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Michael Feinstein for Santa Monica City Council 2014

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By Daniel Larios
Staff Writer

October 20, 2014 –  A Santa Monica City Council member is heading a Super PAC, a council candidate returned money and a pro-airport group has raised nearly $800,000.

These were some of the latest developments on the local campaign front last week that also included two slow-growth groups weighing in on the hotly contested battle for three open Council seats.

The focus of the council race is Mayor Pam O’Connor, who is backed by a hotel-funded PAC expected to boost its war chest for the final stretch and targeted by two slow-growth groups.

O’Day Heads Pro-O’Connor and Gruber Super PAC

The campaigns of O’Connor and former Lookout columnist Frank Gruber can count on the backing of  “Responsible Leadership for a Better Santa Monica” headed by Mayor Pro-Tem Terry O’Day.

The Super PAC has received two $25,000 contributions from Ocean Avenue LLC and the Edward Management Company, according to campaign finance disclosure statements. Both contributions were made on October 9.

In the 2012 council race, Ocean Avenue LLC donated $100,000 to Santa Monicans United for a Responsible Future, a similar hotel-funded PAC that raised nearly $500,000.

Before receiving the two large donations this month, the new PAC had raised $9,500 in total contributions for the year, including $2,050 from One Hundred to One Cocktail Lounge in Arcadia.

It has spent $2,025 on campaign literature from Election Digest in Sherman Oaks and $1,200 on a slate mailer from Our Voice Latino Voter Guide.

Ocean Avenue LCC is looking to rebuild the Fairmont Miramar Hotel by replacing the current ten-story building with a 21-story tower, 280 hotel rooms, 120 luxury condos and 40 affordable housing units.

The Edward Thomas Management Company owns Shutters on the Beach Hotel and Hotel Casa del Mar.

Unlike candidates, independent expenditure committees can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, but are prohibited from coordinating their efforts with the candidate.

SMCLC Raises $30k Opposing Santa Monica Mayor’s Reelection

Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC) has raised $30,300 for its Political Action Committee, as the slow-growth group continues its nearly 10-year battle to unseat Mayor Pam O’Connor.

According to a financial disclosure statement filed on October 10, SMCLC gave its PAC $12,500 to oppose O’Connor, whom the group blames for much of the major development in the Bayside city.

The PAC also received a $10,000 contribution from Santa Monica resident Mark Kreher, $1,500 from accounting firm Barkin, Perren, Schwager & Dolan LLP, $1,500 from the group’s chair Diana Gordon and $1,500 from Elizabeth Van Denburgh.

As of October 9, the group has spent $9,258 on mailers opposing O’Connor’s campaign.

The group is backing incumbent Kevin McKeown and Planning Commissioners Richard McKinnon and Sue Himmelrich. (“Santa Monica Coalition Makes Endorsements Four Months Before Election,” July 15, 2014)

Residocracy Has Not Filed Disclosure Statement

Like the Coalition, the recently formed slow growth group Residocracy is mounting a campaign against O’Connor but has yet to file finance disclosure statements this election.

That’s because the group has not begun raising money, said its leader Armen Melkonians.

“If we decide to do so, we’ll file it when we need to,” Melkonians told the Lookout.  “We will be largely using volunteers to get out the vote, but when it comes to printing costs, we’ll file the disclosures.”

The group was given an ad in the back of the October 2 edition of a local newspaper by Residocracy member Kate Bransfield.  The ad showed the results of the group’s electronic endorsement vote by its members.

When asked about the ad, Melkonians said that the group will file a finance disclosure statement including the contribution.

“For full disclosure, it should probably be considered a contribution,” Melkonians told the Lookout.  “At the time, it didn’t spark and didn’t come into play.  But now that we know, that should definitely be reported, and it will.”

Because the ad was placed on October 2, it did not need to be included in the recent campaign finance filings release two weeks ago, which reported contributions made between July 1 and September 30.

The next deadline for campaign finance statements is October 23.

The last financial disclosure statement filed by Residocracy -- using the name “Save Our Town, A Committee in support of a Referendum on SM Ord 2454(CCS), Sponsored by Residocracy, A Non-Profit Corp.” – last reported having raised a total of $36,016, all of which had been used to fight the Hines development agreement earlier in the year. The council reversed its decision to support the development after the group gathered some 13,500 signatures.

Brock Returns Campaign Contribution from Developer

Parks and Recreation Commissioner and slow-growth city council candidate Phil Brock received two donations from developers who failed to get a contract with the city to redevelop Bergamot Station.

Both Jim Jacobsen and Scott Ginsburg, two executive members of the 26Street TOD development team, contributed $325 to Brock’s campaign, according to finance disclosure forms.

Brock has since returned the donations.

“It’s simple. I won't be tainted by developer donations,” Brock said.  “I'm working for the residents of our city, not developers.”

Last month, 26th Street TOD Partners were up for consideration by the council for a nearly $100 million project to redevelop Bergamot Station Arts Center.  However, the City Council chose to back a plan by Worthe Real Estate Group.  (“Council Rejects City Staff’s Recommendation for Bergamot Arts Center Developer,” September 11, 2014)

Measure D Raises more than $750,000

As of Friday, backers of the pro-Santa Monica Airport ballot measure have raised almost $800,000, according to finance disclosure forms.

Supporters of Measure D -- which would require voter approval on changes made to the airport – have raised $786,049 for the campaign, seven times the amount raised by supporters of rival Measure LC, which would retain the Council’s control of  the airport.
Non-local donors accounted for 79 percent of funds raised, according to the anti-Measure D group Committee for Local Control of Santa Monica Airport Land (CLCSMAL).

By comparison, CLCSMAL has raised $101,275, with all but 2 percent donated by local residents, according to finance disclosure forms.

The fundraising battle marks an escalating and heated clash for the fate of the 227-acre Santa Monica Airport, which supporters tout as an important regional lifeline and economic generator, and opponents view as a safety and health hazard.

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