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Council Hopefuls Grab Shriver's Coattails in Race to Finish

By Susan Reines
Staff Writer

November 2 -- Santa Monica cable viewers flipping through the channels will likely encounter a campaign ad linking City Council candidates Kathryn Morea and Bobby Shriver. The commercial paid for by Morea is not the only campaign propaganda linking a council hopeful to the nephew of John F. Kennedy.

During the final lead-up to Tuesday's hotly contested City Council race, at least three different candidates are being linked to the popular campaign of Shriver, who has been adamant that he will not endorse or support any other candidate.

Two different automated phone calls, one linking Shriver and Morea and another promoting Shriver and candidate Matt Dinolfo are circling the city; and a door-hanger for incumbent Michael Feinstein quotes from a local newspaper that endorsed both Shriver and Feinstein.

Shriver, who has not sponsored any advertising linking him to other candidates, has distanced himself from the efforts.

"I don't know what to think about it, honestly," Shriver said. "The only thing I do know is that to the extent that it confuses people, it's not right. I think everybody should be able to say what they want to say, but they shouldn't be able to do it in a way that confuses people."

Feinstein confirmed that he distributed a door hanger quoting a newspaper that endorsed both he and Shriver, adding that he included Shriver’s name to “accurately represent what was in the newspaper.” The councilman added that a Shriver ad quoting the newspaper blocked out Feinstein’s endorsement.

Morea also confirmed that she was funding the cable television commercials -- which she called an “unusual” and “drastic” step -- as well as phone calls asking voters to choose Morea and Shriver. Dinolfo was unavailable to comment on whether he was responsible for the calls that link him and Shriver.

Morea said her calls, which have reached 35,000 homes, and the advertisements running up to six times a day on CNBC, CNN, MSNBC, ESPN, E! and other cable channels were not done in collaboration with Shriver, but that she felt they were fair because Shriver has been supportive of her candidacy.

"He's been very supportive of me," she said. "He doesn't feel like it is his place to tell people how to vote, and I think he's made that very clear.

“He doesn't feel like a candidate should tell a person how to vote, but if a person asks him how to vote, he has told people, and (what) I understand from what he tells me himself is, that they should vote for Kathryn," she said.

The commercial shows Shriver's picture before it flashes to Morea's and then, near the end of the spot, the candidates are pictured side by side. A voiceover says, "Bobby Shriver and Kathryn Morea have stood up to City Hall and made a difference. It's time for the people's choice in Santa Monica. Vote Kathryn Morea and Bobby Shriver for City Council."

Morea said in a press release that she had gotten more hits on her website Sunday, when the commercial began airing, than she had any other day of the campaign.

Matthew Dodson, advance manager for Shriver's campaign, had not heard of Morea's advertising until The Lookout called to ask for his comments and said the campaign had been trying to steer clear of supporting or endorsing other candidates.

"I did not know anything about that, and I can assure you that it was not done with the permission of our campaign," he said. "This is the first time we've heard of it, and we've been saying over and over again that Bobby will not support or endorse any other candidate because he does not know any of them well enough."

Dodson added, "If we supported every candidate who asked us to, we wouldn't have time to do anything else."

Shriver's campaign has generated a great deal of momentum, exceeding all 13 other candidates in fundraising, and he seems to have the best name recognition of anyone in the race.

When, in an apparent attempt to transfer Shriver's momentum to another business-backed candidate, an independent group sent mailers last month that pictured Shriver on one side and incumbent candidate Herb Katz on the other, Shriver's campaign quickly issued a press release asserting its independence and distancing itself from the mailers. (see related story)

Since then, Dodson said, Shriver's own campaign mailers have been printed with seals saying Shriver approved them.

Despite Shriver's stated wish to remain independent, his campaign cannot bar independent political groups or other candidates from using his image.

Morea said she called the Fair Political Practices Committee and was told she could mention another candidate in her ads as long as the candidate was running in the same city.

Asked whether she believed her advertisements were fair to Shriver, Morea said, "I think it was alright. His thing is that he didn't want to be put on the line telling people one thing or the other. So if it's coming from someone else, that's a different story."

Morea said she had had breakfast with Shriver to get campaign advice and he had suggested that an independent group put out a mailer featuring him and Morea. But election laws prohibit candidates from coordinating with the independent groups, so, Morea said, she took it upon herself to make the automated phone messages and television commercial.

She had not spoken with Shriver since the commercial began airing, Morea said.

Shriver confirmed that he had "a very nice breakfast" with Morea, but said he did not suggest linking their campaigns on a mailer and would not have suggested involving an independent group because he knew it was illegal to coordinate with them.

Shriver did say, however, that he had praised Morea when voters asked his opinion. "People ask me, 'Should I vote for Kathryn Morea?' and I say she seems like a very reasonable person and she'd be an addition to the council," he said.

Shriver added, "I very strictly differentiate that from an endorsement."

Morea's ads point out that both she and Shriver are community activists running for change in City Hall.

Morea became involved in politics when she tried to get preferential parking for her area of the Pico Neighborhood and Shriver became active last summer organizing residents to fight the City's limit on the height of hedges.

"We both got into this political fray from fighting City Hall and becoming activists in our neighborhoods," Morea said. "It's about fighting City Hall and a City Hall that's lost touch with the people it serves, whether you're from the Pico Neighborhood or North of Montana."

Morea’s television commercial, while promoting herself and Shriver, digs at the three incumbents running for re-election who are not backed by the business community, Feinstein, Mayor Richard Bloom and Councilman Ken Genser.

The candidates are pictured with cartoon crowns on their heads and the voiceover says, "This city has failed the residents of Santa Monica, and the political machine that runs it has lost touch."

The reference to the "political machine" is an apparent attack on Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights, the organization that has controlled the council for most of the past 25 years.

Genser and Bloom are part of the SMRR slate, and Feinstein, who failed to win the group’s endorsement this year, has counted on its backing in his two previous elections.

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