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.

tamara szucs October 23, 2012 at 04:38 PM
omg, we have to wake up santa monica! Don't be fooled by people who support the smm school system. many are pawns of the big developers who are putting our city at stake. props and measures have gotten passed for our children and smcc. the davis' are riding on the innocence and unawareness of parents, and no O'Day!!!!
tamara szucs October 23, 2012 at 04:48 PM
i live in the sunset park area. if haven't, go to CASMAT.org and you will be horrified to read how much gas is burned (leaded) for 1 takeoff! if a candidate is so concerned about the education of the children, the would agree to the closure of sm airport. jets dump large quantities of unreg. pollution daily over schools and residents.i live here. some live on other side of town and are not affected.
tamara szucs October 23, 2012 at 04:50 PM
you've earned my vote. i'm soooo tired of the fakery in this world and from the current smcc. close SMO, get developers out!!!!
tamara szucs October 23, 2012 at 04:51 PM
thank you brenda for your awareness!
Brenda Barnes October 23, 2012 at 06:02 PM
I didn't know about a connection between the SMUSD and developers. Can you give me a website or other relatively simple place I can go to to see the connection?
Brenda Barnes October 23, 2012 at 06:18 PM
I have been following up with all the possible candidates (ignoring developer lapdogs and the one candidate who said he did not intend to win), to try to get commitments to action rather than words. The truth is once people get elected, oldtimers on the Council and the staff "educate" them. This means primarily O'Connor and Holbrook in this case, plus Bloom in the holdover period between the election and when he's finally, thankfully, gone. About overdevelopment, this means newly elected candidates "learn" the City is run on developers' fees and increased funds from property taxes on development. Then the words we thought were commitments become meaningless, just like that. Another trick is the City Attorney, who has long known the Council's commitment to approve every development suggested, and who is an at-will employee of the Council, figures out and tells them some lie about what the law supposedly says. I could cite you two examples about Village Trailer Park and the Airport that would curl your hair if you, like me, were legally trained. Just pure lies. Then the Council members claim they have no choice, given what the law is. In the next comment I therefore quote the commitment I have been asking for. I see now it probably does not cover the Airport, so can someone suggest words that would give us the ACTION we seek?
Brenda Barnes October 23, 2012 at 06:20 PM
This is what I have now: I commit if elected to the Santa Monica City Council not to vote for any development that: (1) displaces homeowners without the homeowners' approval unless there is a specific health and safety reason for such displacement qualifying as an emergency under applicable definitions; or (2) displaces seniors from an established Senior Center site designated for their use without the majority of the affected persons' approval in a fair and impartial vote; or (3) violates the LUCE goal of "no new car trips," or (4) further negatively impacts an intersection where the rating in a traffic count done within the past year by an impartial traffic counter is over D as defined in the Municipal Code. : Do we need to add the Airport, or is it covered already?
Brenda Barnes October 23, 2012 at 06:29 PM
I'm laughing at the response of some of them we thought were on our side. Deafening silence. I am 68 years old, graduated 37 years ago in the top 10% from a Top Ten law school, and have been married three times. For a long, long, time I was a young and beautiful professional woman with tons of money. Therefore, I have had my share of men lie to me, or maybe to give them the benefit of the doubt, say things they meant at the time but when push came to shove, could not or would not put into action, or found they had changed their minds about due to changes in circumstances. I have therefore learned to be precise in what I ask for. Life is so interesting, isn't it?
tamara szucs October 23, 2012 at 06:49 PM
hi brenda, i realize i wasn't clear. no connection that i'm aware between smusd and developers. but i do think some of the candidates are not going to try to close the airport and are going to align themselves with the big developers and also sway (if elected) the incumbants or newly elected smcc . i was only trying to say " don't be fooled by candidates who highlight the concern for the educational system, but who are going to side with the overdevelopment of sm. "
Brenda Barnes October 23, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Now I understand, Tamara. You're so right. Anything to deflect attention from what they really will do--guarantee consultant jobs and campaign contributions for themselves in the future by doing whatever developers want. At the same time it gives them pots of other people's money to spend, what fun!
