The Los Angeles real estate practice of a law firm with offices from Abu Dhabi to Singapore has emerged as a major contributor to incumbents in West Hollywood political campaigns.
Members of the real estate practice of Latham & Watkins, none of whom live in West Hollywood or have offices here, have pumped $11,025 into the city’s 2011 and 2013 elections, according to an analysis of contribution data by WEHOville. Of that, $5,500 has been invested in the 2013 election, with a donation of $2,000 to West Hollywood Voters for Choice, a committee established to oppose council member term limits. Incumbent Councilmember John Duran and Mayor Jeffrey Prang each have received $1,750 from Latham & Watkins lawyers.
The biggest single donor is James Arnone of Malibu, who has given a total of $4,000 thus far in the 2011 and 2013 elections. Arnone is chair of Latham’s local environment, land and resources department whose expertise includes infrastructure, energy and real estate development projects. Among other projects, he represented the developer of the proposed Sunset Doheny Hotel (now renamed the Marriott Edition hotel), which won City Council approval in June 2012 despite the concerns of city staffers that it would be 112 parking spaces short of the 488 required and questions raised about the possible impact of noise from the property on nearby residents.
Arnone and George Mihlsten, another Latham real estate attorney who lives in Manhattan Beach, are the donors to an anti-term limits campaign fund, which opposes an initiative to set a non-retroactive term limit of 12 years on council members. The term limits proposal, which will be on the March 5 ballot, is opposed by Councilmembers John Heilman, Abbe Land and John Duran and Mayor Jeffrey Prang. It isn’t clear where Councilmember John D’Amico stands on the issue. Other major donors to the anti-term limits campaign fund are real estate interests and the West LA Health Political Action Committee, which despite its name is funded mostly by real estate interests, including Mihlsten, who gave the PAC $1,500 last year.
In addition to the donations to Prang and Duran, Latham attorney donations in the two campaigns total $2,000 for Councilmember Land, $1,874 for Heilman, $750 for 2011 incumbent Lindsey Horvath, and $650 for D’Amico, who defeated Horvath.
Arnone did not return a call from WEHOville requesting comment about donations by his firm’s attorneys.