10/20/20: The Real Skinny on PACs in Encinitas

October 20, 2020

Hoo boy. The allegations are flying fast and furious about “out-of-town special interests” and “developers” financing my campaign and that of the other City Council incumbents. 

These allegations are plainly untrue, and part of the opposition’s ongoing smear campaign. It’s tiresome, and hopefully you can see through it.

What is a PAC?

To begin, let’s look at the legal landscape around PACs (Political Action Committees) and campaigns.

Each candidate in Encinitas can only accept $250 per person for their own campaign to use. But PACs, which by law can’t coordinate with the candidates, participate in campaigns by sending mailers, posting online videos and ads, etc., and they’re completely unlimited as to who can donate to them, or how much they can spend.

This regrettable situation was created by a game-changing Supreme Court decision ten years ago referred to as “Citizens United” that allowed outside groups to inject limitless funding into elections.

The influence of PACs has been felt in Encinitas since then, as seen above in this Coast News article from the 2016 election.

A PAC can’t donate directly to a candidate’s campaign, but runs its own campaign for or against a candidate or issue. I’m often as surprised as you are by the fliers arriving in my mailbox opposing or supporting me or my opponent.

And it can be confusing when you get one of these mailers – did it come from the actual candidate or a PAC outside of the campaign? You can check by reading the “Paid for by…” notice that’s required to be on mailings.

PAC action in Encinitas

So what PACs are playing in Encinitas now? 

The major PAC supporting my opponent is disingenuously named “Ethics & Transparency in Government,” when it’s not clear what ties bind them together, except support of her and opposition to me. Here’s who has donated to this PAC, as stated in this public document:

  • $10,000 from “Citizens for a Better East County.” (As a reminder, we’re in North County, not East County. This PAC is affiliated with developers and right-wing politics.)
  • $10,000 from a local Encinitas couple opposed to the city’s largest upcoming infrastructure project, Leucadia Streetscape. They have worked against me and others who support Streetscape in past campaigns.
  • $2,500 from “San Diego County Gun Owners PAC” 
  • $5,000 from Mark Wyland (former Republican in the CA state senate)
  • $5,000 from Frank Riolo (apparently an executive in the casino industry) 

Of course, my opponent and the two candidates she’s aligned with frequently claim that they don’t have PAC money supporting them. One spoke at a recent city council meeting, indignantly demanding an apology for my citing that PAC in a campaign forum.

This is the very definition of a “specious argument” – it is superficially plausible, but factually wrong. When there are only two people in a race, a PAC opposing one is de facto supporting the other.

This PAC’s filing says they are opposing me, but they routinely issue emails and posts that blatantly violate the campaign statements they’ve filed. The top ad in the photo below is clearly a pro-opponent piece. And the one below that one is laughably ironic – a PAC that’s supporting the opposition is warning Encinitans to beware of PACs that support us!

On top of all of this, there are also shadowy groups in Encinitas supporting my opponent that are behaving like PACs, but haven’t filed any legal paperwork at all. These entities are sometimes referred to as “dark money.”

Pushing back against the lies

My opponent also repeatedly claims that developers are supporting me, and that she opposes them. But her required disclosure forms tell a different story – her family business is actually in the construction industry.

Her entire lifestyle is supported by developers. Her husband’s concrete company, as stated on the public disclosure form worth more than $1 million, has been successfully participating in the development industry for years.

It’s distasteful to have to point this stuff out. But as my colleague, Councilmember Tony Kranz, says, “don’t unilaterally disarm.” If my opponent and those who support her repeatedly and blatantly lie about my campaign being supported by “out of town special interests” and “developers,” it’s important that the glaring hypocrisy be brought to light. 

For the record, my campaign is not supported by out-of-town special interests and developers. The vast majority of those who support my campaign are Encinitas residents. You can check out my campaign’s statements here.

PACS that support my candidacy

My campaign is also supported by locally based Political Action Campaigns. One is called Conserve North County, which supports progressive candidates and initiatives. They state that they support candidates whose policies further a clean and healthy environment, affordable housing, access to transit, enhanced multi-modal transportation, greenhouse gas-reduction strategies and anti-racism. 

I’m also supported by North County Action Network, which supports candidates “who embody competence, courage and integrity – and have values and ideas that translate into policies that work for all of us.”

The Encinitas Firefighters are also a PAC, one which supports candidates who prioritize the public’s safety and invest in making sure our community is safe from fire. I’m honored to have their support, and as long as PACs are allowed to exist, the backing of the other PACs who are supporting the type of society that we believe in. 

Enough with the conspiracy theories

No question – both my opponent and I have donors who are part of the development community, including architects, attorneys, appraisers, real estate agents, engineers and contractors.

This is not shocking evidence of a nefarious conspiracy or a backdoor influence scheme, as some would have you believe. It’s the reality of living in a community with professionals who care about local issues. 

My campaign is supported by thousands of individuals, groups, businesses and organizations that believe in continuing competent, professional and reasoned leadership.

After four years as your Encinitas mayor, representing the city at the county, state and federal level and in a wide variety of capacities, I hope you agree that I’m a mayor you can be proud of. 

I don’t know precisely what my opponent’s financial backers stand for as a group, but I don’t align with any of them individually – a pro-gun PAC, a former Republican state senator, development interests in east county? 

I do know that my opponent’s campaign is based on fear and a regressive, false promise to take us backward. She would unravel the important social, environmental and economic policies that we’ve created together over the last four years. 

Thanks for reading; I know this is exhausting stuff. It’s heartening for me to know that you’re invested in the truth. Now please excuse me, I’ve got to get back to the job of being your mayor!

In ongoing service,

Catherine Blakespear Signature

P.S. Thank you for your contributions and volunteer help!

We’re working hard to get the word out in these last days of this intense campaign. You can be a part of our success by donating, volunteering to help us distribute door hangers, or waving signs with us!

Here are the links where you can sign up:

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Only a few days left to make a difference…

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