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Ana Jara for City CouncilTed Winterer for City CouncilJen Smith for School BoardFPPC Rejects Claim Against Council Challengers' Slate

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By Jorge Casuso

October 19, 2020 -- The State's political ethics watchdog on Friday rejected a complaint claiming that members of a slate of City Council candidates violated campaign law by receiving free advertising.

The decision by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) comes
two weeks after former Rent Control Board Commissioner Joel Koury filed the complaint with the agency's Enforcement Division.

City Employees' Council Endorsements

The complaint claimed that the four challengers on the Santa Monicans for Change slate were endorsed in opinion columns that appeared in The Mirror.

"After review of the complaint and evidence provided, the Enforcement Division will not pursue an enforcement action in this matter," reads the rejection letter sent by Galena West, the division's chief.

Phil Brock for Council

The Division, West wrote, "found insufficient evidence" that the columns met the standard necessary "to be considered a reportable contribution."

A column meets the standard if it "contains express advocacy, refers to the candidate's candidacy or qualifications, refers to the qualifications of the candidate's opponent, or solicits contribution," West wrote.

According to Koury's complaint, "The articles criticize other City Council candidates and expressly endorse these four candidates for Santa Monica City’s council.

"Every article for the month of September has included the names and an endorsement" for the Santa Monicans for Change slate, Koury wrote.

"This publication is granting free advertising worth thousand dollars to this slate by publishing their columns."

In a statement to the Lookout, Arts Commissioner Brock, a member of the challengers' slate, said Koury's claim "lacks even minimal merit."

"Mr. Koury’s interpretation of the law would prevent a local newspaper from publishing commentary or endorsement of local candidates in the critical time before a local election," Brock said.

In addition to Brock, the Santa Monicans for Change Slate includes School Board member Oscar de la Torre, Planning Commissioner Mario Fonda-Bonardi and Christine Parra.

The slate is attempting to unseat four Council incumbents -- Gleam Davis, Ana Jara, Terry O'Day and Ted Winterer.

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