Kevin de León speaks at a public event in September of 2023. Image via @kdelonCD14/Instagram

Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de León, who is running for re-election, spent nearly half-a-million dollars in public funds in 2023 mailing 67 different pieces of distinct literature to residents of the 14th Council District.

In total de León’s council office – not his campaign – mailed nearly 1.2 million individual pieces of paper in the first nine months of 2023, according to public records reviewed by LA Public Press. More than $460,000 in postage costs was spent on the mailers.

The number was so overwhelmingly high that when an LA Public Press reporter on Feb. 14 requested de León’s office provide the mailers and other documentation to back up how they were describing them, their spokesperson, Pete Brown, balked, and said that to provide documentation for that amount of mailers “will take several weeks if not months to put together.”

“That’s a lot of time,” he said.

The number of mailers sent out by de León’s office dwarfs those sent by other offices. Councilmember Monica Rodriguez’s office, who represents the 7th Council District in the northeast San Fernando Valley, sent out eight different mailers totaling 442,597 different pieces of mail. The other offices that sent out mail only sent out one each.

One of de León’s competitors to represent Council District 14 calls the mailers a way to use city resources to boost his bid for another term. 

“To me, it seems like a thinly veiled attempt to use public resources for his re-election and diverting funds from tackling the real problems our communities face,” said tenants’ rights attorney Ysabel Jurado, who is challenging de León.

Brown, de León’s office spokesperson, said the mailers were sent to notify people of food distribution events the office sponsored to address food insecurity in the district. Brown said some mailers were also used to notify people how to report illegal dumping and where to find pet vaccinations.

“These are things that we’ve been doing since [de León] took office during the pandemic,” Brown said. “So what we’ll do is send a postcard letting people know where these food distributions are. That’s because basically, it’s a service.”

“If you come out you will see literally hundreds of people in line, poor people,” Brown said. “I mean, some of the poorest in LA County, getting food.”

The mailers tell people about resources and say that “if you’re interested you have access to this,” he said.

“I don’t know how to reiterate this any more. CD14 is among the poorest districts in the city. Residents here don’t have access like they do in CD11 [West LA], CD3 [West SFV] or any places to go and get your pets vaccinated,” he said.

De León has featured his food distributions on his social media accounts over the past year. Recently he was at an Eagle Rock distribution greeting people in line, according to LAist.

Another 14th district candidate, Genny Guerrero, says she has been running a food distribution program in the district and finds the way de León showcases his events to be distasteful. 

“Being a person that has received food from food lines and food banks since I was a child, it has been my stance to always protect the people and the identity of people receiving food, and they seem to just plaster everyone’s pictures … out there,” she said. “And that is such a huge injustice that has been done to our communities.”

She added how she believes it’s a waste of city resources to ignore existing groups that are already doing food distribution. 

“It’s absurd that they’re using so much money. There are food distribution places that have been doing the work for years without him,” she said.

LA Public Press on Feb. 14 requested that Brown provide examples of the mailers. He eventually provided three samples of mailers sent by their office.

Initially Brown had complained that it would take a long time to gather up all of the mailers to send to the reporter, and that she would need to make a public records act request to get them. 

He told the reporter, who had asked for the mailers and other documentation, “that is going to take a significant amount of time to put together.”

“I can give you samples of what we’ve done,” he said. “But to correspond to each one will take several weeks if not months to put together. That’s a lot of time. You can CPRA (California Public Records Act Request) the City Attorney if you like, for their approvals. General Services, Mail House. You can ask them … the city has it.”

One of the three mailers Brown provided was from the nine or more months covered in the public records showing the 67 mailers, which were sent from Jan. 1, 2023 until at the latest November 8, 2023. It was for a fireworks event last year, in Boyle Heights, on June 24.  He did not provide an example of one of the food distribution events from last year that he mentioned in his interview with LA Public Press.

The two other examples are for events that are scheduled for after polls close on March 5. One of these mailers is for a series of seven disaster preparedness training events, starting with one on March 6, ending with one on April 24. The other is for a food distribution event that won’t occur until March 28.

City rules restrain the distribution of city-sponsored mailers between when a council member has filed to declare their intent to run for office, and until the election.

Along with the mailers, Brown included the approval letters from the City Attorney’s office for each of the mailers. The letters state the mailers were “reviewed for compliance with the requirements of the Political Reform Act and the regulations of Fair Political Practices Commission relating to mass mailings at public expense.”

During the time span de León’s office mailed out 67 distinct pieces of literature, Curren Price’s 9th Council District office in South Los Angeles, sent one mailer. So did the 6th Council District office in the East Valley, though it’s unclear from the released public record whether Imelda Padilla, who was elected in June 2023, was in office when the mailer was sent.

Another council office, represented by Bob Blumenfield in the West San Fernando Valley, responded quickly on Feb. 15 with a copy of the mailer their office sent out. It was for a CicLAvia event held last February, with 27,181 pieces of mail sent. The postage for Blumenfield’s mailers cost $9,486.17 in total, according to public records reviewed by LA Public Press.

Elizabeth has been on the local government beat since 2006, and likes making her friends take public transportation for her birthday.