Do women have a problem with Sheila Kuehl? You might be able to extrapolate that from a Los Angeles Times article on the race to succeed Zev Yaroslavsky for Los Angeles County Supervisor.
The Times article, published Sept. 1, included a fascinating chart listing political contributions made to Sheila Kuehl and her rival, former Santa Monica City Council member Bobby Shriver, by category. With political contributors who listed their occupation for reporting purposes as “homemaker,” Bobby Shriver led Kuehl by a whoping $135,650 to Kuehl’s $19,200. Shriver’s contributions in that category beat Kuehl by a ratio of seven to one. Based upon the campaign contributions, you might ask yourself: Does Sheila Kuehl have a problem with women?
What accounts for this enormous spread? I’ve had years of both filing and reviewing campaign contribution reports and anyone listed as a “homemaker” is invariably a woman. While there undoubtedly are Westside men who are homemakers, if they are making political contributions they don’t claim to be; house husbands tend to described themselves as “self employed.”
Does this mean that Westside women don’t appreciate Kuehl’s lifelong efforts on their behalf? Does Kuehl’s work to provide legal services for women and domestic violence support not count for anything? Are Westside women not impressed by Kuehl’s pioneering career in the atate legislature? There would seem to be a disconnect between feminist voters in the progressive Westside and the campaign contributions to Kuehl’s rival. Are “homemakers” still so enthralled with the glamour of JFK’s Camelot that they are overwhelmingly supporting Shriver, the scion of the Kennedy clan?
While nothing in politics is ever simple, there is something to be said about “following the money.” When you track the money in this race, the mystery starts to unravel.
The Board of Supervisors has jurisdiction over development in all of the unincorporated parts of Los Angeles County. While the 5th District may not appear to have much land in unincorporated areas those that do fall under the Supervisor’s jurisdiction on the Westside are some of the choicest parcels in Los Angeles County. Think Marina del Rey and the Santa Monica Mountains.
If you check out some of the other categories in the Los Angeles Times contribution chart, you find some other interesting patterns.
While Kuehl leads Shriver in donations from retirees by $225,000 to $82,000, real estate interests, also known as developers, favor Shriver by ratio of four to one. That is over $200,000 to Shriver while less than $50,000 for Kuehl.
The Times article also points out that while Kuehl leads in union support, construction unions overwhelmingly support Shriver. The construction industry favors Shriver by the ratio of two to one in political contributions. Consultants, who generally are land use lobbyists, also favor Shriver by the rate of three to two.
That brings us back to the category of “homemakers.” In West Hollywood, when we see a substantial donation appearing on a campaign report with the donor listed as a “homemaker,” the last name or home address almost invariably reflects that the donor is the spouse of a developer whose company has already donated the legal maximum for the race. In John Duran’s City Council reports, for both his race and the so-called “independent expenditure” campaigns that supported him, “homemakers” appear fairly regularly. This is what you would expect for a guy who has pretty much sold out West Hollywood to developers. When Jean Dobrin screeches “this city is for sale,” Duran is invariably the foremost pimp.
So it appears that Kuehl does not so much have an issue with women as she does with developers. Clearly developers believe that when it comes to developing massive projects in sensitive areas, such as the Santa Monica Mountains, Shriver will be far more supportive than Kuehl. Given Sheila’s long history of fighting to preserve the Santa Monica Mountains, this is a rational choice. But it also points out which candidate developers believe they can most influenced with campaign dollars.
Living as we do in a small city where developers seem to call the shots on all land use issues, it would be refreshing to have a Supervisor that would consider proposed land use decisions on their merits rather than on the campaign contributions they generated.
Given Shriver’s cozy relationship with developers, is it any surprise that John Duran has endorsed him? If we want to maintain the tradition of integrity that marked the tenure of Zev Yaroslavsky on the Board of Supervisors, then Sheila Kuehl is our obvious choice as his successor.