Two developers with big, controversial projects awaiting City Council approval each poured $100,000 into a political action committee that ended up raising nearly $500,000, new documents show.
According to the final round of financial disclosure statements filed with the City Clerk's office, the owners of the Fairmont-Miramar Hotel and former Papermate site contributed $200,000 to Santa Monicans for a United Future, a PAC supported by developer interests. It advocated for the re-election of incumbents Gleam Davis and Terry O'Day and Planning Commissioner Ted Winterer.
The Miramar, owned by Ocean Avenue LLC, is seeking approval to redo and expand with the addition of up to 120 condominiums and more than 18,000 square feet of shops and restaurants. Hines 26th Street LLC is seeking approval for a 766,000 square-foot mixed-use housing/commercial/office project called the "Bergamot Transit Village Center" at the old Papermate site.
Both projects face opposition from some residents and local neighborhood groups.
See: ; Transit Village Fight Crosses City Borders
SMURF was founded shortly before the November elections with contributions from Santa Monica's biggest apartment developer, NMS Properties, Inc. Some of the first donors also included Century West Partners, LLC; Ideal Properties, LLC; and Roberts Business Park—SM, LLC. Other small contributions, each less than $2,000, came from a handful of real estate, engineering and architectural firms.
It total, SMURF raised $497,400 and spent $452,544, the new financial reports show. It devoted much of its money, $117,685, on Davis. It spent $102,960 on O'Day and $79,556.
Alan Epstein, who has represented the hotel at City Council meetings and who is named as SMURF's officer on the financial reports, did not return a message seeking comment.
All of the expenditures are for "counseling," "printing," "walkers," "postage," and "supplies," the reports show. The donations were designated "independent expenditures," meaning money was not directly deposited into the candidates' campaign funds, and the candidates did not to have control over the money raised by the committee.
All three candidates tried to distance themselves from SMURF.
"Many are puzzled why a developer funded committee would back a candidate such as myself with a record of advocacy for responsible growth," Winterer said in October. "I cannot answer that question."
"Given the ability of some PACs and Independent Expenditures to reach a scale that dwarfs individual candidates own campaigns and misrepresents them," Davis and Day said in a statement in October, "these 'pop-up' groups that claim to be community-based but don't have community credentials can have a deleterious impact on our elections and we denounce them."
SMURF also supported candidate Shari Davis, but she did not win.
Additionally, the PAC spent $10,000 advocating for the passage of a bond measure, Measure ES, to fund facility and technology improvements at the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.
See: Huntley Hotel Put $20K Into Slow Growth PAC