Blog | Following the Money Trail: PACS

Voters, beware of campaign literature pretending to be from resident groups. Developers have a major stake in November City Council race.

In Santa Monica PACS raise more money from special interests than candidates themselves. So far this year, all the city council candidates together have raised   $234,379—while all the PACS have raised $400,137.   

All the money flooding the city council race makes Santa Monica a microcosm of the role of Political Action Committees (PACS) in national politics. Federal Election Commission rules do not require a candidate’s authorization to be named in political ads, whether for or against the candidate(s). Such as with national politics, developers here form and generously fund phony “resident” PACS to promote candidates that reliably vote for their projects.  Sometimes these phony PACS break the law by failing to file timely reports on who’s funding them.   Other times they use deceptive names or misleading statements in the mailers themselves that are designed specifically to elect their candidates.

Recent History of Phony PACS

In 2008, Save Our City – No on Prop T, a PAC led by Terry O’Day, raised $773,000 to defeat Prop T, a moderate growth initiative. This PAC was promoted as a coalition of renters, home and property owners, police, firefighters, classroom teachers and even environmentalists. The money came from big hotels and developers, who had proposed yet to be disclosed projects in Santa Monica. Their huge contributions ranged from “only” $4500 to an exorbitant $104,000. These mostly out- of- town developers were instrumental in defeating a resident initiative designed to preserve the character of our city. They helped keep pro- development incumbents in office by falsely claiming that limiting growth would hurt renters, homeowners and schools by raising taxes that new development projects might otherwise pay. 

In 2010 Santa Monicans for Quality Government, another developer funded PAC, raised $94,199 and filled our mailboxes with expensive, full color mailers pretending to be from more well known PACS – police, firefighters, Community for Excellent Public Schools and the Santa Monica Democratic Club. It omitted responsible growth candidates Kevin McKeown and Ted Winterer from most of its deceptive mailers. It kept its hotel and developer funders hidden until the day before the election by filing its required disclosure statements late. 

Again, incumbents were kept in office after an unusually close election in which Winterer lost by only 56 votes. Post election, the city council took no action to impose penalties for filing violations by PACS. The council members who were elected because of these PACS never disavowed false, misleading tactics or denounced them. So these PACS continue to proliferate and dominate the messages that voters get with no oversight. 

The Newest Phony PAC

This month a new PAC, Santa Monicans United for a Responsible Future suddenly appeared having raised  $175,000 from only four big developers who have projects in Santa Monica. In fact, of these four, two account for eight of the 23 Development Agreement projects in process.  

Development Agreements require approval by the city council because of their increased size, height, and density over building and zoning codes. The city council record of Development Agreement approvals is 100 percent, excluding one project that was withdrawn by the developer years ago.   NMS, a developer of apartments, contributed $100,000 to the Santa Monicans United for a Responsible Future PAC. It has seven apartment projects awaiting city council approval and recently acquired five more sites in downtown. Six of the seven projects are for so called “micro” apartments of around 400 square feet each.

Roberts Companies, a $25,000 contributor, has a new 300,000 square foot complex of production studios, offices, restaurant, retail and apartments near the Expo line awaiting final approval.  The two other PAC contributors, Ideal Properties and Century West Properties, remain in the shadows, but if history is any guide, they too will have projects requiring council approval in the near future.

Santa Monicans United for a Responsible Future began its push to elect favored candidates by hiring paid workers to hand deliver a series of slick, full color brochures. Workers falsely represented themselves as volunteers from the Democratic Party. Additional large, full color mailers promoting Gleam Davis, Terry O’Day and Shari Davis singly and in pairs immediately followed. Expect to receive many more such mailers in the near future.

Voters Beware

So, what does all this mean to us voters who reside in Santa Monica?  The city is at a tipping point because the new city council will be making decisions on the 23 Development Agreement projects in the pipeline. There are four council seats to be filled—two seats with no incumbents, enough to change the pace and size of what’s proposed, and more importantly to just say, “NO. 

