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I’ve been re-elected, again, as top vote-getter -- T H A N K   Y O U ! ! !

After the most recent (November 2010) election, in which a number of special interests successfully hid their substantial campaign donations to City Council members, through a front called “Santa Monicans for Quality Government,” many residents and concerned community groups called for a simple solution.

The key to understanding local politics is to “follow the money” — but tracking who gave how much to whom is not always easy, either during an election or even afterwards.  State and local laws require reports be filed, but pulling out the relevant connections between special interests and candidates is a great deal of research for the interested voter.  Why should you have to do the work?

No fewer than eight grassroots groups asked me to put this on the agenda:

Association, the Ocean Park Association, the Pico Neighborhood Association, the Santa Monica Democratic Club, Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights, and the Wilshire/Montana Neighborhood Coalition, that the Council direct staff to explore and prepare, for discussion and possible implementation by the Council, policies requiring disclosure by Councilmembers whose campaign contributors come before the City Council requesting Development Agreements, zoning variances, contracts, franchises, or other special benefits."

Sounds simple, but one of my colleagues told a local newspaper that our request “borders on being absurd.”  Then, at our Tuesday, January 11th Council meeting, all the remaining Councilmembers except Bobby Shriver voted against even letting staff explore such disclosure of campaign contributions from an applicant for special favors.  Read about what happened here and here.

Here are the letters of support from each of the eight community groups mentioned in my item.

“Request of Councilmember McKeown, on behalf of the boards of Friends of Sunset Park, Mid-City Neighbors, the North of Montana

What do YOU think about requiring disclosure of donations?  Click here to write to the City Council.

You can watch for yourself what I proposed to my CIty Council colleagues...

...and this was how I tried to answer their questions, only to discover the intent was to bury the proposal.  The vote was 4 to 2.

RESOURCES:  You can puzzle through the campaign filings here.  Wouldn’t voluntary

disclosure by Councilmembers at the time of a major decision be easier?

(Don’t forget that any TV set graphic on my website links to a video!)

“Request of Councilmember McKeown that Council direct staff to prepare printed copies of all Santa Monica campaign donation reports filed in the past five years, and make them available for reference by the public at Council meetings.”

One would hope that in Santa Monica, transparency would be our rule when it comes to local politics and money.  We should demand at least that... but...

A CIty Council majority has recently voted twice to reject resident requests for increased disclosure of local campaign contributions.

OK, maybe the original proposal would have been a lot of work for some Councilmembers.  Two weeks later, I proposed a far simpler plan to make  public records available to the public:

All this action would have required was that existing binders of campaign disclosure documents be brought upstairs from the City Clerk’s office, which is closed during City Council meetings.  The information would have been available to the public at the time of greatest interest, with little effort.

Once again the Council rejected the request, this time with Gleam Davis joining me in support (Bobby Shriver and Bob Holbrook were absent from that second meeting, on January 25th).