CITY STAFF TO INVESTIGATE CAMPAIGN PRACTICES
The campaign mailers that attracted the most attention during the recent contest were not only bogus, they were notable as much for what they didn’t say as for what they did say — and they backfired. Their “target,” incumbent Councilman Kevin McKeown, got more votes than any of the other Council candidates.
The mailers stated that the City’s police officers and firefighters, paramedics, School District teachers, the Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS), the Sierra Club, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), and the L.A. League of Conservation Voters all endorsed some or all of four candidates: Gleam Davis, Bob Holbrook, Pam O’Connor and Terry O’Day. They all endorsed McKeown, too, but he was not mentioned.
The mailers were produced by “Santa Monicans for Quality Government” (SMQG), which allegedly was financed by “developers,” but a note on the mailers says “Appearance is paid for and authorized by each candidate and measure,” so it’s likely that Holbrook, Davis, O’Connor and O’Day were aware that the mailer was bogus and that their colleague was going to be excised, the victim of a dirty trick.
At the request of McKeown, the Council voted 6-0 last week, with Holbrook abstaining, to direct staff to explore legislation requiring that local political expenditures be reported to the City Clerk at the same time they are reported to the state.
“I am focused not on the content, nor on the expenditure of money by people because those are both protected by court decisions,” McKeown said. “I just want us to focus on the prompt transparent disclosure of who makes the expenditures so that the voters we represent can make fully informed decisions, including knowing who paid for the messages.”
SMQG took $41,000 in donations from developers, including Hines, Village Trailer Park, and NMS Properties, and distributed a series of what it called “slate mailers,” which it claimed it wasn’t required to report to the City Clerk.
The identities of SMQG’s donors surfaced after a complaint was filed with California’s Fair Political Practices Commission.
SMQG was created by political consultant Fred Huebscher, who spent developers’ and hotels’ money four years ago on a full scale attack on McKeown, which inspired a protest march by McKeown supporters at Shutters and Casa del Mar Hotels. He was the top vote getter in the Council race that year, as he was this year.
It has been reported that Huebscher also ran the campaigns of Davis and O’Connor, who, along with O’Day, shared the SMRR ticket with McKeown.
Mayor Bobby Shriver called for a significant investigation of deceptive campaign practices.
Since four of his colleagues apparently engaged in deception this fall, as did the City itself when it claimed two years ago that limiting commercial development would irreparably damage our schools, and claimed this fall that unless Prop Y passed, our schools and vital services would be in jeopardy, it’s unlikely Shriver’s call will get much support from anyone in City Hall, unless residents insist on it.