Reacting to the emergence of a new political group that won't identify its members, half the candidates vying for a seat on the Santa Monica City Council this November have signed a pledge for a transparent election.
The candidates took it upon themselves to draft the pledge, which promises to only respond to questionnaires and requests for participation in forums by groups that identify their members and missions.
The action is in response to a new group called Santa Monica for Responsible Growth, which emailed questionnaires to potential candidates seeking information to help it determine who to support in the election. The group's members have apparently declined to identify themselves. An email to SMRG Tuesday night has not been returned.
An online records search showed SMRG has not registered as a political action committee with the City Clerk's office, which tracks financial information provided by candidates and committees
When asked in an email by candidate Frank Gruber to identify its members, SMRG responded, "we are fifteen Santa Monica residents who have been involved in many City groups and issues over the last 2 to 20 years, and have come together in many community meetings."
The email continued:
This is our first election cycle and we plan on making endorsements, raising money, walking, phoning, introducing our candidates to our networks and possibly other voter communication.
Penned in response, the transparency pledge proclaims the right of candidates and the public to expect organizations requesting information from them do so with transparency. Incumbent Terry O'Day emailed the group pledge to SMRG on Tuesday afternoon.
"We want to emphasize that anyone has the right to engage in politics, which includes independent campaigns," the pledge states. "As candidates, we have a responsibility to encourage transparency by those organizations that want information and participation from us."
The candidates who signed the pledge are Gleam Davis, Shari Davis, Frank Gruber, Jerry Rubin, Terry O'Day, Tony Vazquez and John Cyrus Smith.
Their decision to sign the joint pledge also comes after a secretive steering committee of Santa Monica's longtime influential tenants rights group voted to endorse two candidates, O'Day and former City Councilman Vazquez.
The president of Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights has previously given the
The joint petition says the candidates will not respond to "new or unfamiliar groups or PACs" that fail to provide information on its leadership, "such as a list of board of directors or steering committee members;" how many members it has, and its Fair Political Practices Commission identification number.
O'Day said Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights is neither new or unfamiliar, with a "wide-open, rule-bound and well-publicized endorsement process."
"Five of the seven current council members have the group’s endorsement and its regular meetings are open to all members," he said.
Four City Council seats are up for grabs Nov. 6. There are 14 candidates running.
"There has been too much secrecy in Santa Monica elections over the years, and by my tastes there has already been too much secrecy in this election's brief history," said candidate Gruber.