed politician. I lost count, but weren’t there seven unnamed present and past employees who took on Rocky in Babysittergate?
Rocky’s political career is over, but how ugly will it get before he steps aside? One of the beneficiaries of Rocky’s early-release from City Hall could be Antonio’s top pal on the City Council — Jack Weiss, who plans to run for city attorney in 2009 when Rocky is termed out. Jack is facing a recall organized by residents of his Westside district upset with the sway that fat-cat developers have on their councilman. If Rocky resigned, the council could appoint Jack to fill his unexpired term as city attorney, sparing him the wrath of voters in his district as well as saving him the trouble of running for the job he covets. And Jack gets a bonus: in two years, he could run as an incumbent.
Councilwoman Wendy Greuel also stands to gain. She formally announced in May that she wants to run for city controller in 2009, when Laura Chick is termed out. Rocky, who is also termed out in 2009, is said to be considering a run for that office, too. Rocky’s political career likely ended this month, but if he’s forced to resign, Wendy becomes a shoo-in. Of course, the mayor wants one of his top loyalists to take over the city watchdog post. Can you imagine the heat and endless audits Rocky would bring against the mayor if Antonio hangs around for a second term? For Rocky, it would be get-even time with a mayor who has repeatedly upstaged him and humiliated him.

It’s also about as likely to happen as a Delgadillo presidency.


  • E-Gad! I’ve added Are We Rome? The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America by Cullen Murphy to my reading list.

  • I with you LotS.

    I am usually the last to know what’s happening in office (or Roman/LA) politics. But I do admire a well executed plan (if that is what it was) that comes together especially one as intertwined with LA city politics.

  • Damn, does this mean Im not gonna earn 45% this year on my IRA?

    I love this Ace-Antonio-Rocky theory and am willing to adopt it — whether it is true or not.

  • Adam,

    You have a history of writing better soap operas than actual news, so why pretend?

    Adam, I am going to help you out here, call the Paris Hilton lawyers. She has the money and resources to go after and investigate anyone. They were pissed that they embarressed the family in front of the whole world. They then pushed the story to the media about Rocky, which was already in the works.

    But bedides that, ask the Rocky people, they knew this story was in the works on them for quite sometime (weeks in fact) . Nothing arranged or pushed by any outside influence.

    But of course, why would you Adam let facts get in the way.

  • Whether it was Paris or Antonio who did the deed Rocky has to be the clumisiest pol weve seen here in quite a bit. Talk about your instant karma! Oh, and I guess Baca could have struck back too.

    Soap operish enough for you. Hell this is better than “Who shot JR?”

  • In war and politics there are no coincidences. This was well orchestrated to avoid talking about the Telemundo reporter behind the break-up.

  • The Sopranos, Machiavelli, the Clintons, just to name a few who would fit this scenario. Is Antonio that smart? I suspect so.

  • It’s funny that articles never mention the affiliations of politicians in trouble unless they are conservative. Just to fill in the blanks:

    As mayor of the country’s second-biggest city, Villaraigosa immediately becomes a national political figure in the Democratic Party. But he’s not just a Latino; he’s also a longtime labor activist who started out as a union organizer and then headed the ACLU of Southern California. Link: Source

    Just for interest, here was Marc Cooper’s take on labor’s role during that mayoral election. The unions were wrong to support Hahn over Villaraigosa. Link: Source

  • I have been both a Tony and Rocky supporter. If the public only knew how often other public officials use staff and forget things…are disorganized. If the public only knew about the true backlog of the muni/traffic system..warrants, etc., no arrests on warrants..but these are system failures, human factors and correctable. Take Paris and Michelle (who both need to grow up, by the way) out of the story and what do you have? If I had position in Rocky’s Office, I would find those employees and “put’m on the list”, not in this office again. But if what you say is true, Buddy….Tony is off my listfor good.

