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Special Interests Bring Big Money to Senate Campaign

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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

May 27, 2014 -- Santa Monica’s next representative in the State Senate will be determined by more than the campaign efforts of the seven Democrats and one independent running for the seat. Financial statements released this week show nearly $1 million has been spent to promote four of the competitors by people and groups not working directly with those candidates.

While direct contributions to candidates’ campaigns are capped at $4,100 for individuals and $8,200 for so-called small committees, there is no limit for how much can be spent through what are known as independent expenditures, as long as the people and groups spending the money do not coordinate with the candidate.

Leading the pack in benefiting from independent expenditures is Vito Imbasciani, who is the state surgeon of the California Army National Guard. The California Medical Association and other medical interest groups have spent more than $456,000 on mailers and through other methods to support Imbasciani’s candidacy.

Ben Allen, an attorney who has been a member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education since 2008, has benefited from the independent expenditures of Republican-turned-independent businessman Bill Bloomfield. He has spent $439,000 in support of Allen.

Bloomfield, who spent approximately $8 million of his own money in a failed attempt to unseat U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman in 2012, also contributed $4,100 directly to Allen’s campaign this month. Bloomfield’s wife Susan gave Allen the same amount. Allen told The Lookout that those donations came unsolicited, and he and Bloomfield are not working together on his campaign.

Another person benefiting from independent expenditures is Manhattan Beach Mayor Amy Howorth. A so-called Super Political Action Committee (Super PAC) known as Alliance for California’s Tomorrow, a California Business Coalition has spent more than $116,000 in support of Howorth.

The Super PAC has received donations from various groups, including $90,000 this month from cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris and $22,000 from a group led by 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan as well as money from various employer groups and some union coalitions.

Former Assemblymember Betsy Butler has been a minor recipient of promotion through independent expenditures, with the Torrance Police Officers Association spending $1,190 to promote her candidacy.

Howorth leads all candidates in fundraising, according to financial statements released this week that list donations made through May 17. She has collected $543,575, of which $100,000 she contributed and another $100,000 she lent the campaign.

Second on the fundraising list is attorney Sandra Fluke, who gained national attention two years ago when conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” following her testimony before U.S. House Democrats in favor of birth control being included in health insurance plans. She has collected $438,563, including $112,000 ($100,000 loan and $12,000 contribution) from herself.

The remainder of the list features Allen with $395,717, including a $50,000 self-loan; Imbasciani with $298,129, including a $66,000 self-loan; Butler with $271,017; former Writers Guild of America, West President Patric Verrone with $187,768, including a $50,000 self-loan; law school professor Seth Stodder with $93,827, including a $74,000 self-contribution and attorney Barbi Appelquist with $63,503, including a $5,000 self-loan and a $9,100 self-contribution.

All the candidates are Democrats, except Stodder, who identifies as an independent. The top two-vote getters in the June 3 primary will advance to the General Election in November. The winner will represent a district that stretches down the coast from Pacific Palisades to Ranchos Palos Verdes and includes Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, portions of Hollywood, Brentwood, Westwood and other areas.

Neither the state nor county Democratic clubs have made an endorsement for this race. Several candidates have major names backing them. On the local front, Allen received endorsements from the Santa Monica Democratic Club, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), five of his six colleagues on the Board of Education, five Santa Monica City Council members and three former mayors of the city.

Butler has the backing of Santa Monica’s firefighters union, Rent Control Board Chair Todd Flora and former Mayor Denny Zane. Flora and Zane also endorsed Allen

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