Who’s Backing City Council Candidates?

By The Santa Monica Transparency Project

November 2, 2022 -- This is a hotly contested City Council election with 3 seats open. Political office here doesn’t come cheap. A little help from your friends goes toward candidates gaining a winning edge.

Candidates for City Council have their own committees, which accept contributions on behalf of the candidate limited to $410 from an individual, committee, or company.

But the real money flows from Political Action Committees (PACS), which are allowed to accept unlimited contributions from individuals, committees, and companies and are considered independent expenditures. PACs play a significant role in funding mailers, canvassers, social media, and newspaper ads for their preferred candidates.

We disclose large hotel, developer, real estate investor, and union campaign contributions and spending because they dwarf individual contributions to candidate campaigns. These PAC contributions enable access to and influence of our City Council members on decisions involving their projects and issues important to them.

Note: The chart below is incomplete because the Santa Monica Democratic Club, SMRR, Yes on HMP, Save Our Santa Monica and Safe Santa Monica PACs failed to disclosure spending on candidates in required October 22, 2022 campaign disclosure statements.

Some candidates appear to have less support from PACs that endorsed them because the PACs failed to report spending for mailers, social media, flyers, canvassers, etc. Since the candidate and PAC cannot coordinate, the lack of documented support is no fault of the candidate.

Council Candidate financing

Support for Melkonians and Negrete:

Notable this election is the flurry of new PACs supporting Armen Melkonians and Councilmember Lana Negrete.

  • Safe Santa Monica, formed by former Councilmember Greg Morena, with money from real estate and small business owners.

  • Save Our Santa Monica, with money from out-of-town real estate investors, $27,000 to date and $12,000 from another PAC Santa Monicans for Change led by Russ Belinsky, a Los Angeles real estate investor, raised $69,804 funded mostly by out-of-town real estate investors. Spending has been $34,130 on Negrete and $35,431 on Melkonians.

  • Santa Monicans for Residents Rights raised $55,000 with $50,000 from real estate investor Sergev Vershinn and so far has spent $23,450 backing Melkonians.

  • Yes on HMP, the marijuana tax PAC, formed by LA/Long Beach businesses has raised over $80,000 and sent two mailers in support of Melkonians and Negrete. Yes on HMP details no spending on candidates or ballot measures year to date.

  • Santa Monicans for Safety has raised $20,000 from real estate manager Douglas Emmett in support of Negrete for City Council. No details of any spending have been filed year to date.

  • The biggest spender supporting council candidates is Edward Thomas Management owner of Shutters and Casa del Mar hotels. They have already spent $55,615 each in support of Negrete and Melkonians.

  • Santa Monicans for Change, the PAC behind Brock, De la Torre, and Parra in the 2020 election, formed by Dominic Gomez, raised $69,904 and spent $8,337 each on Melkonians and Negrete.

Opposition to Melkonians and Negrete:

  • Unite Here, Local 11 is opposing Negrete and Melkonians with $37,198 against Negrete and $4,159 against Melkonians.

Support for Raskin, Torosis, Zernitskaya, Zwick and Negrete:

  • Unite Here supports Rent Boardmember Caroline Torosis, Planning Commissioner Ellis Raskin and Jesse Zwick spending $5,001 on each, with whom they share support with SMRR. Unite Here has contributed to SMRR to cement their backing the share candidates. Both PACs see these candidates as friendlier to their issues.

  • Santa Monica Forward, a former hotel and developer funded PAC, has only raised $20,200 as of October 22, 2020, with $15,000 from the Regional Council of Carpenters. The disclosure statements and flyers already distributed show support for Torosis $1,725, Natalya Zernitskaya $1,725 and Zwick $1,725. Carpenters Union is betting on more construction in the future in Santa Monica.

  • Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) has raised $75,301, in support of a large group of candidates including City Council, Rent Control Board, College Board, School Board and ballot measures; however, only $800 per council candidate is detailed on their disclosure statements. This election SMRR supports Raskin, Torosis and Zwick. In the past they spent equally among candidates.

  • The Santa Monica Police Union has deep pockets with over $90,000 in their PAC. The Police support Recreation and Parks Commissioner Albin Gielicz $8,45, Melkonians $8,945 and Negrete $8,945 year to date.

  • While the Santa Monica Firefighters Union supports Melkonians $10,050, Negrete $13,501 and Torosis $8,292 in spending to date.

  • The Santa Monica Dem Club raised $6,118 through June 30, 2022 and has not yet disclosed their contributions or spending on candidates and ballot measures as of 10/22/22. They have sent out a mailer in support of Torosis, Zernitskaya, and Zwick for City Council as well as Rent Control Board, School Board and College Board candidates.

  • CEPS (Community for Excellent Public Schools) raised $43,701. CEPS supports Negrete, Torosis and Zernitskaya for City Council along with School and College Board candidates. The 10/22/22 campaign disclosure statement is incomplete showing no spending for any candidate.

Please consider the candidates’ positions on local issues and the PACs in support and opposition for their own reasons and VOTE!


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