Big Bucks Saturate Santa Monica In The Lead Up To Tuesday's Council Election

Friday, 2 Nov 2012, 1:27:00 AM

Staff Report

By Parimal M. Rohit & Brenton Garen

As Santa Monica prepares to vote on Election Day this Tuesday, Nov. 6, it is interesting to note that hundreds of thousands of dollars has been poured into campaigning.

The City of Santa Monica has a local individual contribution limit of $325 for City Council and Rent Control Board Candidates. However, it is the large sums of money pouring in from outside Santa Monica from Political Action Committees and Independent Expenditure Committees that are leading to a saturation of campaign mailers at doorsteps across the city.

Large Contributions

A handful of Political Action Committees and Independent Expenditure Committees have caused quite a stir this election season with large sums of money being injected into the City Council race.

Candidates cannot have any contact with, or control anything, that these committees do in terms of advertising, phone calls made, and mailers sent out on their behalf.

Developer-backed political group – Santa Monicans United for a Responsible Future (SMURF) – has raised $390,498 since it formed Sept. 25 for its City Council candidate slate of Gleam Davis, Shari Davis, Terry O’Day, and Ted Winterer.

According to disclosure filings with the City Clerk’s office, 15 NMS affiliated properties contributed a total of $100,000 to SMURF.

The next big SMURF contributors were $49,999 each from Hines 26th Street LLC and Ocean Avenue, LLC. Three people associated with Hines have also made individual $325 donations to Gleam Davis’ campaign.

Those who have donated $25,000 to SMURF include BCP 525 Colorado, LLC; KALMAT, Inc.; Steven D. Fifield, chairman/CEO Fifield Companies; Century West Partners, LLC; Ideal Properties, LLC, and Roberts Business Park.

Filed documents indicate SMURF allocated $41,256.34 each to campaign for Gleam Davis and Shari Davis. Meanwhile, the group has so far spent more than $26,000 on O’Day and about $9,500 on Winterer.

Hines is seeking to redevelop the old Papermate site at Bergamot Station, while Ocean Avenue, LLC, has earned council support for its planned redevelopment of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel.

NMS Properties has development agreements already in place to develop a project near Sixth Street and Colorado Avenue. NMS Properties also asked the council in July to approve a pair of development agreements for separate projects on Lincoln Boulevard and Broadway. Both projects were tabled by the council so that NMS Properties could provide increased community benefits catering toward affordable housing and parking.

SMURF has engaged Los Angeles-based Englander Knabe & Allen as its consulting firm. Englander Knabe & Allen Vice President and General Counsel Adam Englander is acting as a spokesman for SMURF.

Englander remained tight-lipped when The Mirror asked about SMURF’s strategy in terms of its slate and why each candidate was selected.

Instead of answering these questions, Englander referred The Mirror to a written statement released on behalf of SMURF.

“As stakeholders in our city, we agree with The Santa Monica Police Officers’ Association, Santa Monica Firefighters, Local 1109 and Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS): Santa Monica is on the right track,” the statement read.

“The four candidates these organizations have endorsed are all progressive, committed Santa Monicans who share the values of our community. We know we will not always agree and we respect these differences. The fundamental point on which we do all agree is that Santa Monica is a unique place to live, work and raise families and that we all can work together to keep it that way.”

Earlier this week, Santa Monica Mid-City Neighbors publicly distanced itself from SMURF after mailers showed up that suggested an endorsement of SMURF’s slate.

Mid-City Neighbors treasurer Ellen Hannan said its organization was dedicated to improving issues that affect the central area of the City of Santa Monica, saying its organization did not and legally cannot endorse any candidates.

“Unfortunately, we find it necessary to protect the rights of our established neighborhood organization from blatantly false information,” Hannan said. “In this year’s election, there are four open City Council seats. Many of the candidates are excellent, and many of our members are working diligently for the candidates of their choice. However, the Board and the membership of Santa Monica Mid-City Neighbors have not endorsed any candidates for the City Council of Santa Monica.”

Hannan said she wanted to make it clear that Mid-City Neighbors had not sent any mailers, literature, emails, or made phone calls to its residents in support on any individual, group of candidates, or ballot issue.

“We hope all citizens of Santa Monica will be involved in a fair election and use their common sense in reading false mailers,” Hannan said. “Any group who violates the true American spirit of elections for personal profit will not be tolerated by our membership.”

Gleam Davis confirmed a city-sponsored neighborhood group, such as Mid-City Neighbors, could not endorse candidates.

“It is a shame that independent expenditure groups with no history of grassroots activism in Santa Monica are able to distort and distract from the real issues,” Davis said.

Ted Winterer said he did not seek an endorsement by the independent expenditure committee Santa Monicans United for a Responsible Future (SMURF) nor did he attend any interview or respond to any questionnaire by this PAC.

“I cannot opt out of being included on their mail or other materials,” Winterer said. “Their consultants have been extremely secretive in their public interactions – this is troubling.”

Winterer said as a former president of the Ocean Park Association, he understands that neighborhood organizations cannot be involved in electioneering.

“It is deeply disturbing that SMURF literature implies that Mid-City Neighbors or any other neighborhood organization support SMURF’s efforts,” he said. “My record on the Planning Commission is solid, as I have consistently voted against projects with negative impacts on our community. I ask the voters of Santa Monica to judge me solely by that record and by the mail, walk pieces and website that are funded and approved by my own campaign committee. The voters of our City are sophisticated and I know they’ll do their own research before they vote.”

