Transparent Democracy

September 20, 2022

Dear Editor,

The League of Women Voters of Santa Monica held its annual fall kick-off this past weekend. Our honored guest was Denise Anderson-Warren, City Clerk and election official for the City of Santa Monica. Among other subjects, we discussed the public’s role in watchdogging campaign finance and election law irregularities.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) has enforcement authority regarding transparent reporting of campaign donations and expenditures. Unfortunately, the FPPC process takes time, and often voters don’t find out about even the most blatant violations until after the election, when it is too late for an informed electorate to take transgressions into account while casting a vote.

For instance, our City Clerk told us she has received no campaign finance paperwork, not even organizational information, from a new Political Action Committee already active in this 2022 Santa Monica election cycle. The PAC has openly solicited donors, but Santa Monica voters have no way of knowing where that PAC’s money is coming from, or how it’s being spent. We should. It’s the law.

A hard deadline for legally required campaign finance reporting comes up this Saturday. Full reports on money up to that deadline must be filed with state or local election officials by September 29th. Will we get an accurate accounting of whose money is being spent on what, as required by state and local law?

Meanwhile, a local blog has documented that the FPPC assessed one of the Council candidates in this election a $3,500 fine last time he ran, for illegal fundraising and incomplete reporting. This was not known by Santa Monica voters at the time, and few know it even now as they weigh their choices for this November's ballot. It’s not likely to be disclosed in his campaign literature.

Our City Clerk advised the League that her office will immediately investigate and try to resolve campaign finance and election law issues, but can do so only when such problems are brought to her attention. The League is committed to clean and fair elections, and will work to make sure any alleged irregularities are reported.

Individual Santa Monicans with information or concerns can contact the City Clerk’s office directly, even anonymously if you prefer.

And yes, this is a letter to the editor, in hopes this publication itself will offer full and fair coverage of campaign finance and election law violations between now and the last day of voting on November 8th, while such information crucial to our democracy is still timely.

Kevin McKeown

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