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EDITORIAL HAHN'S WIN-WIN.

THE way things seem to be headed, no matter how the city of Los Angeles reforms its campaign-finance laws, there will be one undisputed winner: Mayor James Hahn.

On Wednesday, the City Ethics Commission came out in support of several important reforms that could reduce the influence of special interests in City Hall. These include a ban on campaign contributions from lobbyists, city subcontractors and companies doing business with the city - in other words, Hahn's base.

But that doesn't really matter to Hahn, who, by shaking down nearly every special interest over the past four years, already has a war chest plenty big enough to get him through next year's re-election campaign.

No wonder Hahn now backs the Ethics Commission's reform plan so strongly. Doing so, he hopes, will rehabilitate his tarnished reputation at no cost to his political ambition, even as county and federal grand juries investigate possible criminal wrongdoing in his administration's dealings with contributors and contractors.

So while the Ethics Commission wants its reforms to take effect after the mayoral election, Hahn's aides suggest that he might move to implement them much sooner.

Either way, he wins: If the reforms take effect soon, they hamper his opponents in next year's race from raising the kind of money the mayor already has in the bank. If they take effect after the election, they won't concern him one bit, as term limits preclude him from running again.

Nowadays, it's easy for Hahn to play the role of reformer, and, with the scandals mounting around him, it's a political necessity. But he's not fooling anyone. Hahn's had a lifetime in city politics to push for overhauling the system, yet he tellingly waited until now, when he has everything to gain and nothing to lose.

Lest anyone forget, it's because of Hahn that reform is so greatly needed in the first place. Pay-to-play politics has long been the symptom of City Hall's corruption, but Hahn took it to a new level in his desperation to crush the San Fernando Valley secession movement without an honest debate.

He has shown just how weak the laws are, and how corrupt city politics are.

Hahn has successfully gamed the system for more than two decades. It should come as little surprise that he should game reform, too.
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Title Annotation:Editorial
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Sep 24, 2004
Words:383
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