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Candidates, Interest Groups Reap Fruits of Fundraising

By Olin Ericksen and Jorge Casuso
Staff Writers

October 29 -- In what will likely be a hotly-contested race, City Council candidates are receiving a boost not only from individual donors, but from special interest groups that range from tenants and hotel owners to police officers and trash haulers.

With only four days left before the election, the race to amass the most cash among candidates running for everything from School Board to City Council is quickly drawing to a close.

The final fruits of months of fundraising will hit mail boxes across the City this weekend as individual candidates and the half dozen interest groups vying to shape the City's governing body make a last push to influence voters.

Leading all fundraisers by an astounding margin is Bobby Shriver, who had amassed $162,000 in individual donations as of October 15, according to campaign finance disclosure statements filed with the City Clerk this week.

That makes Shriver's campaign warchest by far the largest since Councilman Herb Katz, who is currently running for reelection, raised a quarter of a million dollars in 1988, spurring changes in the City's campaign laws.

The amount easily surpasses the $97,218 spent by Councilman Paul Rosenstein in his successful 1996 independent reelection campaign and dwarfs the $55,000 Councilman Bob Holbrook collected when he led all fundraisers at this time two years ago. Like Shriver, both Rosenstein and Holbrook raised money under the City's $250 donation cap.

Shriver's warchest is so large, in fact, that it surpasses what Santa Monica for Renters' Rights (SMRR) -- the tenant group that has controlled City government for the better part of a quarter century -- had raised by nearly $40,000.

Shriver's closest individual cash contenders are incumbents Michael Feinstein -- who had raised nearly $67,000 by October 15, thanks in large part to some $40,000 in personal loans -- and Herb Katz, who had raised $64,000. Both candidates have already spent close to $50,000 each to sway voters.

Matteo Dinolfo rounds out the top four with nearly $50,000 raised, though as of October 16, $38,000 of that remained unspent. By comparison, in 2002 Dinolfo had raised about $41,000 by October 15.

Raising more than $57,000 in the first two weeks of October alone, Shriver's list of donors is an inch thick and reads like credits at the close of a Hollywood blockbuster, touting such A-listers as Mel Brooks, Warren Beatty, Annette Benning and Robert Dinero, among others.

By mid-October, Shriver had shelled out nearly $150,000 for high-priced consultants and slick, multi-page mailers that slam the City's handling of such issues as homelessness.

Like the four candidates endorsed by SMRR, Shriver has also been the beneficiary of tens of thousands of dollars worth of campaign propaganda sent by a group independent of his campaign.

Santa Monicans for Change, which raised $170,000 this month thanks to funding from the owners of Hotel Casa del Mar and Shutters on the Beach Hotel, have included Shriver in several of their mailers, which tout the four candidates endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce, including Katz, Dinolfo and Kathryn Morea.

In her first council bid, Morea had raised some $12,000 as of October 15.

While the chamber candidates have benefited from the independent campaign bankrolled by the two luxury hotels, the SMRR slate is counting on the tenant group's warchest and well-oiled political machine.

In total, SMRR had spent some $134,000 on behalf of its slate, which is composed of Mayor Richard Bloom, Councilman Ken Genser, former school board president Patricia Hoffman and Pico Neighborhood activist Maria Loya.

As of mid-October, Genser, who is making a record fifth council bid, had amassed nearly $27,000, while Bloom had garnered nearly $22,000.

Among Genser and Bloom's donors were supporters tied to Southern California Disposal (SCD), a trash hauling company that operates a transfer station adjacent to the City Yard. (see related story)

Donors with ties to SCD, which is lobbying the council to privatize the City's lucrative recycling services, donated $3,000 to Genser's campaign and $2,750 to Bloom's. Hoffman's campaign received $2,500 from contributors tied to the company, while Katz's campaign received $1,500.

Feinstein, who like the other incumbents had received donations from those tied to SCD in his previous council bids, failed to garner any donations in his independent run to retain his seat. At a January council meeting, Feinstein indicated he opposed the company's plan to privatize the City's recycling services.

SMRR hopefuls Hoffman and Loya raised some $22,000 and $6,000 respectively.

The SMRR candidates also received $2,750 each from the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union Local 11, which provided precinct walkers.

The Police Officers Association, which has raised $63,000, spent some $15,000 to send mailers on behalf of the four candidates it endorsed -- Shriver, Bloom, Genser and Hoffman.

The police union has been a major player in local politics for the past three decades, backing candidates and, in some instances, actively opposing incumbents. (see related story)

Independent candidates -- who will have to do without the backing of special interest groups -- lagged in the fundraising race. "Team for Change" slate members, Bill Bauer and David Cole, raised some $7,000 and $5,000 respectively.

Jonathan Mann, who has made more unsuccessful bids for the council, did not file.

In the race for three open seats on the School Board, challenger Kathy Wisnicki far outpaced the other four candidates in fundraising, reaping $36,769 in contributions as of October 15 and spending $31,867.

Incumbent Jose Escarce, brought in $7,959 and spent $6,029, while fellow incumbent Maria Leon-Vazquez raised $5,765 ($2,000 in loans) and spent $4,335.

Challenger Ana Maria Jara raised $6,288 and spent $2,998.

In the race for three seats on the College Board, incumbent Margaret Quinones led the six candidates in fundraising with $15,301, followed by Rob Rader with $13,781.

Challenger Charles Donaldson raised $1,765, followed by M. Douglas Willis with $1,259 and Susan Aminoff with $675. Candidate Susan Trimbath did not file.

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