Councilmember Abbe Land Criticized For Donation to Term Limits Opposition Group

Fri, Jan 25, 2013   By James F. Mills    6 Comments

abbe-land

Term limits supporters are crying foul over a donation that West Hollywood City Councilmember Abbe Land made to the group that opposes term limits.

According to No on Measure C financial statements the group has received a $1,000 donation from the “Abbe Land for West Hollywood City Council 2011” account.

“This is more than just another case of incumbents behaving badly — this may be a violation of state and city law,” said Scott Schmidt, a consultant for the Yes on C campaign.

In his allegation of wrongdoing, Schmidt referred to a West Hollywood city ordinance 2.76.050 that governs how candidates may use unspent campaign donations. That ordinance makes reference to a state statute that says “Campaign funds may be used to make donations or loans to bona fide charitable, educational, civic, religious, or similar tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations, where no substantial part of the proceeds will have a material financial effect on the candidate … and where the donation or loan bears a reasonable relation to a political, legislative, or governmental purpose.”

However, city attorney Mike Jenkins said the donation is legal.

“I have determined that the contribution is perfectly OK,” said Jenkins during a phone interview.

Once an election campaign is finished and all campaign expenses are paid off, Jenkins explained, the West Hollywood municipal code allows the campaign to maintain an “officeholder” account with up to $10,000. Money in officeholder accounts is typically used to send out newsletters, announcements, etc.

The city’s municipal code 2.76.060 states that the money in officeholder accounts “shall not be used or expended in connection with an election of the city councilmember or any other person for any elected office.”

Making donations to ballot measures, like Measure C, is not mentioned in the city code.

However, Jenkins said that the California government code 89519.b.5 does expressly permit donations to ballot measures.

Thus, state law allows Land’s officeholder account to donate to the No on Measure C campaign.

Land has made no secret that she opposes term limits, even speaking against it from the dais.

“I feel very strongly that term limits is not a good thing for West Hollywood,” Land said in a telephone interview. “It will hurt the future of the city. I’m glad to know my contribution is legal.”

Land said that if Jenkins had determined that her contribution was illegal, she would have asked for her check back.

Calls to No on Measure C officials for comment were not returned.

While Land may have given $1,000 to the “No campaign,” city council candidate Steve Martin’s campaign has given $300 to the “Yes campaign.”

“The municipal codes govern how surplus campaign funds after the election are used,” said Schmidt. “A current campaign can donate to any other campaign if it wants and we welcome Steve’s support.”

Measure C, which is on the March ballot, would limit West Hollywood city council members to three four-year terms of office. The measure is not retroactive, meaning that all of the current council members would be allowed 12 more years, if the voters keep putting them back in office.

On the West Hollywood city council, John Heilman has served for 28 years, Land has served for 21 years, Jeff Prang has served for 16 years, John Duran has served for 12 years and John D’Amico has served for 2 years.

In addition to Land’s $1,000 donation, the No on Measure C campaign has received three other donations:

  • $2,500 from the Sunset Tower Hotel.
  • $1,000 from the West LA Health PAC, which is connected to Cedars Sinai Medical Center according to Yes on Measure C officials.
  • $5,000 from Excel Property Management Services, Inc., which Yes on Measure C officials say is connected to Melrose Triangle development at the intersection of Melrose Avenue, Santa Monica Boulevard and Doheny Drive.

Examining the financial statements on the Yes on Measure C campaign confirms that movement is a truly grassroots effort. That campaign has raised $11,771 to date from 50 donors, 45 of whom are individuals making donations between $25 and $500.

Four businesses or groups have donated to the Yes on Measure C campaign so far:

  • $50 from Weho Confidential website
  • $100 from Grapplin Corp, which is connected to resident Michael Mooney.
  • $500 from 1114 Group, which is connected to The Hudson restaurant.
  • $500 from the Quintessential Group (Weho connection not yet determined).

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6 Comments

  1. DonSat, Jan 26, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    I strongly disagree with the interpretation by the city attorney.The city’s municipal code 2.76.060 also states money can not be used or expended for “campaign consulting, research, polling or similar services in connection with an election”. Does he know how the No on C campaign will use Land’s $1,000 donation? There’s no transparance in reporting that allows one to see what their donation is specifically funding. All donations go into the same checking account that is used to pay all expenditures. While No on C may not spend dollars on polling or research, they will be spending money on campaign consulting since it’s been reported the group in being run by a consultant based outside the city of West Hollywood.
    Additionally there is no designation that Land ever created an overholder account according to what is posted on the city web site.
    I hope the Yes on C group files a complaint with the City Clerk, City Attorney, County D.A. and the state.

  2. Allegra AllisonSat, Jan 26, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    Between salary and benefits, should no on C pass (if she keeps getting re-elected) Abbe Land will, eventually, financially benefit from her donation.
    If Yes on C passes, we’ll have Term Limits and when Steve Martin is elected to Council, his contribution will, obviously, not benefit him in the future.
    This initiative appears to be the people and small business versus the developers who want to keep incumbents in office forever for future play for pay.
    My choice is to Vote Yes on C.

  3. Rudolf MartinSat, Jan 26, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    The city council can fire the city attorney whenever they please. He would be ill advised to publicly determine that anything his employers do is illegal.
    I’m sure the sizeable developer donations trying to prevent Measure C will not be a factor when the city grants permits and contracts.

  4. Concerned CitizenSat, Jan 26, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    @Don, I agree. HOW could this be legal? If Mayor Pro Tem Land wants to make a personal contribution I assume that would be copacetic. But to make a political contribution really seems unethical. These people seem to push the envelope on every issue and defy the community to challenge them or sue them…which is precisely why WEHO needs term limits in place. VOTE YES on C. if you can make a personal contribution to the Weho Term Limits or just want more information, go to

    http://www.wehotermlimits.com/

  5. Sal Gomez - Co-Founder of Save The Pickford Fairbanks StudiosSun, Jan 27, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    Once again, the air of entitlement from these seated council members is nothing if not disgraceful. Shame on Abbe Land for being so presumptuous that she felt she could make the donation while thumbing her nose at the opposition. People of West Hollywood, vote these people out of office and recoup your city before it’s too late.

  6. Todd BiancoMon, Jan 28, 2013 at 9:19 am

    “Ethical” and “legal” are two different concepts in our society. Most politicians in Washington are ethically-challenged, but most don’t go to jail or get any sort of civil or criminal penalties for their unethical behavior. Wall Street? The big bankers wouldn’t know “ethical” if it slapped them in the face and rarely is an individual prosecuted for even illegal activities. The big corporations pay a fine and move on – business as usual. Lance Armstrong doesn’t understand the meaning of “cheating.” He had to look it up and even then, he wasn’t certain that he had “cheated.”

    From what I’ve read, a strict reading of the statutes in question don’t explicitly prohibit such a contribution so it’s not “illegal.” Ethical is a different issue. That said, Ms. Land has repeatedly stated that she does not favor term limits, so this should be no surprise to anyone. And she’s definitely not ashamed of her position, so don’t expect any public acts of contrition.

    Come on folks, how many politicians are ashamed of anything they do unless they get caught doing something illegal or highly unethical?

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