Terry O’Day said SMURF’s mailers should not confuse residents.

“City funded organizations, like our neighborhood groups, are not allowed to engage in election speech,” O’Day said. “I don’t think anyone should be confused by that.”

Shari Davis said she hoped voters understood the influx of excessive campaign spending from pop-up groups were not authorized by her or any of the other candidates.

“Nor do we condone it, nor do we have any control over it,” she said. “I have worked hard for the last year to build a grass roots campaign, building upon my many years of civic involvement and am proud of the endorsements I’ve earned from community-based membership groups like Police Officers and Firefighters, Community for Excellent Public Schools, and the L.A. League of Conservation Voters, the largest environmental advocacy organization in Los Angeles County. I urge voters to base their decisions on candidates’ proven results, not on actions by outside groups.”

Meanwhile, Santa Monicans for Responsible Growth (SMRG) has reported receiving $42,895 in contributions, including $25,000 from Nevada-based Playground Consulting, Inc. that has clients in Santa Monica and another $15,000 from Body Z Alive, a colon cleansing business at 1137 2nd Street in Santa Monica. SMRG has endorsed Planning Commissioners Richard McKinnon and Ted Winterer, using its funds to print and distribute fliers supporting these candidates.

Ivan Perkins, Chair of SMRG, said the organization was established to support candidates who “will ensure that new development is truly in residents’ best interests, in terms of the livability and atmosphere of Santa Monica.”

Santa Monica’s powerful tenants group, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), reported it had $117,556.03 in year-to-date funds to spend on campaigning. The Police Officers Association for a Better Community reported $30,300 on hand allocated to support campaigns.

Individual Contributions

The Santa Monica City Clerk’s office posted the latest round of candidate campaign disclosure statements on its website last Friday. According to these public documents, Planning Commissioner Ted Winterer has raised $49,919 (this includes a $500 loan to himself).

Notable contributions to Winterer’s campaign include Chez Jay ($300), Ocean Lodge Hotel ($325), attorney Stanley Epstein and his wife Harriet ($650 combined), the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters ($325), and the J. Paul Getty Trust’s Institute Director Timothy Whalen ($325). Winterer has spent $35,155 on his campaign.

Frank Gruber has raised $47,707. However, his overall total is $68,707, which includes a $21,000 loan to himself. Filings say he has spent $48,863 on his campaign.

Notable contributions to Gruber’s campaign include including backing from local architects David Hibbert ($200) and Hank Koning ($325), and the owner of Chez Jay ($250).

Meanwhile, Shari Davis has the third highest total contributions received with $47,506 (includes $604 loan). Key contributions for Shari Davis came from Mayor Richard Bloom ($100), the California Real Estate PAC ($325), David Hibbert of the local architecture firm David Forbes Hibbert, AIA ($200), Kevin Kozal from the local land use law firm Harding Larmore Kutcher and Kozal ($325), and a handful of financial input from individuals working within the asset management and real estate such as CBRE, Studley, Oaktree Capital Management, Walk Street Management, HRI, and Rockwood Capital. Shari Davis has spent $44,782 on her campaign.

Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis placed forth in total contributions received with a total of $46,683 (this includes a $3,500 loan to herself). She has spent $25,195 on her campaign. Among the contributors to her re-election campaign were the National Women’s Political Caucus PAC ($325) and three individuals from potential Bergamot Station area developer Hines ($975 combined), and several attorneys.

Council member Terry O’Day finished fifth in total contributions received with $40,680 given to his campaign; he has spent $26,141.

Rounding out the list were Richard McKinnon ($32,530 total, of which $10,500 is a loan to himself), Tony Vasquez ($13,466 total, of which $4,000 is a loan to himself), John C. Smith ($11,036 total, of which $9,206 is a loan to himself), Steve Duron ($2,840 total), and Robert Seldon ($1,675 received, of which $50 is a loan). Terence Later reported $0 received and $0 in expenditures. Candidates Roberto Gomez, Jon Mann, Armen Melkonians, and Jerry Rubin did not file campaign disclosure statements.

SMMUSD Board of Education

In the race for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education, incumbent Ben Allen’s campaign received $18,107, of which $7,500.43 has been spent. Incumbent Jose Escarce’s campaign has received $11,792 ($3,500 is a loan to himself). He has spent $9,125 on his campaign

The third incumbent, Maria Leon-Vazquez, reported $3,835 in contributions received and $3,941 in expenditures.

A joint committee supporting the trio of school board candidates from Malibu – Karen Farrer, Craig Foster, and Seth Jacobson – reported a combined contribution of $500. All three candidates have contributed a loan of $10,000 each to the campaign; the committee’s reported expenditures were $4,884.

Rent Control Board

For the three candidates for the two Rent Control Board seats, Incumbent Robert Kronovet has $13,190 in contributions (includes $4,700 loan to himself, $238 non-monetary contribution for campaign banner), Christopher Walton has $859 in contributions (includes $225 loan to himself) while Ilse Rosenstein reported $0.

Measures

The committee that is supporting Measure ES, Committee for Better, Safer Schools (Yes on ES), reported total contributions of $4,000 from the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles ($1,000) and Lincoln Property Management ($3,000).

The City Clerk’s office had no filing activity for Measure GA.

The public can view campaign disclosure statements by going to www.smvote.org.

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