While the Neighborhood Empowerment Coalition continues to independently spend money on mailers in the Mountain View City Council election, the group has also spent $30,500 on a mailer attacking water district incumbent Brian Schmidt.
In his campaign to oust Schmidt from his seat on the Santa Clara Valley Water District board, Gary Kremen got some help from the NEC with a $30,500 talking mailer. It attacks Schmidt's support for "potable reuse" cleaning recycled water to drinking water standards in order to help conserve potable water from other sources.
"Brian Schmidt wants my family to drink water from the toilet?" says a woman's voice that plays from the audio card, adding: "Say no to toilet water; say no to Brian Schmidt." It reads in part, "EWWW!"
In a response Schmidt posted on Youtube, he claims that Kremen also supports potable reuse, though not publicly. He points out that potable reuse is already in practice on the International Space Station. "This is astronaut water we are talking about, if it is healthy enough for them, it is healthy enough for us."
"I disavow the mailing and people who mail it," Kremen wrote in a Facebook post. "In fact it mistakes my clear position (on) reuse."
Kremen, the founder of sex.com and Match.com, has spent more on his campaign than any other water board candidate in memory -- over $397,993 as of Oct. 18 to take over Schmidt's post representing residents of District 7, which encompasses Mountain View. Schmidt has spent a more typical sum: $17,229.
In its latest available campaign finance report, dated Oct. 18, the NEC reported spending a total of $210,661, most of it in the water district and Mountain View council races. In addition to the $30,500 toilet water mailer, another $5,000 was reportedly spent on Kremen by the NEC for "consulting."
The NEC appears to have been created primarily as a way to help special interests anonymously funnel money into the Mountain View council election, enabled by the 2010 Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United, which the Mountain View City Council opposed in a 2012 resolution.
The NEC counts landlords and PG&E as the only funders that have a well-known interest in Mountain View, among many others that do not appear to have a local interest. It lists Long Beach campaign finance attorney Gary Crummit as its only member, although it claims on its website that it is a coalition of community members. It has spent at least $83,000 on this year's City Council race between Oct. 7 and Oct. 25, backing a trio of council candidates: Ken Rosenberg, Pat Showalter and Ellen Kamei.
The NEC sent out a total of six mailers in support of Rosenberg, spending $34,748. Another $22,455 was spent on five mailers backing Showalter, and another five mailers supported Kamei at a total cost of $26,192.
The NEC lists several funders previously unreported by the Voice: Steven Humphreys, a Portola Valley resident and CEO of Upstart Mobile, contributed $20,000; Carlsbad attorney Timothy Dillon contributed $20,000; and another $25,000 came from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. As previously reported, other funders of the NEC include several Indian tribes, unions representing iron workers and ship builders, a DMV software contractor, PG&E, and the California Apartment Association (CAA), which represents landlords.
A deeper look at the CAA's political action funders finds significant contributions from Prometheus Real Estate Group, which owns at least four large apartment complexes in Mountain View and is set to build others at 100 Moffett Blvd. and 1720 El Camino Real. Among many others there are also contributions from Archstone Communities, LLC, which proposed 333 apartments for 870 El Camino Real.
All of the outside money in this year's election has spurred several residents, including Christopher Chiang and David Lewis, to call for supporting a new state law requiring that the top three funders of a mailer be disclosed on the mailer itself to help prevent the rise of "dark money" in elections. Senate Bill 52, the "Disclose Act," was drafted by state Sen. Jerry Hill and reportedly died in the state Assembly over the summer after passing the Senate.
The California Association of Realtors has also started spending money on council candidates in final weeks, making direct contributions to council candidate campaigns. Rosenberg reported $1,000 from CAR, while Kamei and Lisa Matichak each reported $500 contributions.
All City Council candidates have agreed to the city's voluntary spending limit of $22,689 for their own campaigns and have stayed under it, as of Oct. 31.