A committee formed to support challengers Cynthia Blatt and Steve Martin and oppose incumbents John Duran and John Heilman in the March 7 WeHo City Council election has violated state and local election laws according to a complaint by local activist James Duke Mason, who is a backer of Heilman and Duran and a member of the city’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board.
The West Hollywood Money and Politics Committee (WeHoMAP) distributed mailers that don’t list who paid for them, which is required by state law, according to a letter from Mason’s lawyer that has been sent to West Hollywood’s City Clerk and the enforcement officer of the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission.
The mailers also do not note that they were “not authorized” by the candidates for whom they advocate. Under the law, independent expenditure committees are not supposed to coordinate their activities with the campaigns of the candidates they are promoting and must acknowledge that in their campaign materials.
The mailer referenced is one that asks “What do developers and lobbyists expect for the $275,000 + they have invested in Councilmen Heilman and Duran?” The mailer states that Blatt and Martin have received a total of only $500 from real estate interests.
The letter from George Yin, a lawyer at Kaufman Legal Group, also alleges that WeHoMAP is violating a City of West Hollywood campaign finance ordinance that requires such campaign materials to carry the names of the three largest donors to the committee. The three donors to date are Bill Resnick, a psychiatrist and philanthropist who was a major backer of Mayor Lauren Meister’s council campaign in 2015, Scott Schmidt, Meister’s former campaign manager, and Rory Barish, a West Hollywood resident. Resnick donated $25,000 and Schmidt and Barish donated $100 each. The letter notes that a campaign contribution report filed on Jan. 28 should have listed Resnick but didn’t.
“…. The Committee seems to have engaged in a concerted effort to hide information from the public and they should bear responsibility for their misconduct,” Lin’s letter states. “This is especially troubling coming from a committee calling itself the ‘Money in Politics,’ committee. Sadly, they failed to follow basic public disclosure rules>
Lin has asked the Fair Political Practices Committee and WeHo City Clerk Yvonne Quarker to investigate the matter.
Scott Schmidt said that WeHoMAP was formed as a “general purpose committee,” in other words one not solely focused on one election, and that the requirements cited by Lin are for an independent expenditure committee focused on only one election, such as the WeHo City Council race.
“When we created the committee, our intent was to educate voters in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, just as our website and FPPC Form 410 say, and we have continued to do,” Schmidt said in an email to WEHOville. “As long as developers and lobbyists continue to try to influence local elections, WeHoMAP intends to be around exposing the truth about their activities.”
“Local general purpose committees formed within 90 days of an election must review their expenditures at the end of each month to determine their status as General Purpose or Primarily Formed,” Schmidt said, citing the difference between those focused on one election and those on a broader platform. “The committee had no expenditures by the end of January. We will review our status next Wednesday as required by law.”
“I hope you as a journalist can see this for what it is–an attempt to bully those who choose to speak up against the establishment and silence the voices of West Hollywood residents,” Schmidt said.
“Obviously what WeHoMAP is doing is effective, and they don’t want the people to know who’s finding their campaigns and what their plans are for West Hollywood.”