Developer dollars account for almost a third of incumbent campaign donations and more than a third of incumbent election funds.
That’s what Weho Patch discovered after examining the campaign financial statements of the incumbents running for re-election in the March 8 City Council race. At a , City Council candidates were asked how much of their campaign finance funds came from developers. Land, Heilman and fellow incumbent Lindsey Horvath all responded that they did not know the numbers.
According to Patch calculations, $29,480, or 32.72 percent of the $90,107 that Land has raised, comes from developers and their associates.
Of the $67,220 that Heilman has collected, $25,250 or 37.56 percent is developer related.
Horvath has a total of $74,928, according to her financial statements. Some $18,025, or 24.06 percent, came from developers and associates.
Campaign financial statements are available on the West Hollywood City Hall website. Election finance laws require the candidates to list any donation of $100 or more on their Form 460 financial statements. Those forms name who made the donations, along with their occupation if an individual made the donation.
In determining the percentage of developer dollars given to the candidates, Weho Patch counted developer donations as well as contributions from land use and real estate attorneys, lobbyists for developers and architects —all people who have a financial interest in property development. Some of the donors were clearly listed as developers on the Form 460. For others, we researched the donor names to determine their occupations and connections to developers.
Other donations came from individuals such a Ronald Haft, CEO of Combined Properties; Jason Illoulian of Ivy Property Group, an emerging development company who is also a board member to the Weho Library Fund and The Avenues; and Sol Barket, developer for Centrum Properties, which is location on Sunset Boulevard.
Some donations were bundled together with wives and daughters also contributing. The Mani Brothers, with real estate interests on Sunset Boulevard including the 9000 Sunset building, and their relatives gave a combined total of $1,500 to the Heilman campaign, $2,000 to Land and $2,000 to Horvath.
Behnam Soroudi, who has interests in both real estate development and management, and his relatives contributed a combined $2,000 to Land’s campaign fund, $2,000 to Horvath’s and $1,500 to Heilman’s.
Lawyers representing real estate interests show up prominently as well among the donors. Todd Elliot, a real-estate attorney with Truman & Elliott involved with several proposed Weho developments, donated $500 (the maximum allowed for an individual) to both Heilman and Land’s campaigns, while his associates gave another $500 to Land, $500 to Horvath and $250 to Heilman.
Real-estate attorney David Eichman made $500 donations to both the Land and Heilman campaigns and $250 to Horvath’s. James Arnone, a land-use attorney with Latham & Watkins who also serves as treasurer in the Weho Library Fund Board, provided $500 to Land and $250 to Horvath. Jeff Haber, another influential land-use attorney with Paul Hastings LLP, donated $250 to the Heilman campaign, $250 to the Horvath campaign and $500 to the Land campaign.
Ira Handelman, a lobbyist from Handelman Consulting known for representing developers, shows up on all three candidates' contributor lists, while Jorge Flores, another developer lobbyist, appears on two.
For at least five years, some Weho residents have repeatedly accused the incumbents of being beholden to developers for their sizable donations. The critics say the incumbents have voted to approve major developments such as Casden’s twin tower 10-story, mixed-used project at Movietown Plaza (Santa Monica Boulevard at Poinsettia) despite the objections of residents.
Steve Martin and John D’Amico, both candidates for the City Council, have been especially vocal in their accusations against the incumbents during this election season. At the Feb. 16 debate, while Martin charged that Land and Heilman are in developers’ pockets.
Heilman, who has served on the council for 26 years, and Land, who has been on it for 18 years, have denied the allegations. But they have not elaborated on the connection between the donations and their votes. Horvath, who was appointed to the council in May 2009 to fill the seat left vacant by the death of longtime Councilman Sal Guariello, has never faced the voters and has never had to raise campaign funds before.
At the debates, the challengers also . D’Amico said about $5,000 of his $92,187 came from developers. Martin said he has taken no developer money, but has received money from lawyers and lobbyists. However, he failed to give a dollar amount.
Scott Schmidt reported that he has received no developer money while Mito Aviles has vowed not to accept any developer donations. Both Lucas John and Mark Gonzaga have filed forms stating they will not raise or spend more than $1,000 on their campaigns.
The incumbents’ financial statements also raise the issue of rent on their campaign offices. The three share campaign headquarters at the Casden-owned Movietown Plaza (site of the ). Horvath lists her portion of the rent as $2,133. Land lists rent and utilities as $6,100. Heilman lists no expenses for the campaign headquarters.
Candidate Schmidt filed a letter of complaint with City Attorney regarding this apparent discrepancy (along with several other issues) on Heilman's financial statements. So far, the Heilman-Land-Horvath camp has not responded to the complaint.
Although the amount of developer dollars in this race has become a campaign issue, other donations to the incumbents could suggest campaign contributions don't necessarily guarantee city business.
Towing company Johnson’s Super Service gave $500 to both Heilman and Land (and nothing to Horvath), but still lost the contract for city towing late last year.
On the other hand, the financial statements list Gary Minzer, president of Hollywood Tow, as donating $500 each to Land, Heilman and Horvath. And the company that ? None other than Hollywood Tow.
The election will take place March 8.