So What’s It Take to Get a Vote in This Town? For the City Council Winners, It Was from $65 to $18

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated after WEHOville discovered a flaw in the City of West Hollywood’s Netfile online campaign finance filing system in which spending for or against particular candidates by an independent expenditure committee associated with Unite Here Local 11, the hotel and restaurant workers union, did not appear in a download of Unite Here Local 11 campaign finance data. WEHOville discovered that data after a lengthy search through 26 separate United Here Local 11 committee filings that are accessible only by downloading PDF documents. The story has been updated to reflect the changes.

For Mayor John D’Amico, a vote wasn’t cheap in the March 2019 West Hollywood City Council election. According to the most recent campaign expense filings, D’Amico’s campaign and two independent campaign committees that backed him spent an average of $64 for each of the 2,441 votes cast for his re-election.

However, the discovery by WEHOville of new campaign spending data after the initial publication of this story shows the cost for Councilmember Lindsey Horvath, who led the 11 candidates running for three seats with 3,949 votes, was actually more — $65 a vote. For the other incumbent, Lauren Meister, each of her 3,616 votes cost $18.

James Duke Mason, who lost in what was his second run for office, paid $43 for each of his 1,331 votes. For Sepi Shyne, a newcomer whose 2,300 votes put her in fourth place and just behind D’Amico, the cost was an average of $18 a vote. Marquita Thomas came in at fifth place with 1,080 votes with an average cost of $13 each. 

Brendan Hood’s 482 votes cost him less than 30 cents each. And perennial candidate Tom Demille and newcomers Jack Cline and Eric Jon Schmidt spent nothing and got almost nothing, with 336, 243, and 167 votes respectively.

The campaign finance reports, whose deadline for filing was July 31, show Horvath’s campaign and the independent expenditure committees that campaigned for her spent a total of $258,163, more than any other candidate. Of that, $179,496 was spent by Horvath’s campaign and $78,666 by the three independent committees. The reports also show that Horvath’s campaign ended up in the red to the tune of $30,357. 

The independent expenditures committees involved in the March election, which by law may not coordinate their efforts with the candidates they support, were West Hollywood Alliance for Continued Progress Supporting John D’Amico, Lindsey Horvath, and Lauren Meister for City Council 2019, West Hollywood United to Support Lindsey Horvath and John D’Amico for Council 2019, and the Unite Here Local 11 Political Action Committee. Unite Here also waged an unsuccessful campaign to get voters to approve a measure on the ballot to rescind the West Hollywood City Council’s approval of the Arts Club on Sunset Boulevard.

D’Amico’s campaign and the two independent campaign committees that included his name spent a total of $155,666 ($109.753 by D’Amico’s campaign and $45,912 by the independent committees.) However, D’Amico also faced a major spending campaign against him by the Unite Here Local 11 PAC, which spent $34,907 on mailers and door-to-door campaigns urging residents not to vote for him. Mason’s campaign spent $57,555 and Meister’s campaign and the two independent committees backing her spent a total of $66,322, with $11,037 coming from the Unite Here Local 11 PAC and $3,982 from the West Hollywood Alliance for Continuing Progress independent expenditure committee.  

Sepi Shyne’s campaign spent $27,220, an amount that was bolstered by the $14,871 spent in support of her by the Unite Here Local 11 PAC. Marquita Thomas’ campaign spent $13,505. The only other spending reported was $142 on behalf of Brendan Hood.

West Hollywood United to Support Lindsey Horvath and John D’Amico for Council 2019, spent a total of $103,422 on the two candidates. The Unite Here Local 11 PAC spent a total of $74,000 for Horvath, Meister, and Shyne and against D’Amico. (That doesn’t include the money it spent to promote the measure to rescind approval of the Arts Club.) West Hollywood Alliance for Continuing Progress Supporting John D’Amico, Lindsey Horvath and Lauren Meister for City Council 2019 spent a total of $11,947 across the three candidates

In the coming days WEHOville will do an in-depth analysis of where the donations came from and how the money was spent. We also will report and analyze spending on Measure B, the unsuccessful effort to force the City Council to rescind its approval of the Arts Club on Sunset Boulevard.


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Alan Strasburg
Guest
Alan Strasburg

I would guess that the overwhelming majority of campaign expenditures are on the development, production, and distribution of those awful environmental bastards known as the political fliers which flood our mailboxes for the weeks leading up to the election. I save them and stack them and my vote is heavily weighed in favor of the candidates who have polluted the environment the least. Is this the best way that candidates in “the most progressive city money can buy” can campaign? Zero creativity. Walk, people. It’s 1.9 square miles and 35,000 people. Get to know them.

carleton cronin
Guest

One quickly recalls the statement from “Tip” O’Neil, former Speaker of the House, which will echo in he halls of legislation ad infinitum – “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” What the politicians do with the money has forever been considered a mystery worth solving by enterprising journalists. (See above.) Further, as we witness the flashing of poll numbers and the listing of donated funds to each presidential candidate, one is reminded of another of O’Neil’s observations: “All politics is local.” Barring the grammatical limp, very little distances local political activity from the national nonsense. A personal view of… Read more »

08MHG
Guest
08MHG

This is a small town election. What are they buying with the campaign funds? TV ads? Radio ads? Bumper stickers? E-mailings? What, aside from the mailbox clutter and the yard signs? No one has ever knocked on my door for a vote, but walking door to door wouldn’t really cost much, maybe a bottle of water for hydration.

Eric Jon Schmidt
Guest

Great investigative reporting Henry! Based upon these numbers, it would seem to any reasonable person or casual observer that West Hollywood is owned and operated by major donors and developers. It really is a shame because the Council will be so busy paying back favors to donors that the Resident’s services could be neglected even more. West Hollywood has been whored out for so long and so hard that she may never recover. But the people have spoken in the last election and now they must endure the consequences.

Don Jone
Guest
Don Jone

Very interesting article. Why would Lindsey Horvath spend more than she brought in by almost 20%? Horvath raised $180K and is over spent by $30K. Who donates to a winning campaign post election? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess the people who donate post campaign are looking to influence policy and West Hollywood city council votes. So Lindsey Horvath is for sale? Nice to see Lauren Meister got re-elected by raising $55K and owes nothing. Looks like she spent $51K. She did not overspend. Hard to analyze John D’Amico’s numbers since he was being attached by the union… Read more »

Joshua88
Guest
Joshua88

Good analysis.