Former L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa Raises Campaign Funds by Preying Upon Poor, People of Color, Critics Say

Antonio Villaraigosa has staked his candidacy for governor on his roots, telling voters he “grew up in a home rich in love, but limited in opportunity” while positioning himself as a voice for low-income families and people of color left behind in California’s economic recovery.

California gubernatorial candidate and former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa gives a pep talk to students at Cathedral High School in September 2017. (Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

California gubernatorial candidate and former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa gives a pep talk to students at Cathedral High School in September 2017. (Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

His rivals, however, are trying to spin the narrative, arguing that the former Los Angeles mayor has benefited from the largesse of companies and industries that prey upon some of the state’s most vulnerable residents.

Over the course of his political career, Villaraigosa has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in pay and donations from Herbalife, the L.A.-based multilevel-marketing nutritional supplements company, where he once served as a senior advisor. Payday lenders are among his other contributors.

In the run-up to the June primary, Herbalife and its employees have contributed $38,650 to Villaraigosa. The company, which was fined $200 million by the federal government in 2016 for deceptive business practices, also donated $100,000 to charity at his request when he was mayor. Payday lenders — who advance short-term loans at high interest rates primarily in low-income communities — have donated $158,900 to the candidate over the years, as well as to officeholder and other political committees he controlled.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.