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Feinstein Hit with "Trash" Mailer

By Jorge Casuso

October 30 -- The owner of a trash hauling company vying to privatize the City's lucrative recycling services sent out a hard-hitting, and perhaps libelous, mailer this week attacking incumbent Councilman Michael Feinstein for his handling of a Green Party donation.

The mailer -- which Feinstein's campaign called "false and defamatory" -- focuses on the controversy surrounding a $10,000 donation to the Green Party the councilman placed into a bank account he controlled and used to pay the local party's expenses.

Although Feinstein was cleared of wrongdoing by the District Attorneys office, which did not file charges, the mailer featuring unattributed headlines against a red background states that "the District Attorney found he had violated State law."

"Trash politics has hit Santa Monica," said Sharon Gilpin, who is running Feinstein's campaign. "It's trash money. It's garbage. This is a new low for Santa Monica."

In a letter to Gilpin, Feinstein's campaign attorney, Glen Franklin Koontz, called the mailer "scurrilous" and countered the allegations "with the truth."

"Frankly (I) am shocked by the blatant falsity of (the mailer's) contents," Koontz wrote. "At the end of that investigation, the district attorney declined to pursue any charges against Michael as there was no evidence of any wrongdoing."

According to campaign finance disclosure statements filed with the City Clerk this week, the mailer -- which is an independent expenditure -- was bankrolled by Samuel Kardashian, the owner of Southern California Disposal (SCD), a trash hauling company that operates a waste transfer station adjacent to the City Yard.

Kardashian is lobbying the City Council to privatize the municipal facility, which is his only competition on the recycling conscious Westside, a move Feinstein opposes.

Kardashian listed an expenditure of $8,500 on a campaign statement filed with the City Clerk on Monday. A second statement for $8,300 was filed Friday, indicating there will likely be a second piece hitting mail boxes this weekend.

Kardashian could not be reached for comment, and his attorney, Cary Davidson, did not return several calls.

Feinstein believes the mailer was in retaliation for opposing Kardashian’s plan to privatize the City’s transfer station, a plan also opposed by City staff, which determined that building a new recycling and transfer station would be more advantageous to the City than leasing the SCD facility.

Feinstein was one of two council members who indicated his position when the council took up the plan in January. (see related story)

“I have always made decisions based on what’s good for the community,” Feinstein said. “I don’t believe privatizing City jobs and giving up control of the City waste stream is in the interest of our community.”

Feinstein, who like the other incumbents had received donations from those tied to Southern California Disposal in his previous council bids, failed to garner any of their donations in his current independent run to retain his seat.

In addition to bankrolling the hit pieces, donors with ties to Kardashian’s company contributed $3,000 to Councilman Ken Genser's campaign and $2,750 to Mayor Richard Bloom's. The campaign of challenger Patricia Hoffman received $2,500 from contributors tied to the company, while Councilman Herb Katz's campaign received $1,500.

“If I’m a voter and I’m seeing this scale of trash money being thrown around, I’d wonder who’s making public policy and in whose interests,” Feinstein said.

Feinstein’s attorney countered several of the allegations made in the mailer, including charges that police seized the councilman’s bank records.

In his letter to Feinstein’s campaign, Koontz said that he "personally delivered Michael's financial records to the district attorney and the police voluntarily and at the direction of Michael Feinstein.."

"Michael Feinstein's records were not seized by the police," Koontz wrote. "Michael gave these documents to the police without first being asked or served with a subpoena.”

Feinstein’s campaign has asked Kardashian’s attorney for a retraction.

“We are on record with their attorney that the charges are false, and we want them retracted,” Gilpin said.

Gilpin said Feinstein -- who is running as an independent after failing to win the endorsement of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights -- would continue to run a positive campaign based on his eight-year record on the council.

“We pulled out the stops for the last two days,” Gilpin said. “We’re walking the city, we’re phoning the city and we’re mailing. We’re running a positive campaign.”

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