FOLLOW THE MONEY
WHERE DO CANDIDATES GET THEIR MONEY?
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. This 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.
A mailer was sent to Republican voters on behalf of Sandra Genis by a Super PAC named “Atlas PAC”. This mailer is what many call a “hit piece,” or a very negative opposition mailer against Katrina Foley. 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:
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 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.
Ms. Genis recently filed a disclosure statement revealing a donation by Robin Mensinger, the wife of Steve Mensinger, the man who many think was responsible for the illegal decomposed granite path over a vernal pool in Fairview Park. Her very first statement was filed after the deadline, and this one failed to disclose an in-kind donation by Allan Mansoor for a slate mailer that he paid for on her behalf. A previous statement showed that she received $20,000 from a real estate investor in Newport Beach, John Saunders. Mr. Saunders is the owner of mobile home parks in Huntington Beach rented by seniors and those on fixed incomes. He raised the 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 also supports controversial Tea Party candidates in Newport Beach, including Scott Peotter. Mr. Saunders' donation comprises 82% of her campaign funds. The remainder of her donations come from a small group of residents and one former resident. She is not supported by the Costa Mesa business community. She also made a $1,050.00 loan to her campaign.
As mentioned above, Atlas PAC mailed a flier which listed some qualifications of Ms. Genis, but on the flipside was a very negative opposition mailer against Ms. Foley. This is an IE, however, one of Genis's volunteers indicated that people had been asking about such a mailer, now listed on her independent expenditure report as a $13,000 contribution, which indicates to us that she may have had prior knowledge of the mailer. We believe this is the first time a Super PAC has taken interest in Costa Mesa elections.
Atlas PAC is an extreme right-wing Super PAC. We determined that funds for the mailer came from Shawn Steel, the wife of Michelle Steel, the Orange County Supervisor for District 2. Other contributors include Herzog Contracting Corp., California Coastal PAC, Angelenos for Affordable Housing and Jobs, the Building Industry Association Of Southern California PAC, Starpointe Ventures (an Irvine developer), Citizens for a Better Ventura County, California Homeowners Association PAC, Larry Smith (active in Newport Beach politics), Fieldstead and Company (a developer that a few elections ago supported Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage initiative), Steven Craig, Larry Tucker, Republic Services, Inc., and the California Apartment Association PAC. Another supporter of Atlas PAC is Poseidon Resources, which is seeking to build a large, controversial desalination facility in Huntington Beach.
Most of Ms. Marr's donations are from local businesses, friends, many of whom she served with while in the Navy, and her business associates. There are many residents, as well as those working in the legal profession, educators, and real estate management. Public employee association PACs, such as our firefighters, and PACs supporting women have also contributed to her campaign. Marr files disclosure statements at a regular frequency and is transparent.
Mr. Eckles' largest donor is Steven Check, a Mesa Verde resident who has a financial advisor business near South Coast Plaza. Mr. Check seems to be interested in the City Council races outside of his district, giving three candidates $5,000 each. His second largest donation came from Fieldstead and Company. Most of Mr. Eckles' dononations come from the real estate, construction and development fields, followed by nonresidents and other businesses, residents and those working in the legal profession. Mr. Eckles' donors include Jim Righeimer and Steve Mensinger, along with several former Planning Commissioners who were appointed by Righeimer and Mensinger.
While the dollar numbers don't reflect it, Mr. Chavez is backed by many residents making small donations to his campaign. Persons working in the legal field, local businesses and some people who reside outside of Costa Mesa are also supporting him. The remaining donations come from those who work in the real estate, education and architecture professions. In terms of dollar amounts, Mr. Chavez's most generous donor is our local firefighters' association PAC.
Mr. Chan recently filed his first disclosure statement. From it, we can see that his campaign is primarily funded by a $500 loan from himself and a $500 contribution from the Neptune Society. He also had miscellaneous cash contributions of $283.
Most of Ms. Figuerdo-Wilson's donors are mostly businesses or people who don't reside in Costa Mesa. Her biggest donor, Steven Check, doesn't live in District 4. He is a Mesa Verde resident with a business in the South Coast Plaza area. Her second largest donation came from Fieldstead and Company, a developer that a few elections ago supported Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage initiative. Ms. Figueredo-Wilson's next largest donor group are people involved in the real estate business, including former councilman Steve Mensinger.
Ms. Reynolds' primary donors are a variety of businesses and what appear to be college friends and business associates, however, there are many Costa Mesa residents and educators who have provided funds. The remaining donations come from the legal and real estate professions and the Firefighters Association PAC and organizations that support women. Ms. Reynolds files disclosure statements regularly and is transparent.
Most of Mr. Mansoor's campaign donors are from real estate, construction and development businesses. This includes the Building Industry Association, apartment owner associations and a property owner association. His also has contributions from other businesses, nonresidents, pharmaceutical businesses, and residents. One of his donors is City Council member Jim Righeimer. He is also one of the three candidates who received $5,000 from Steven Check, a Mesa Verde Resident with a business near South Coast Plaza. He also received a donation from Fieldstead and Company, the developer that supported Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage initiative.
Ms. Tranhan's disclosure statements show that a few residents support her, along with a local business and some out-of-town friends. Cefalia Development, a Costa Mesa developer, has contributed the most to her campaign.