As our mailboxes fill with election mailers, it is important to understand who is supporting the candidates for City Council.  Santa Monica limits candidate contributions to $340 from an individual, business or PAC.  However, since the Citizen’s United decision by the Supreme Count 10 years ago, Political Action Committees (PACs) can collect and spend unlimited money.

Since 2010, PACs supporting or opposing City Council candidates have raised much more money than the candidates themselves.  So far, this year PACs are again the drivers raising the most money in support of “their” candidates, almost always the incumbents.

City Council candidate committees limited to $340 per donor have raised $103,853 as of September 24, 2020.  Incumbents have $68,541; challengers $35,312.  

PACs focused on Santa Monica election races (Santa Monicans for Change, Santa Monicans for Renters Rights, Santa Monica Firefighters, Police and City Employees, Santa Monica Democratic Club, Community for Excellent Public Schools, and Santa Monica Forward Candidates Committee) have raised $277,382, more than two times the individual candidates.  Unite Here, the hotel workers union, has raised $338,391 to support local, regional and state candidates.  Although the next required reporting date is not until the end of October, PACs must still report $1000 or more within 24 hours of receipt.  Almost every day PAC reports of large contributions over $1000 are being posted on the SMVote.org website https://public.netfile.com/pub2/Default.aspx?aid=CSM

Santa Monica incumbents rely on money from non-resident PACs to win. Development and business interests are the largest donors, seeking return on their investment through future Council approval of their new or pending developments. 

The largest PAC contributors to Council incumbents, include the police, fire, city employees, hotel workers, and developers. They all have some donors that live in Santa Monica – but a large majority do not. These non-resident donors are donating to buy influence over key City decisions without living with the negative consequences of those decisions. 

Meanwhile, residents look around at our city jammed with traffic, cookie-cutter apartment buildings rising on every other downtown corner, mega-hotel projects, parks housing the homeless and their possessions, city services sliced by the pandemic, and a City Council absolutely intent on approving every development and tourism booster project that appears before them. 

You will be living with whatever choice you make on a daily basis until the next election in two years.  Elections matter – PLEASE VOTE.

Correction:

In our September 18, 2020 article entitled “Here’s Why This Is a Highly Unusual Council Race” we said “only one of the four incumbents running for a 4-year seat identified themselves as a councilmember on the ballot.”  We should have said “only one of the four incumbents identified themselves as a councilmember in listing their occupation on their candidate statement.”   We have now reviewed the incumbents’ ballot designations and apologize for the error.