CITY HALL — Despite rigorous campaign disclosure rules in Santa Monica, it’s still unclear who is backing the group responsible for the most controversial campaign mailer of the election season so far — the recently formed Santa Monicans for Quality Government (SMQG).

The group, which filed a “statement of organization” with the City Clerk on Oct. 12, was responsible for a flier that went out to Santa Monica households last week featuring four candidates for City Council: Gleam Davis, Pam O’Connor, Terry O’Day and Bob Holbrook beneath the banner, “Who do our police officers and firefighters trust to protect us?”

The flier drew criticism from the local police and fire unions, who said the so-called “slate mailer” misrepresented their endorsements by using their logos without permission and omitting one of the five candidates the groups endorsed in the council election — incumbent Kevin McKeown.

Though candidates for local offices and local political organizations that spend $1,000 or more on campaigns are required to file financial disclosure statements under a Santa Monica ordinance, SMQG has so far avoided disclosing to the public who has donated to the group.

Reached on Tuesday, SMQG President Fred Huebscher declined to provide a list of his donors but insisted his organization has followed all applicable campaign disclosure laws.

He also defended the flier that used the public safety associations’ logos.

“The mailer is telling the complete truth,” he said, pointing out that it didn’t make the claim that the four listed candidates were the only candidates endorsed by the unions.

“The only reason those logos were there was because it clearly shows they’re endorsing these people. There’s no intent to mislead [voters] to believing it’s coming from the police officers” and firefighters associations, he said.

As to the SMQG financial disclosure requirements, Huebscher said the group is registered with the California Secretary of State’s Office and will file required disclosures with that office, not with the Santa Monica City Clerk’s Office. He said the state office is the appropriate place for the group to file, particularly because the group plans to play a role in elections outside of Santa Monica.

Filing paperwork to open a SMQG committee with the City Clerk’s Office, he said, was a mistake. It has since been shut down.

While less stringent than Santa Monica’s campaign finance laws, state rules for “slate mailer organizations” set by California’s Fair Political Practices Commission required groups to file disclosure forms with the Secretary of State by Oct. 21 “if payments of $500 or more [had been] received or made to produce a slate mailer” for the Nov. 2 election.

By deadline Tuesday, no financial disclosure forms for SMQG were available on the Secretary of State’s website.

Huebscher also declined to state how much his group had raised in donations or spent on campaign literature.

“It’s not my job to direct you where to find the information, and it’s certainly not my job to give you the information,” he told the Daily Press. “We have filed the reports with the appropriate authorities and it’s out of our hands.”

Huebscher, who is the president of the Hermosa Beach-based consulting company The Political Scientists and is running the campaigns of Gleam Davis and Pam O’Connor, said neither of those candidates are involved with SMQG, though both paid to be included on the organizations’ fliers.

Meanwhile, the group Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City, on Tuesday filed a complaint with City Hall about SMQG’s financial disclosure practices.

City Clerk Maria Stewart said she planned to meet this morning with City Attorney Marsha Moutrie to discuss the complaint. For his part, Huebscher dismissed SMCLC’s gripe as baseless. (SMCLC has endorsed three candidates for City Council, none of which appeared on the SMQG mailer).

nickt@www.smdp.com

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