Brenda Barnes October 23, 2012 at 11:23 PM
I got a response from Jon Mann saying he absolutely would sign both sets of commitments. Someone add something about the Airport if we need to.
Bob Seldon October 24, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Bob Seldon, City Council Candidate, FYI, I have not, and will not accept money from developers, and truly appreciate the efforts of the Transparency Project to publicize the sources of money flowing into this race. It takes an incredible amount of time and effort for them to do so. BTW, I am committed to voting against any zoning change that would enable the Village Trailer Park to be destroyed, and will fully support its residents as a Council member. I am also committed to returning the Senior Center to its location at Palisades Park, and to implementing zoning regulations that truly protect our residents from LUCE's goal of using Development Agreements as the standard procedure for future development. It's time to take our city back! (For more info, see www.seldonforcouncil.com )
tamara szucs October 24, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Indeed it is! Brenda, you leave me tongue tied! So, it looks like John Smith, Jon Mann and Seldon have stepped up. I am also voting for Melkelians as long as he commits to your letter. Go solar, wind, wave. We can take our city back and actually have a greater vision than skyscrapers and more traffic.
Roberto Gomez October 31, 2012 at 08:02 AM
Hello! My name is Roberto Gomez. Although my name is on the ballot for City Council. I am not actively campaigning for office. My attention is towards making sure that the community in this City are apprised of the crooks, Gleam Davis, Terry O'Day and crook in training Shari Davis. People wake up! As most of you know I have not and never will hold my tongue when it comes to public officials we vote in, suddenly think they are our Masters. And you know what? They probably are because people are just to damn lazy to get off their collective ass and take control. We need to rise up and take back ourt City. Everytime I can bad mouth these crooks I do. I do not care how it sounds, looks or how I am perceived. You may not know it but we are in a state of War!
Roberto Gomez October 31, 2012 at 08:21 AM
It is not the time to civil, respectful or complacent. In a real fight, and I mean a good to honest drag out fight. The rules go out the window. We have to use the weapons that are there, whether it be a chair, knife, pipe etc.....you get the message. Not that I am advocating violence. Which I am not. I am just saying the the rules of civility, while the other side is trying to screw us, should be set aside for now. What I have seen while attending these "Candidate Forums" are candidates who are afraid of insulting candidates. Even though in their hearts they are justified in doing so. Perhaps their feelings are not insults, but pure honest truth. I think any candidate that does not stick their neck out and call a spade a spade is not not doing their civic duty in informing the Voters. We all know that Gleam Davis, Terry O'Day are crooks and that Shari Davis is a crook in training.
Roberto Gomez October 31, 2012 at 08:31 AM
But everyone is afraid of saying so for fear of lawsuits or being accused of being uncivilized. I urge all the City Council Candidates that are not Davis, O'Day & Davis put their pen to a document indicating their no confidence in these candidates. This should have been done a long time ago. A long time ago. Not doing this is doing a disservice to the people of Santa Monica. Let me ask you a question: If you saw a woman, a child, an elderly person being abused would you just stand by and do nothing. I would assume a lot of us would do something because it is something so terrible and repulsive that our natural instincts would kick in. Well this thing about letting these crooks into office is just as repungnant. Eventhough the following candidates have not asked me to endorse them I am endorsing them anyway. Armen Menkelians, John C. Smith, Bob Seldon and Jon Mann. I feel that they would make excellent City Council Member. I would have included Ted Winterer but he, along with Gleam Davis, Terry O'Day and Shari Davis refused to sign my affidavit Under penalty that they had zero knowledge of being endorsed by the PAC "SMURF". And also because he agreed witht he removal of VILLAGE TRAILER PARK. I am not completely convinced that he not a Pro-Developer Candidate. Roberto Gomez Registered Candidate For City Council but not campaigning. I am campaigning against the election of Gleam Davis, Terry O'Day and Shari Davis. This is where I can best serve the people of Santa Monica.
