There’s still fallout from the November election.
At issue is a series of political mailers from what was supposed to look like a Santa Monica citizens group: Santa Monicans for Quality Government. SMQG sent out slate mailers that misrepresented City Council candidate endorsements from police and fire unions and Community for Excellent Public Schools — a school support group.
Fred Huebscher, the “president” of SMQG is also the head of The Political Scientists, a Redondo Beach political consultancy and direct-mail firm.
The Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City filed a complaint last week with the California Fair Political Practices Commission and City Council requested staff to investigate establishing regulations that would require entities like SMQG to file disclosure statements with the City Clerk. Huebscher has stated that SMQC is a slate mailer organization, not a campaign committee and doesn’t need to file documentation with City Hall.
The mailers featured generally pro-development council candidates such as Bob Holbrook, Gleam Davis, Terry O’Day and Pam O’Connor while omitting slow growth candidates such as Ted Winterer and Kevin McKeown who were also endorsed by organizations represented in some of the mailers.
Backing for the mailers — approximately $72,000 — came mostly from developers with projects pending City Hall approval such as Hines, NMS Properties, Village Trailer Park and Maxser & Company. Additional support came from the Edward Thomas Collection (Shutters and Casa Del Mar Hotels) and the Armbruster, Goldsmith and Delvac law firm whose clients include Agensys, Inc and Trammell Crow.
Most council candidates featured in SMQG’s flyers had (according to campaign disclosure statements) also received substantial campaign support from these same business interests.
There’s speculation that Huebscher didn’t create SMQG by himself and that local political insiders may have created SMQG or were deeply involved in its concept and planning. I sent e-mails to both politicians and community activists requesting information.
Among the names mentioned was SMQG’s treasurer Kinde Durkee owner of Kinde Durkee and Associates — a Burbank-based political consultancy that often functions as treasurer for both candidate and measure campaigns and provides other campaign services. Durkee was also treasurer for O’Day’s recent campaign.
According to the San Diego Union Tribune, Oct. 22, 2010, Durkee and Associates "has accepted thousands of dollars in contributions from various Encinitas (CA) political players for slate mailers (and) has been fined more than $110,000 by the Fair Political Practices Commission for various financial reporting violations in the past year and listed questionable donors on recent campaign forms.”
The Bay Area Reporter (Nov. 11, 2010) reported. “State Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) has fired her longtime campaign treasurer amid revelations that more than $57,000 has been embezzled from her campaign accounts … Kehoe dismissed Kinde Durkee, owner of Kinde Durkee & Associates, for allegedly failing to report 29 suspected check forgeries by one of the company’s employees. She has asked the Los Angeles County district attorney and a state political watchdog to investigate the financial irregularities, according to the paper.”
Durkee was also under fire for producing a 2006 mailer that supported Republican candidates in the 3rd California Congressional District …. The “Democratic Voters Choice” was a look-alike creation similar to the mailers here that appeared to represent endorsements from police, fire and educational groups.
Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights insider Bruce Cameron was also mentioned as being possibly involved in SMQG. Cameron worked on the campaign to defeat 2008’s Measure T which would have temporarily capped commercial growth in Santa Monica.
Another name linked to SMQG is that of public relations/lobbyist Kim Karie who worked with both O’Day’s and O’Connor’s campaigns. Karie has close ties with the Edward Thomas Collection, developers and real estate interests.
I contacted Huebscher asking whether he created SMQG or whether he was recruited by “a mastermind” in Santa Monica to help with and/or front the campaign. I also asked whether Kim Karie, Bruce Cameron, Barbara Grover, (another political consultant who worked against Measure T and for this year’s Measure Y) or if other persons such as O’Connor and Davis (whose campaigns Huebscher was assisting with) were involved in the creation or operation of SMQG and the mailers.
Huebscher e-mailed back that he didn’t view candidates on the mailers as pro-development. He wouldn’t discuss who, if anyone, he was working with here in Santa Monica and didn’t answer questions about whom created SMQG and who else had input on the mailers.
It would appear that at least some candidates appearing on SMQG slate mailers may have paid for the space. He added that McKeown was on one mailer and “he was told by Mr. Winterer’s campaign consultant that the campaign had no more (money) to participate in slate mailers.”
While Huebscher deserves criticism for his roll in SMQG’s shenanigans, insiders say he wasn’t alone in the skullduggery and had local help carrying out SMQG’s dirty tricks. As I get more information, I’ll be passing it along.
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org