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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sterling's Tarnished Silver

As many posts have noted, wealthy individuals and interest groups use charitable contributions to polish their images or curry favor with politicians.  Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, is an example. Now in deep trouble over a recording that appears to show racist remarks, Sterling has long been spreading his money around Southern California.  From his official NBA biography (still online as of this morning):
Sterling was the driving force in the formation of the Los Angeles Clippers Foundation, which benefits numerous local charities. During the 2006 off-season, Sterling spearheaded the creation of a series of free, day-long, Clippers’ summer basketball clinics to involve local youth. Since the program’s inception, over 6,500 youth have participated in the clinics which have taken place at various parks and recreation centers throughout the Los Angeles area.
He has received many honors, including the 2009 NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2008 BBA Humanitarian of the Year Award, the 2008 NAACP President’s Award, the 2006 Say Yes to Children Network Children’s Hero Award, the 1999 MDA Dennis Day Memorial Award, the 1998 Los Angeles Yeshiva Golden Menorah Humanitarian of the Year Award, the Asthma & Allergy Foundation 1998 Humanitarian of the Year Award, the Vista Del Mar Orphanage 1997 Man of the Year and the Gold Medal Humanitarian of the Year by the Special Olympics.
He was also named Humanitarian of the Year by the Los Angeles Police Historical Society at its 1999 Jack Webb Award gala. Funds generated by the event went toward the construction of the Los Angeles Police History and Community Education Center, a multi-purpose facility designed to pay tribute to those who have fallen in the line of duty and serve as
a community center for at-risk youth, an interactive LAPD Museum, and an LAPD sub-station.
In 1999, police suspected Sterling's son Scott of the nonfatal shooting of a friend during an argument. According to a 2000 story in the Los Angeles Times, Detective Mike Hopkins taped a conversation with Sterling:
"Yeah, you know, and I'm so close to the Police Department," Sterling said.
"Yeah," Hopkins said.
"One day you will meet me in the course of things," Sterling said. "I'm so active in the community."
"Oh, I'm sure I will," Hopkins replied.
"You know Baca [Lee Baca, sheriff of Los Angeles County]?" Sterling asks. "I went with Baca to dinner the other night, and I'm close to Parks [Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard Parks]. I'm just very involved with the Police Department."
Sterling continued: "I wish that you'd give me a little advice. One day in life you're gonna be passing through, and you may need a lawyer to give you good, honest advice."
"Yeah, well . . . ." Hopkins responded.
"And I'm that lawyer," Sterling said. "Donald Sterling, on the corner of Wilshire and Beverly Drive."Hopkins hemmed and hawed and tried to change the subject, but Sterling returned to it. "But the bottom line, I'm asking you, officer, and please put my name somewhere in your wallet. Sometime in the course of your career, you will want to call me. You know what I'm saying? And your name again is spelled . . . may I put your name down?"
The comments inflamed the Police Department. In a memo to prosecutors, Sgt. Douglas wrote, "We are requesting that your office give special attention to the attached transcript of the telephone call between Det. Mike Hopkins and Shelly and Donald Sterling . . . . There are a number of statements by Donald Sterling that amount to an outrageous attempt at intimidation and influence peddling."
Sterling also had a connection to District Attorney Gil Garcetti, father of the current mayor, Eric Garcetti:
Garcetti's office failed to respond to inquiries by The Times about ties between him and Sterling. Sterling co-sponsored a $500-per-person fund-raiser for Garcetti on Oct. 5, a month before he lost his bid for reelection. Both Scott and Donald Sterling, through a lawyer, declined to answer questions about the incident, as did Hodgman.
The DA's office declined to prosecute Scott Sterling, who died last year of a drug overdose.