  • RE: #4, Steve Nopez (right): If the Hiltons are so influential as well as rich, who are they backing? The thou they gave Baca was just enough to make him suspect, not enough to help. But meanwhile, they should reimburse the city for the millions it’s cost taxpayers to escort her to and fro and try to keep the public and the imbecilic paparazzi safe. After all, her parents have marketed her as a brand from Day one, not caring if she even finished high school, so that “dumb act” is no act. They didn’t get their mil for that interview, but they’ve made many mils off her “brand” already, and for them, that jailhouse-exit-strut is just more money in the bank. So donate it to the city and neighbors whose lives they’re ruining. Speaking of ruining: they got Baca to fall for her “I’m suicidal” act and ruined his reputation, leaving both him and Rocky in the mud.

  • Alan Mittelstaedt:

    Lively little script you’ve put together. A lot of it seems pausible. One little loose end you didn’t address: If Weiss were to move on to City Attorney, who’d cover the 5th District? Would there have to be a special election to cover that seat?

  • You left out another conspirator and beneficiary of this whole mess; DA Steve Cooley, who would have faced a very serious challenge if Rocky had chosen to run for DA. Now Cooley gets a pass and all his misdeeds go unnoticed.

  • Steve, yes, agree on Cooley….also since when is the DA concerned about not enough cases bent sent up to Felony. Did he want Paris? For Delgadillo, he would have been ‘taken apart’ by the public if he didn’t go after Paris. Darned if you do, darned if you don’t. ‘So what’ if the City Attorney isn’t connected to Hollywood, most constituents would appreciate that. Does anyone have an idea how much it has cost the taxpayers to handle the loads of civil complaints against The City and how much Delgadillo has done to reduce that? People love to sue the City….gotta say, I don’t mind paying for a babysitter once in while. Hmmmm…lot’s of jealous city attorney workers who were worried that those who babysat for the boss would be given favor.

  • Too bad it took some political motivation to get this story covered. Seems to me that is what reporters are supposed to do….certainly most of this information is public record and could have easily been uncovered with a little digging. Regardless, I am glad to see it covered at all… is about time the public knew about the abuse of power by their elected officials. I am sure this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to abuses of our officials..hopefully, the Times and other papers will take the lead and start really digging out these abuses. However, I won’t be holding my breath.

  • None of this is proven, and no one has to go after Rocky — his blind ambition forced him to walk into his own trap, starting by playing the race/wealth card with Paris Hilton in order to go after Baca, and make HIMSELF look like the biggest, baddest sheriff in town. But his ego/ blind spot to his own wife’s driving record and his own and her lack of insurance, her lack of a DL and claiming she “didn’t know” it was revoked, then revelations of no business license, and now the latest — which is especially troubling — revelation, tht he pressured an experienced Deputy D A (a former Santa Monica Councilwoman, I understand) to grant favors to a guy who has just been indicted for, among other things, putting out a contract hit on someone bothering him.

    Fact is, no one seems ready or willing to step forward to defend Rocky from any camp — which is pretty telling, so the chips will fall where they may.

  • As I write this on July 6th, it seems like a million years ago that this article was written. With Antonio getting the same treatment from the press over Salinas (who has suddenly become a household name, even if she has been removed from tv and gone into hiding), and today’s Steve Lopez/LAT article as bad or worse than anything he’s written about Rocky, if Ace Smith is spinning to get the attn. off Rocky, Antonio should get his money back. Actually, Rocky should pay Salinas: if the Mayor was going to choose a woman whose past was designed for juicy gossip, he couldn’t have invented a better one. Ace, if you really are out there: tell the Mayor to keep focused on his impending chance to finally take over some schools, deport gangsters, hire more cops, bring in some money from that Asian trip… Then in a few months or so, handpick a new lady for Antonio. Someone who doesn’t make Michelle Delgadillo seem a model of ethics. I know some ladies who are hot, smart and haven’t slept with all your best friends “in a professional capacity.” Referrals upon request.

    For the record, I’m sick of the moralizing over his divorce; he stayed with Corina for 15 years waiting for the kids to grow up, looks like. He put in his time. Besides chemistry lacking, she admittedly had no stomach for politics. It’s just that he went to the other extreme, from homebody to a woman who only seeks attention and power. Too bad Rocky is already taken.

Leave a Comment