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City Clerk Alleges Coordination of Campaigns for 'Yes on LV' and Santa Monica Council Candidate
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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

October 18, 2016 -- In a letter sent late last week to the treasurer of the Yes on Measure LV committee, Santa Monica City Clerk Denise Anderson-Warren alleged that the campaign was "acting jointly" with slow-growth activist Armen Melkonians' council candidate campaign committee.

If the allegation is proven, it could mean that Yes on Measure LV would be deemed a "candidate-controlled committee" and be restricted in how much money it could raise.

In the letter, Anderson-Warren noted that the two committees have issued joint statements and that the name of Melkonians, who co-authored the slow-growth measure, appears on literature supporting it, among other connections.

"Taken together all of this causes me to believe that Mr. Melkonians' and [Yes on Measure LV’s] committee are, at a minimum, acting jointly and in concert with little, if any, independence with the two committees," she wrote.

Melkonians and Measure LV co-author Tricia Crane wrote in response to an inquiry from The Lookout about the letter that the "yes" campaign would "with an abundance of caution" be formally designated as a candidate-controlled committee.

"This does not reflect any impropriety in past practices, and there will not be any need for changes to future practices," wrote Melkonians and Crane in their joint statement to The Lookout.

They continued, "The coordination of these two committees is permissible and their collaboration is proper, because the committees have followed the rules and can account separately for their share of expenditures on joint communications."

The California Fair Political Practices Commission had informally advised both committees "that the approach they have taken is appropriate and consistent with the law," Melkonians and Crane wrote.

But a simple change of designation for Yes on Measure LV might not be enough to satisfy the City clerk’s accusation.

Anderson-Warren told The Lookout that "if [Yes on Measure LV] is proven to be a candidate-controlled committee, then there is a possibility that the campaign contributions limitations could apply."

She said the committee could be restricted to collecting no more than $340 from each donor, which is the maximum contribution allowed per person to a council candidate's campaign.

There is no maximum contribution amount for a regular ballot measure committee.

This would create a difficult situation because Yes on Measure LV has collected several donations for much more than $340, and some of that money has already been spent.

Whether this issue would be settled in these last few weeks leading up to Election Day is unclear. Campaign finance allegations in California often take a long time to reach a conclusion--sometimes several years.

Yes on Measure LV already faces an impossible financial battle with the multiple campaigns opposing the proposal.

The two largest opponents have raised nearly $1 million, while Yes on Measure LV has collected less than $50,000 ("Opposition to Santa Monica LUVE Measure Raises Nearly $1 Million," September 30, 2016).

"We are struck by the absurdity of this complaint against us given the fact that there are two committees funded by developers and hotel owners that have already raised $1 million to oppose the resident backed Measure LV," Melkonians and Crane wrote.

They added, "We see this effort as an attempt to restrict our freedom of speech as we advocate for the residents of Santa Monica."


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