A political action committee with many contributors connected to the real estate and development industry has made waves in the Beverly Hills City Council race.
The PAC, Beverly Hills United to Support Bosse and Gold for Council 2020, has sent out mailers and placed advertisements on behalf of the incumbents, Dr. Julian Gold and Lili Bosse, touting their endorsements and accomplishments since they took office in 2011. The advertisements also often include instructions for how to select Gold on the new Voting Solutions for All People system, which will require voters to hit the “more” button to find Gold’s name.
According to records filed with the city, the PAC was registered in Los Angeles by the Kaufman Legal Group, and it is funded by donations from seven businesses and individuals that list Beverly Hills addresses: Dominium Management Corporation, which donated $9,500; Gearys Beverly Hills, which donated $9,000; Steven Gordon, who donated $9,500; Stephen Massman, who donated $9,999 and is listed as the PAC’s treasurer; Outsourcing Management Concepts Inc., which donated $5,000; S&A Realty Corp., which donated $9,999; and Rodeo Family LLC, which gave $9,500.
Thomas Blumenthal, CEO of Gearys Beverly Hills, said the business is predominantly located in Beverly Hills, and Gearys wanted to get involved because “we’re big supporters of the Beverly Hills community, so Beverly Hills is very important to us.”
“I’m supporting [Bosse and Gold] because both of the candidates have been very supportive of the business community, and the retail business community specifically. I think they both deserve to be reelected to the Beverly Hills City Council,” Blumenthal said.
The PAC also received donations from people and groups outside the city. Some come from nearby, such as the Duesenberg Investment Company, which gave $9,500 and is located just outside of Beverly Hills city limits at 1800 Avenue of the Stars, and Walter N. Marks Inc., which donated $4,500 and is located in Los Angeles. Others from outside Beverly Hills include KMJ DE LLC, which gave $9,500 and is based in Santa Monica, and architect Barbara Sanborn, who gave $9,500 and lives in Santa Barbara.
In an email, Jay Wierenga, communications director for the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission, said the PAC is free to accept contributions from whoever it wants, no matter how much they give and where they live, as “contribution limits are only towards candidates, generally speaking,” though he noted that cities can impose their own rules on PACs. Huma Ahmed, Beverly Hills City Clerk, said to her knowledge, PAC contributors can live anywhere and they are allowed to donate as much as they want as long as they don’t coordinate their activities with the candidates or their campaigns.
“This is run independently. The candidates cannot be involved in the committee in any way,” Ahmed said.
According to the Los Angeles campaign finance ordinance, a committee has to electronically file campaign statements once contributions are received or expenditures are made of $10,000 or more. According to the PAC’s filings, the largest single expenditure it has made thus far is $5,000. Most of the contributors did not return requests for comment, and those who did declined to directly answer questions about the PAC or its expenditures.
In some cases, the addresses listed in the PAC’s filings do not match the listed companies. For instance, Rodeo Family LLC lists a Beverly Drive address, which the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce’s website said belongs to real estate company Meyer Pacific Inc. When reached by phone, a representative for Meyer Pacific said they keep the books for Rodeo Family LLC, but declined to comment further.
In another case, the address for KMJ DE LLC belongs to Worthe, a property management company with a portfolio that includes properties in Beverly Hills. Kristen Hughes, an asset manager who oversees the Beverly Hills properties for Worthe, said KMJ DE is one of Worthe’s corporate entities that they manage for a third-party client. A request for more information was not returned before deadline.
In addition, for Sanborn, the Santa Barbara architect, her address appears to be incorrectly listed, as the given street does not exist in Santa Barbara. For Walter N. Marks Inc., the namesake’s middle initial appears to be incorrect on the PAC filing.
Ahmed said any complaints or violations go directly to the FPPC, not to the city. Wierenga said small reporting issues and errors can be corrected by an amendment to the filing, and while penalties for incorrect information can be as high as $5,000 per violation, sometimes the FPPC will only send a warning letter for infractions “not deemed serious enough to impose a financial penalty.”
“All depends on the type of violation, severity, impact on or harm to the public, cooperation or lack thereof of those involved [and] types of penalties imposed on similar types of cases,” Wierenga said.
As the PAC’s advertising campaign has been implemented, some of the challengers who wish to unseat Bosse and Gold – Planning Commissioner Lori Greene Gordon, Rabbi Sidney “Simcha” Green, technologist Robin Rowe and attorney Aimee Zeltzer – and their supporters have decried the PAC, which they claim is an attempt by special interests to circumvent campaign finance laws in Beverly Hills.
The city limits donations to $450 per contributor or entity if total campaign spending is limited to $80,000 or less. If that amount is exceeded, contributions are limited to $125 per contributor or entity.
Candidate Gordon noted that the PAC has raised nearly $100,000, which is more than candidates’ campaigns are allowed to raise before the lower contribution limit is enforced.
“I don’t know that [the incumbents] expected the money because it’s technically an independent expenditure, but they have not denounced that this money was spent on their behalf, and that would be appropriate,” the candidate said.
Gordon also decried the lack of transparency involved with the PAC, which, unlike the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce Leadership PAC that is also in support of Gold and Bosse, did not transparently decide whom to endorse.
“Special interests should not be infiltrating our city and telling our residents what our city should look like. Residents should decide that,” Gordon said.
Rowe noted that, to his knowledge, the incumbents have not accepted the PAC support, but the real issue is that the electoral system in the United States allows such PACs to exist. Rowe, who promised to limit his campaign expenditures to $2,000, said he doesn’t take campaign contributions because “it’s a slippery slope.”
“I believe that paid political ads should be banned, that nobody, whether they’re outsiders or insiders, should be able to buy their influence,” Rowe said.
Rabbi Green said he’s not running against the incumbents directly – he entered the race to bring attention to medical marijuana and interfaith relations with hope that the incumbents would spend more time on those issues – but the other candidates, especially Gordon, the planning commissioner, are being indirectly attacked by this PAC’s advertisements.
“It’s very, very strange, and I’m looking forward to learning more about it and hearing what Lili and Julian have to say about it,” Green said.
In an email, Bosse did not answer questions asking about her positions on the PAC’s actions, including the presence of donors from outside of the city.
“I had no knowledge of the PAC. I am not running against anyone and I am not running with anyone. I am running my own campaign on my record and integrity. I am running a positive and inclusive campaign,” Bosse said.
Gold noted that he and his campaign have no control over the PAC, and he can’t control the actions of others. Gold added that though he’s “pleased for anybody’s support of my candidacy,” he did not know that the PAC included donors from outside of Beverly Hills.
“From what I’ve seen, many of the people represented in this PAC are very important merchants and landowners and residents in our community. I certainly appreciate that support,” Gold said.
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