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Following the Money in This Year’s Election Campaigns:

f there were to be an official mascot for this year’s Santa Monica election season, it might well be Deep Throat, the anonymous informant in Woodward and Bernstein’s Watergate saga, All the President’s Men, who repeatedly urged the reporters to “follow the money.” It sometimes seems that more attention is being paid to who is financing a proposition or candidate than to the merits of the measure or the person running for office.

Nevertheless, it does pay to know who is backing what or whom, so long as one keeps in mind that (a) it is only natural for people and businesses to support their own self-interests at election time, and (b) that fact alone does not mean that they have to be wrong.

Proposition T

A few weeks ago, this newspaper quoted Diana Gordon, who is co-chairing the Yes on T campaign, as saying that “99 percent of [the opposition] funding comes from developers or those who work for them.” In the next paragraph, we quoted Terry O’Day, who co-chairs the opposition, as saying, “More than half our funding has come from people and small businesses that live or work in Santa Monica, but that’s not the point.” [Santa Monica Mirror, September 18-24, 2008]

Depending upon how many “developers [and] those who work for them” are “people and small businesses that live or work in Santa Monica,” those statements are conceivably consistent. But not likely.

Since that article, both campaigns have made disclosure filings with the City Clerk’s office identifying contributions received through September 30, and it appears that Gordon’s statement is far closer to the truth, at least as of information current on September 30 (after the quoted statements were made).

There is a certain amount of judgment involved in identifying “developers or those who work for them” – the Fairmont Miramar Hotel has offered proposals to further develop its own property, but it is also affiliated corporately with those in the development industry. Likewise, “small businesses” is a relative term – are Pugh + Scarpa Architects or the Harding, Larmore, Mullen, Jakle, Kutcher & Kozal law firm small businesses?

Nevertheless, the Mirror’s review of the disclosure filings indicate that about 96 percent of the No on T contributions come from developers or lawyers, architects, and others who work with them, and about 15 percent of the contributions come from people and small businesses in Santa Monica.

It is clear that the No on T campaign reported 77 contributions totaling $428,879.65 (cash and non-cash) through September 30, while the Yes on T campaign reported 37 contributions totaling $86,897.79 for the same period. And the five largest contributors to No on T – all developers – alone totaled $234,000, nearly three times the total contributions to the Yes on T campaign.

O’Day now says, “It’s not about the contributors; it’s about the merits, and just look at our endorsements,” which do include a remarkably wide array of civic organizations and community leaders opposed to propositin T.

City Council Candidates

Mayor Herb Katz reported the largest number of contributions, 205, totaling $56,864, including contributions from developers such as Creative Colorado Studios which owns the property where Lionsgate hopes to build its new headquarters and post-production facility near Colorado Avenue and Stewart Street, hotels such as Le Merigot on Ocean Avenue and Huntley Santa Monica Beach Hotel on 2nd Street, former Chamber of Commerce Chairmen Tom Larmore and John Bohn (or their business interests), and fellow councilmember Bob Holbrook.

Councilmember Ken Genser, a SMRR endorsee, reported a surprising 172 contributions totaling $40,297, including not only fellow SMRR members Gleam Davis and Councilmember Kevin McKeown, but also developer Creative Colorado Studios, employees of developer Hines 26th Street (the largest No on T contributor), and land use lawyer Chris Harding. These latter contributors, who would generally oppose SMRR candidates, apparently take note of incumbent Genser’s opposition to Proposition T and demonstrate the adage that politics can sometimes make strange bedfellows.

Mayor Pro Tem Richard Bloom, the only other SMRR endorsee in the race, reported nearly 100 contributions totaling $23,952. He too counted Colorado Creative Studios among his contributors, and he too is an incumbent who has voiced his opposition to Proposition T. His contributors also included Sean Sullivan of the Mike Sullivan (LAcarGUY) family of auto dealerships, architect Michael Folonis who chairs the Architectural Review Board, and Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Laurel Rosen.

The final incumbent in the race, Councilmember Bobby Shriver, reported the fewest number of contributions, 61, but the largest total amount, $126,025, thanks to a substantial loan to his campaign. Shriver, the only incumbent candidate to support Proposition T, received contributions from family members including his uncle, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, his sister, California First Lady Maria Shriver, and celebrities including musician John Bongiovi (Bon Jovi) and actor Harry Hamlin.

Challenger Ted Winterer reported 64 contributions totaling $12,600, including fellow Proposition T supporters Diana Gordon, Zina Josephs, and Councilmember Kevin McKeown and landmark preservationists Nina Fresco and Bea Nemlaha. Airport Commissioner Susan Hartley reported 29 contributions amounting to $5,224, including fellow board members from the Friends of Sunset Park Zina Josephs and Lorraine Sanchez and fellow Proposition T proponent Diana Gordon. Treesaver Linda Piera-Avila reported eight contributions totaling $1,935.

The remaining candidates – Jerry Rubin, Jon Louis Mann, Herbert Silverstein, Michael Kovac, John Blakely, Linda Armstrong, and write-in candidate Terence Later – did not file disclosure statements, as only those candidates who raise or spend $1,000 are required to have campaign committees, and only committees are required to file.

The next disclosure statement filing deadline is October 23, covering the period through October 18.

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