12/06/2012 09:03 am ET

Antonio Villaraigosa Defends 'Fix The Debt' Association

WASHINGTON -- Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa defended his association Wednesday with Campaign to Fix the Debt, an ostensibly bipartisan group whose partners and biggest backers support Republicans.

Villaraigosa, who chaired this year's Democratic National Convention, announced Tuesday that he would be the first office-holding Democrat to join Fix the Debt, which he praised for its approach to slashing the national budget deficit. Within a day, thousands had signed an online petition asking Villaraigosa to drop his association with the group.

"Fix The Debt’s corporate backed approach to gutting our social safety net is dangerous," says the petition. "You should be working towards a balanced approach that will not hurt working and middle class families."

In a statement on Wednesday, Villaraigosa said Democrats and Republicans need to cooperate on reducing the national debt. "There are tough decisions ahead and the only way that we are going to find long-term solutions is by stepping out of our ideological boxes and reaching out to a broader coalition to get something done," he said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

As HuffPost previously reported, 79 percent of campaign donations from CEOs on Fix the Debt's leadership council went to Republicans during the 2012 election cycle. The group advocates lower taxes and cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to reduce federal budget deficits and the ever-growing national debt.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the petition's creator said Fix the Debt is not bipartisan. "The mayor is now in corporate pockets," Angela Garcia Combs said.