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It can be very expensive to fund a campaign for Mayor or City Council.  It is important to know who is donating to those campaigns and what sort of influence they may yield over candidates.

Most candidates receive funds from friends, neighbors, and business associates. Some candidates have received donations from political action committees (“PACs”) and union or employee association PACs.  There are also independent expenditures (“IE”) made by PACs, union and employee association PACs.  Last election year a Super PAC made an IE on behalf of a candidate, a first for Costa Mesa elections to our knowledge.

Technically, a Super PAC is called an independent expenditure-only committee.  Super PACs may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates.

IEs are expressions of the support or opposition of candidates. IEs are not to be coordinated with a candidate’s committee or their agents.  IEs are separate contributions and are not subject to contribution limits.


It seems like each election we see mailers sent to voters on behalf of candidates (but in opposition to their opponents) by Super PACs.  This type of mailer is what many call a “hit piece,” or a very negative opposition mailer.  While this is legal, it often doesn't change the mind of an informed voter because the claims are usually vague and not true.  That is why we urge you to be an informed voter!

Since the candidates are required to file forms with the City disclosing donations over $2,000, we can gather information from those forms to shed some sunlight on the campaigns.  All forms can be found on the City's website. The following is a comparison of candidate donations:


Katrina Foley
Ms. Foley's donations come from a broad spectrum of people and companies. Those donors include mostly local businesses, lawyers, educators, real estate/construction/developers/ architects, and many residents. She is the candidate who gets the most support from local, state and nationwide unions and employee association PACs, as well as organizations that support women's causes.  Foley files regular disclosure statements and is transparent. 
Sandra Genis
Ms. Genis donors are mostly old friends, but she has the distinction of being the first candidate to take a donation from someone in the cannabis industry.  However, most of her money comes from an out-of-town developer,  John Saunders.  Mr. Saunders is the owner of mobile home parks that are mostly rented by seniors and those on fixed incomes.  He has a practice of raising rents to try to drive those renters out.  Saunders has ties to Jim Righeimer and Dana Rohrabacher. In fact, they made a controversial trip to Honduras together.  Saunders has also supported controversial Tea Party candidates in Newport Beach.
Wendy Brooks Leece
Ms. Leece filed a statement disclosing donations totaling $50.  She has also loaned herself $1,000.
Quentin "Q" Pullen
Mr. Pullen filed a statement disclosing about eighteen donors, most of whom don't live in Costa Mesa.
Al Melone
Mr. Melone's statements  do not disclose any donors, so we cannot determine if he is not getting support or if he is not being transparent.
District 1
John Stevens
Most of Mr. Stephen's donations are from lawyer friends and local businesses.  Residents, a union and a real estate broker make up the rest.  John Stephens files disclosure statements at a regular frequency and is transparent.  
Don Harper
Mr. Harpers' largest donor is himself.  He donated $55,000, which makes us wonder if this is a vanity campaign.  He received a donation from Green Firefly, LLC, a cannabis company that has made donations to several conservative candidates. He files disclosure statements regularly and is transparent.  
Jason Komala
Mr. Komala's statements do not disclose any donors, so we cannot determine if he is not getting support or is not being transparent.
District 2
Loren Gameros
Mr. Gameros is an Inspection Coordinator with Operating Engineers Training Trust Local 12, so we aren't surprised he gets the most donations from unions.  He is also supported by residents and local businesses.
Ben Chapman
Mr. Chapman started his fundraising early.  He has some interesting donors, including the Neptune Society, Solutioneers, and Green Firefly, LLC (the last two are in the cannabis industry) but most of his donations come from outside of Costa Mesa.  He did receive a donation from a resident that was later returned (?) and has received just about as much money from PACs as he has from residents.  He recently took a donation from Shawn Steel, the husband of Supervisor Michelle Steel, who is being investigated in connection with influence-peddling in the Trump administration.
Gary Parkin
Mr. Parkin's statement does not disclose any donors, so we cannot determine if he is not getting support or is not being transparent.
District 6
Jeffrey Harlan
Mr. Harlan's primary donors are a variety of businesses and what appear to be relatives and business associates, however, there are many Costa Mesa residents and lawyer friends who have provided funds.  Mr. Harlan files disclosure statements regularly and is transparent. 
Hengameh Abraham
Ms. Abraham's statement disclosed that Steve Mensinger and Gary Monahan contributed money to her campaign, along with a larger number of out-of-town donors, including a Mission Viejo city council member and Green Firefly, LLC.  Green Firefly, a cannabis company, is apparently very interested in our town.  
Jefferson Pettis
Mr. Pettis' disclosure statements show that most of his campaign donations are coming from outside of Costa Mesa.  It makes us wonder why these people would be interested in our local election.  Steve Mensinger is also a donor to his campaign which begs the question, why he would contribute to two candidates in the same district?