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State Commission Investigating Mayor Villaraigosa's Free Tickets

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And ticketgate continues. California's statewide ethics agency is now investigating free tickets to over 80 events accepted by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, according to the LA Times. The Fair Political Practices Commission will be coordinating with the L.A. District Attorney's Office and L.A. Ethics Commission, which oversees local ethics laws.

California's regulation states that "a ticket or pass provided to an official for his or her admission to an event at which the official performs a ceremonial role or function on behalf of the agency is not a gift to the official."

At issue is whether or not Villaraigosa had any "ceremonial role or function" at the events he gained free access to -- events such as Lakers games (courtside seats!), concerts (Mary J. Blige, Beyonce, etc) and award ceremonies like the Oscars and Emmys.

Villaragosa says he's done nothing wrong, but the question comes down to running the city. The LA Times today posed this question: "Can he drive a hard bargain with entities that do millions of dollars in business with the city if they are also giving him access to pricey entertainment?"

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That is to say, how can he be all buddy-buddy with the big private sector players that also have a huge stake in the city's business, whether it be the LA Marathon, city parking garages and major land development deals.

Columnist Steve Lopez put it best. "The real concern isn't the value of the freebies, but the access they can buy," he wrote of his experience with Villaraigosa up in the nosebleeds at a Dodgers game this weekend. "The gang that runs Staples Center and L.A. Live, for instance, has gotten millions in tax breaks from City Hall, so the free Lakers tickets they gave him are a problem, no matter how many times he flashed his smile and said, 'Go, L.A.'"