All that super-helpful campaign literature that clogged your mailbox and gave your mail carrier a hernia last election season cost political supporters a fortune.
While voter turnout was abysmally low for November’s City Council race, spending by candidates and outside groups rose dramatically this year.
More than $17.14 was spent per vote in the council race last year, according to calculations run by the Daily Press using campaign disclosure statements and vote totals.
Candidates, through loans to themselves and contributions from supporters, spent more than $640,000 while outside groups — like the city’s largest political party, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) and a hotel-backed political committee — spent at least $378,000 for a total of more than a million dollars spent on a race for which fewer than 60,000 votes were cast.
Sue Himmelrich, who won the open council seat, far outspent her competitors and any individual political action committee, dropping $173,762.98 on her campaign, of which $160,000 was her own money. That $160,000 loan itself was more than the bottom nine campaign fundraisers spent combined.
Responsible Leadership for a Better Tomorrow, a political action committee headed by Councilmember Terry O’Day and largely backed by hotel owners and prospective hotel builders, spent $95,307 on the council race — more than any other outside spenders. The hotel-backed committee supported Pam O’Connor, who was reelected, and Frank Gruber, who was not elected. These committee are allowed to support candidates through mailers, robo-calls, and advertising but they are not allowed to coordinate with the candidates they are supporting.
SMRR spent more than Responsible Leadership during the election but, because it was backing candidates in other races — like the Board of Education and College Board of Trustees — it spent only $22,944 in support of Himmelrich, Kevin McKeown, who was reelected as the top vote-getter, and Jennifer Kennedy, who was not elected.
No group or candidate spent anything close to what Santa Monicans for Open and Honest Development Decisions, spent on one measure last year. To initiate and support Measure D, which ultimately failed, the group spent more than $870,000.
Candidates and committees spent more this year than they have in any of the elections dating back to 2008, when information was readily available.
In 2012, they spent at least $704,000 combined. In 2010, it was $526,000, and in 2008 it was more than $455,000.
In fact, each year, both candidates and committees spent progressively more.
Despite the fact that former Mayor Bobby Shriver spent $119,000 on his campaign, the second-most among any council candidate over that four-election period, candidates spent less than $340,000 that year — a little more than half of what was spent by candidates this year.
That number barely jumped in 2010, to more than $341,000. In 2012, it rose to $390,000 before skyrocketing to the more than $640,000 of last year’s election.
Outside spending more than tripled since 2008, when $116,000 was spent on council campaigns. It rose to $185,000 in 2010 and $314,000 in 2012.
All told, more than $2.3 million has been spent on council elections since 2008.