Beware of strange developer PACS that are trying to buy this election by purposely misleading us into thinking their favored candidates have different records than they actually do.  

This election offers clear choices among candidates with long, public records sharply differing on how best to solve Santa Monica’s out- of- control growth, traffic and other problems.  The Transparency Group urges voters to read the very small print on campaign literature received at your door or by mail.  Learn about who sent the mailers and what biases they may have.  Look here to find PACS by name on the city’s web site: http://www.smgov.net/Departments/Clerk/Elections/Campaign_Disclosure_Statements 

Talk to your friends, family and neighbors about the direction you want for Santa Monica. Then, vote for the candidates you think will best serve Santa Monica.


“Democracy demands an educated and informed electorate" Thomas Jefferson

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Roberto Gomez November 02, 2012 at 06:42 AM
Hello. I have set up a platform and sign atop of my car with a three liner which reads: NO VOTE GLEAM DAVIS TERRY O'DAY SHARI DAVIS Along with a loudspeaker. If you come across me say hello. I will be campaiging through election evening. These dogs have got to go! Roberto
Roberto Gomez November 02, 2012 at 07:40 PM
November 6th is looming. Get out there and spread the word. Email, blog, talk to your next door neighbor, talk to all your friends in Santa Monica. Go out and carry a sign if you have to. Even if for just a half hour or anytime you can afford. Talk to the checkers at the store, anyone on the street. Do something, anything to defeat this evil. If we don't defeat them we will have to make an appointment to go anywhere in this traffic. Do you want to be a prisoner in your own home? Do you want even more traffic? Please, Please do something! Roberto
Roberto Gomez November 03, 2012 at 04:34 AM
Hi! I just got back from campaigning with my car, platform and sign atop my car, and my bull horn blaring Don't trust Gleam Davis, Terry O'Day and Shari Davis. They work for the Developers, they work for the Developers! You should have seen the looks on peoples faces. And the the comments of lots of people. Major favorable. I just could not been more happy to see them taking pictures of the sign that read " NO VOTE GLEAM DAVIS TERRY O'DAY SHARI DAVIS.
Roberto Gomez November 03, 2012 at 04:37 AM
Part 2/2 While my platform, sign and bullhorn are not the slick mailers that the three little piggies "SMURF" has sent out. It has already taken a bit out of the "Blue Meanie" lies. I have gotten lots favorable but their was one kid that said "Fuck You" I guess he was Gleam Davis's kid or relative or what it Shari Davis's kid or relative or perhaps one of Terry O'Days kids. I just don't know but I pushed some buttons. There was this dude at albertsons I believe Broadway and Lincoln who was cursing up a storm. I took that as a positive sign. I must admit that I had fun! And I will be back at it Saturday and everyday thru Tuesday getting the word out. I plan to at least traverse the whole city of Santa Monica at least twice. I did go by the courthouse, the Police Station, City Hall and of course Downtown 3 times in fact. Well more on this on Saturday and thru Tuesday. Come and take a picture and get it on let's go viral. This would be a push for the cause. Then we can email it to ours friends, and their friends friends. Get the picture. There were a lot of people taking pictures. Roberto Gomez Formerly Known as a Candidate for City Council!
Brenda Barnes November 03, 2012 at 05:56 PM
We tested the equipment and how we do it yesterday, and over 400 people listened somehow, the counter said. We'll be doing it again 4-6 p.m. today, and hopefully have the echo problem solved and people calling in will be able to hear other people while they're talking, or else we'll figure out we can have only the host and one caller talking ay a time--we think that's it. It's still beta, but today 4-6 the call-in number is 1-347-884-9821. That's always a free call on the Google phone, but I don't know yet about landlines and cell phones. Still beta, but you're welcome to help us test and get it perfect by tomorrow, we hope.


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