Brenda Barnes October 31, 2012 at 10:04 PM
We are starting a three-hour a day online radio talk show tomorrow to publicize how many people are as upset as they can be about the overdevelopment of SM, want to do all they can to stop it, and just need to organize with each other to stop it. More details when I know them. Great comments here. I hope we each have 100 friends who will vote as we do, for Smith, Mann, Seldon, and Merkelians to get a 5-2 majority our way for a change. Next stop, recalling O'Connor and Holbrook, hateful people who are long past their sell-by dates. Time to get some real work done for the people. Make this City sustainable for its residents, not developers, tourists, or elected officials looking out for their own futures rather than ours.
Roberto Gomez November 01, 2012 at 10:06 AM
Everyone who cares and loves this City should work overtime, not only thru the election, but until we have a majority in City Council. Which, of course, means the recall of Pam O'Connor and Holbrook for now. And, if by any chance, anyone of the "3 Stoogies Davis, O'Day & Davis that may get elected we will come after them in a recall as well 2 months down the line as well. As I stated earlier this is War and should not take any prisoners! Support Brenda, The VTP and the people of Santa Monica. Roberto Gomez
B. Stone November 01, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Developers have a very different vision for Santa Monica than the residents have. Just look at what is happening on La Mesa Dr. , that is zoned R1. Developer buys "landmarked" house and now the neighbors have the House of Rock. It could happen to you!
JohnCySmith.com November 01, 2012 at 05:39 PM
John C. Smith, Santa Monica City Council Candidate, Glad to see so many comments and words of support. Anyone who knows me and Bob Seldon, knows we don't take money from developers. Frankly, if a candidate needs to take money from developers to win a seat on the Council, I don't think they deserve a seat on the Council. Please tell your voting friends about us. Thank you.
Brenda Barnes November 01, 2012 at 10:33 PM
I certainly support John C. Smith and Bob Seldon. However, it is too early to give up on getting four seats. I can understand thinking Gleam Davis and Terry O'Day's being incumbents with tons of developer money behind them and having name recognition make them difficult to beat. However, they actually are the two worst candidates running. We KNOW they vote for every development proposed. We fear others running might become the same, as Richard Bloom, who ran on a "smart growth" platform, became the leader of the pack of developers' lapdogs("DLs"). When we know Gl;eam Davis and Terry O'Day are our worst bets to get any resident control over the City back, we have to do all we can to get that word out before and after Tuesday. Recall, if we have to, but try to get four candidates that are even possibilities elected in the first place. That's the trouble with Winterer and McKinnon being supported by some of our friends, when they both voted yes on the VTP development agreement. We are split in this 15-candidate race, while they are fixed on the two Davises, O'Day and Winterer. One does have to wonder why Wineterer is supported by developers along with known, obvious DLs the Davises and O'Day. That's why I think we should get behind Smith, Mann, Seldon, and Merkelians. We need to just say firmly, anyone associated with the current corrupt City Council is infected with developer lapdog disease and cannot be supported.
Brenda Barnes November 01, 2012 at 10:36 PM
My husband Peter Naughton and I are testing the radio Internet equipment at 4 p.m. today, to try to figure out how to do it. I'll give you the call-in info before that, but today is just testing day, so it will probably be really chaotic. Hope to get it set up and working for tomorrow.
tamara szucs November 02, 2012 at 02:34 AM
I hear you Roberto! Well said. Thank you for having guts enough to speak your truth! I'm with you. How dare the Davis', O'Day and Winterer presume to say they know what's in the heart of Sunset Park residents. You must have seen one of the lastest 4 page ads. With pics of Grant & Will Rogers. Quoting (I actually throw these away as soon as I read through the deceit) something to the effect of "Sunset Park residents are with them". Not this resident! Yes, I'm standing for Smith, Seldon, Mann and Menkelians. Thank you again Roberto for taking action, trying to educate people. I really appreciate what you are standing for. Rise up Santa Monica.
tamara szucs November 02, 2012 at 02:40 AM
Yes, we must remain vigilant. And the recall of Holbrook and O'Connor is imperative. Davis, Davis & O'Day also must be ceased.
tamara szucs November 02, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Hi Brenda. Thank you. I would appreciate the call in info as well. My 13 year old and I want to give out flyers to Sunset Park residents regarding the imperativeness of not allowing the 4 candidates who have ill intentions to sm (Davis, Davis, O'Day and Winterer). But who wants to see another flyer. People, get educated.
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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