In the last two city council elections, large sums of money coming from sources outsideSanta Monicawere used to increase the level of negativity and confusion aimed at us, the voters. Methods of psychological warfare were employed to distort candidates’ voting record. Fear images were used to paint a picture of distrust. Images and words were used to connect your hot buttons with blame aimed at a particular candidate. The owners of Shutters Hotel admit to spending over a half million dollars in a campaign to defeat Council MemberKevin McKeownusing the tactics described above. Some estimate that the amount spent may be closer to $1 million. That’s an enormous sum for an election in a city of our size That’s a lot of will aimed at distorting our election.
The fact that it didn’t work, doesn’t mitigate the affect of such tactics on the quality of life inSanta Monica. This trash enters our homes through our mail boxes. It affronts us in TV ads. It creates an atmosphere of hostility and confusion. It affronts our sensibilities and our sense of ethics. It impacts our trust. And it seriously disrupts the process of local residents choosing representatives who share their interests. We need to find a way to disincentivize the perpetrators of such tactics. and take back our “local” elections.
San Francisco,Oakland,Los Angeles,Long BeachandSan Diegohave adopted some form of public financing of elections to mitigate the effects of “big money”. The State ofCaliforniais considering doing the same. At the council’s request, Maria Stewart, City Clerk, created a comprehensive report detailing the various options for public financing of elections and the various ways available to pay for it. (See item 3A on the Council Agenda for October 23).
Meanwhile, an idea unique toSanta Monicabegan to circulate: the idea of a publicly funded “fair fight” fund.. It would make funds available for the candidate being unfairly attacked to answer the attacker. When an obvious, well-financed campaign of distortion is directed at a candidate, public funds of a certain designated amount would become available to that candidate. to help counter the distortion. This does not interfere with free speech.. It would, however, help level the playing field when “big money” is trying to distort our election.
No answer is perfect, and if you’re a council member or political operant with a reason to think this might disadvantage you, you’ll sneer and mount arguments against. it. But those of us who are sick of the kind of electioneering described above, think this idea has merit. If those doing the attacking know clearly that their tactic will put campaign funds in the hands of the person they’re attacking, the tactic will likely become less prevalent.
In the face of Maria Stewart’s excellent report on all the possibilities for public financing of elections, and all the ways to fund them, the council voted to reject all suggestions, and, more importantly, to end public discussion of any method of campaign reform. The Fair Fight fund idea has not been investigated, but it was lumped into the whole reform question, and the entire concept was voted down. (With 5 council members present, the vote was 3-2)
Residents ofSanta Monicaare accustomed to address the council on topics of interest through what is knows as a “12” item on the agenda.. But did you know that Mayor Richard Bloom has the ability to deny this request? A request has been filed with the city clerk for a “12” item to be agendized that would reopen the dialog so a proper study of the idea of a “fair fight fund” can be made. So far, Mayor Richard Bloom has declined to agenize this item.
If you are tired of the level of dishonesty and negativity we’ve been bombarded with in our last elections, and you want something done about the big money perpetrating it, I suggest you contact Mayor Richard Bloom and let him know that you want the public discussion reopened. Now.. .