By Jorge Casuso
February 6 – Opponents of Prop T spent more than $750,000 -- nearly six times as much as the $140,000 spent by supporters --- to defeat a grassroots measure that would have capped most commercial development in Santa Monica at 75,000 square feet a year.
Save Our City spent a total of $772,129.47 on the November 5 election, compared to the $140,384.56 spent by the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City, which sponsored the measure, according to campaign finance disclosure statements filed this week.
The Coalition was left with an outstanding debt of $28,214, according to the statements covering the period from October 19 to December 31, 2008, which include the two weeks leading up to election day.
Opponents of the measure – also known as the Residents’ Initiative to Fight Traffic (RIFT) -- surpassed the $700,000 mark thanks to a last-minute $75,000 contribution from the California Association of Realtors.
Save Our City – which raised $86,040 during the filing period -- had already filled its hefty warchest with large donations from developers nationwide with real estate holdings in the beachside city. (“Anti-T Warchest Swells to $730,000,” October 24, 2008)
By contrast, the coalition – which had the backing of Santa Monica’s neighborhood groups -- raised $14,985 during the latest filing period, thanks to 49 contributions, most of them of less than $500.
During the final two weeks of the campaign, Save Our City continued to blanket Santa Monica with mailers, spending nearly $65,000 in postage, compared to $23,000 spent by supporters.
All told, the anti-T campaign – which had the support of local unions, including teachers, police, fire fighters and municipal employees – spent $454,502 on mailers and canvassers who walked every precinct in the city leading up to the election.
Supporters, with far less money to reach out to voters, spent $4,968 robo calling every household in Santa Monica on election eve with a message from popular Council member Bobby Shriver in a last-ditch effort to swing what appeared to be a close race.
While the Coalition relied on volunteers for advice, opponents retained professional consultants they continued to pay in the final weeks of the race.
Barbara Grover, who ran the campaign, received $11,000 in consulting fees and $20,441 for mailers during the latest filing period, while Bruce Cameron, a member of the steering committee for Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) received $7,500.
Two other consultants received a total of nearly $6,000 during the filing period.
Fundraising Inc. received a total of $29,221 to help opponents raise money, while Bell, McAndrews & Miltachk received a total of $14,470 for legal and accounting services.
In the end, Prop T lost handily with 23,061 voters, or 55.57 percent, opposing the measure and 18,439 voters, or 44.43 percent, supporting it.
Despite the large sums poured into the race by developers, the battle over RIFT fell far short of becoming Santa Monica’s most expensive campaign.
That distinction is held by the two-year war over a failed living wage law that saw opponents outspend supporters by more than 3 to 1 -- roughly $2.8 million to $744,000 – over the course of two bitterly fought elections.