November 1 -- Days after protesters assailed hotel owners
on Sunday for a $100,000 blitz of negative ads against City Council
incumbent Kevin McKeown, the group behind the campaign is leveling
charges that protest organizers violated campaign finance laws.
While no direct connection could be verified by The Lookout
and organizers vehemently deny the allegations, Santa Monicans
for Sensible Priorities. (SMSP) sent a letter to the City Clerk’s
office Tuesday charging that organizers of the protest illegally
coordinated their effort with McKeown’s campaign.
“This organization is clearly an independent expenditure
committee supporting the campaign of councilmember Kevin McKeown,”
read the press release from SMSP, a political action committee
backed by the Edward Thomas Management Company.
The company, which owns Hotel Casa del Mar and Shutters on the
Beach, sponsored the ad campaign opposing McKeown. (see
“SMSP will also be asking the California Fair Political
Practices Commission to investigate the organization’s ties
to Santa Monicans for Renters Rights (SMRR), the campaign of Mr.
McKeown and other groups,” according to the statement.
“Under the law, independent expenditure committees are
not allowed to coordinate their activities with candidates that
While Denny Zane, co-founder of SMRR and an influential player
in the renters’ group, spoke at the rally, the protest’s
organizer, John Petz, denies the former mayor coordinated the
event with McKeown as a campaign rally.
“Denny Zane did not lead anything or create anything in
regard to the hotel protest,” Petz said. “I invited
him to come.
“I asked him to say a few words, as a local political leader,
on the topic of open and honest elections. When he spoke, he publicly
thanked me for having organized the event.”
McKeown did not attend the impromptu demonstration organized
by “Santa Monicans for Open Democracy,” an “ad-hoc”
group Petz said he hastily created out of his frustration with
the expensive negative campaign launched by the hotels.
“I was protesting what is the bastardization of our local
political process,” he said.
While some demonstrators carried signs supporting McKeown, they
were not encouraged to do so, Petz said.
But representatives for SMSP note that Zane was quoted in The
Lookout telling the demonstrators, "Kevin needs to know
that we're there for him."
“Clearly this shows coordination,” Jacobson said.
Petz denies the accusations and claims the complaint filed by
the group is an attempt to divert attention from his rally’s
purpose just days before the November 7 race for three open council
“SMSP is waging a smear campaign,” said Petz. “These
ads are bad, not because they attack Kevin McKeown, but because
if we go this way, we will never go back.”
The controversial, and unprecedented, cable television spots
-- which target the two-term council member for his homeless policies
-- set off a political firestorm after a resident featured in
one of the ads said he backed McKeown and was paid $200 for his
On their part, SMSP supporters are angry that Zane participated
in Sunday’s demonstration less than one week after the very
hotels he was attacking raised $100,000 for a campaign the former
mayor is heading.
Friends of Safe and Clean Santa Monica Beaches, the group supporting
V on next Tuesday’s ballot, has “taken as much
as $100,000 from the same hotels and businesses that they have
been accusing of trying to ‘steal the elections in our city,’”
read the statement by SMSP.
While Jacobson said the hospitality industry will “stand
behind its commitment” to the measure, the move by Zane
and the campaign’s supporters who attended the rally is
“the height of hypocrisy,” he said.
“The hotels are not some monolithic ogre out to destroy
the town,” Jacobson said.