Shriver, Katz Mailer Sparks Controversy
By Olin Ericksen and Jorge Casuso
October 19 -- Ending speculation he would endorse a fellow candidate, City Council challenger Bobby Shriver quickly distanced himself from a recent mailer linking him to incumbent candidate Herb Katz, who said he too was unaware of the campaign piece sent out by an independent committee.
Shriver -- who raised more than $100,000 in one month -- indicated he would not choose among the three other candidates endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce, which is backing a slate to unseat Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights.
Heeding concerns from his liberal backers - who include leading members of the powerful tenants group - Shriver disowned the mailer funded by the recently formed "Santa Monicans for Change" that attacks the current council for the burgeoning homeless problem in the City.
The color flyer - bankrolled by the companies that own two of the City's luxury hotels -- calls on citizens to vote for Shriver and Katz, an architect who is seeking his fourth term. As an independent expenditure committee, the group cannot communicate with candidates
"My goal is to let people know they may receive other stuff with my name on it that I didn't authorize but have no legal right to stop it," Shriver said. "I haven't teamed up with anyone."
In a release issued to the press Monday, Shriver stressed his independence.
"I entered this campaign as an independent," he wrote. "My candidacy is not part of any slate, nor have I endorsed any other City Council candidate."
Shriver, who is a member of the Kennedy family, said he encountered voters while walking precincts who were concerned about the mailer tying him to the city's conservative political faction.
"I did a lot of canvassing and people kept asking me about that (mailer), and I realized they weren't fully aware of what an independent expenditure is," Shriver said. He added that there is nothing he can do "other than to communicate to people that you don't have anything to do with it."
Shriver -- who has used his celebrity connections and family ties to garner unprecedented media attention and build a hefty campaign war chest -- finds himself in an awkward position.
Devoid of a local record before entering Santa Monica's deeply divided political arena this year as a leading opponent of the City's hedge law -- Shriver is widely viewed as the chamber's best chance to help unseat SMRR, which has controlled City government for most of the past quarter century.
Key supporters and campaign consultants have been urging Shriver to allow other challengers to ride his coattails in an effort to ensure he is not on the losing end of the current 5 to 2 SMRR council majority if elected November 2.
But Shriver's liberal leanings have also brought the backing of SMRR leaders, some of whom showed up at a recent appearance by his uncle Sen. Edward Kennedy, who was in town to campaign for his nephew.
The mailer, which hit mail boxes this weekend, upset some of his liberal supporters, Shriver said.
"Some people called," he said. "They didn't like it."
Katz said he did not know about the mailer before receiving a call from The Lookout.
"I've never seen it," Katz said. "I knew nothing about it."
Katz said he didn't blame Shriver for being upset his name was used. When read the text of the mailer, Katz noted that it "doesn't say we endorse each other.
"It doesn't say anything except we both care about the homeless," said Katz, adding that he agreed with the message.
On the back of the mailer is a five-paragraph message from Tom Viscount, who was viewed as a potential SMRR challenger before deciding not to run. The one-page mailer blasts the City Council and extols the leadership capacities of both Shriver and Katz.
"Bobby Shriver and Herb Katz have distinguished themselves through their dedication to public service and are committed to making sure the City Council establishes and pursues sensible priorities to benefit everyone who lives and works in Santa Monica," wrote Viscount. "They deserve your vote."
Viscount, a local Red Cross official and 14-year resident of Santa Monica, said he stands by the message but feels "duped."
"I don't even know who these people are," Viscount said. "I just thought I was doing something to support the chamber of commerce.
"I feel a bit duped on this," he said. ""I just don't like the fact that this is being used by a group I don't even really know. I thought it was a different entity."
Viscount declined to say who approached him about the ad, only saying, "They told me that Katz and Shriver would be linked on the mailer, and I asked if everyone was okay with that and they said yes."
"It wasn't clear who funded the mailer and I thought I was doing someone a favor," Viscount said. "Bobby Shriver didn't know about it, and it's kind of upsetting me that he didn't know about it."
Santa Monicans for Change -- the committee that funded the mailer -- was formed October 11th and is made up of ET Whitehall Seascape, LLC and Edward Thomas Management Company, according to the City Clerk. The companies own Hotel Casa del Mar and Shutters on the Beach Hotel.
A second mailer sent by the committee touting Shriver and Katz hit mail boxes Monday.
In the press release issued Monday, Shriver explained the restrictions placed on candidates by election law.
"It is illegal for me, as a candidate, to coordinate with independent political expenditure committees that endorse or oppose City Council candidates," Shriver wrote. "To people who may not be familiar with that law, I want to be clear: I have never approved the use of my name on any campaign materials other than my own or on those from groups whose endorsement I have sought."
Shriver has been endorsed by the Santa Monica Police Officers' Association, Santa Monica Firefighters' Association, Community for Excellence in Public Schools (CEPS), Los Angeles County Democratic Party, Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce and the Pier Lessees' Association."I am requesting that any individuals or organizations planning to publish materials using my name either not do it, or make it clear that I am not aligned with their organization or any other candidates they may support," Shriver wrote.
Copyright 1999-2008 surfsantamonica.com. All Rights Reserved.