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Santa Monica Independent Campaigns Head into Elections with Small War Chests
By Jorge Casuso
October 9, 2018 -- Less than one month before voters go to the polls, independent expenditure campaigns -- which have no contribution limits -- have raised a little more than $300,000 combined, according to an analysis of campaign finance disclosure statements by the Lookout.
Two of the campaigns accounted for more than two-thirds of the total, including non-monetary contributions.
The top two fundraisers, the committee supporting a facilities bond for Santa Monica public schools, and the campaign supporting term limits for City Council members, accounted for $218,671 of the total.
Neither is facing an opposition campaign.
The campaign for SMS -- a record $485 million school bond -- has raised a total of $118,166, with $91,000 coming from companies outside Santa Monica ("Santa Monica School Bond Measure Largely Bankrolled by Outside Firms," October 4, 2018).
The two most recent contributions, which were reported this weekend, were $10,000 from HMC Architects in Ontario, California and $8,384.20 from the Santa Monica Alternative Schoolhouse PTSA.
Unlike local candidate campaigns, which are limited to contributions of $340 per individual, there are no limits to how mach money a contributor can make to an independent expenditure campaign.
The second largest amount raised -- $100,505 -- was raised by the campaign for Measure SMTL, which has spent $96,746. Of the total raised, $63,600 came as non-monetary contributions.
Most of the contributions were used to qualify the measure, which would limit City Council members to three terms.
Of the total raised by the campaign, $26,824 was contributed by Mary Marlow, who heads Santa Monica Transparency, which sponsored the measure. Elizabeth Van Denburg, a Santa Monica-based consultant, contributed $8,643.
Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR) -- which is backing incumbents Sue Himmelrich and Kevin McKeown and challenger Greg Morena -- has raised the second-largest amount this year, $43,544.
After spending $24,306, the group had $55,238 at the end of the most recent reporting period ending September 22, including an ending cash balance of $36,000 from the previous year.
The group received 142 contributors of $100 or more, including contributions of $1,000 from the campaigns for Morena and School Board incumbents Craig Foster and Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein.
SMMR's biggest contributor was Michael Soloff, from the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, who contributed $10,000. Soloff is married to Councilmember Himmelrich.
The Community for Excellent Pubic Schools (CEPS) has raised $4,850, with most of the contributions coming from the School Board candidates it endorsed.
The campaigns for Foster and Tahvildaran-Jesswein each contributed $1,000 and incumbent Laurie Lieberman's campaign made a $1,000 contribution.
CEPS has a cash balance of $4,197.03, according to its filings.
The Santa Monica Police Officers Association-- which like CEPS endorsed incumbents Pam O'Connor, Himmelrich, McKeown and challenger Morena for three open seats -- has raised $25,793 this year in $15 contributions from 491 contributors.
It has spent $1,870 but had a balance of $53,830 as of the beginning of the year.
Santa Monica Forward -- which spent nearly $744,000 to defeat slow-growth Measure LV in 2016 -- has raised $9,000 to back O'Connor, McKeown and Morena.
Of the total raised, $5,000 was contributed by Le Meridien Delfina Hotel and $4,000 by Jeff Klocke, vice president and general manager of Pacific Park, the amusement park on the Santa Monica Pier.
So far, the group has spent $15,401.48 to send a mailer supporting Morena.
The dearth of fundraising is likely due to the smallest field of council candidates in three decades and only one measure -- for term limits -- drawing an opposing ballot argument.
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