YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

ELECTIONS : Political Committee Didn't Break Campaign Law, City Attorney Says : Finances: He finds that $7,000 expenditure and donation of time to three candidates did not violate funding limits.


MALIBU — The Malibu Grassroots Movement did not violate a city campaign finance law by spending more than $7,000 to air cable TV commercials supporting three City Council candidates it endorses, City Atty. Michael Jenkins has determined.

The city attorney also said advertising executive Brian Fox did not violate a city law by devoting $4,000 worth of his time to promoting the candidates the group supports, Councilwoman Carolyn Van Horn and contenders Joan House and Jeff Kramer.

But Jenkins said Wednesday that he has not yet determined whether Fox's donation of $6,000 worth of ad space in a Malibu newspaper violated an ordinance adopted in January, which sets a $500 limit on campaign contributions in Malibu elections.

Similarly, the city attorney said, he has not decided whether Councilman Walt Keller may have violated campaign contribution limits by issuing a newsletter that endorsed Van Horn, House and Kramer.

A petition signed last week by 14 of the 20 candidates in the April 14 City Council election accused Fox and the Grassroots Movement, which uses the acronym MGM, of violating the city ordinance, and alleged that Keller may have done so if he spent more than $1,500 on the newsletter.

MGM is a political action committee that has drawn much of its funding from a group of entertainment industry executives who live in Malibu. It aims to unseat council members Mike Caggiano and Missy Zeitsoff, whom MGM leaders accuse of being too cozy with development interests.

The petition, circulated by candidate Paul Grisanti, asked that the alleged violations be referred to the state Fair Political Practices Commission. Grisanti, surrounded by five of the co-signers, read the document before the City Council last week, prompting Caggiano to leap up and sign it while Grisanti was speaking.

Except for special elections, state law sets no limits for campaign contributions.

However, the City Council voted unanimously to have Jenkins examine whether the city law may have been breached, and, if he found violations, to refer them to the district attorney's office.

Keller has dismissed the allegation against him as "ridiculous." He has said that even if the law were to apply to his newsletter, which he disputes, he did not spend enough on the newsletter to constitute a violation.

MGM officials said they have scrupulously adhered to the law. Joan Lavine, an attorney for the group, expressed confidence that neither Fox nor the group has done anything illegal involving the ad space.

In exonerating MGM on the cable-TV issue, Jenkins said that, since the law governs only contributions, not expenditures, the group has done nothing improper by spending about $7,000 on television ads. Much of MGM's contributions were recorded before the city law took effect in January. (The petition had incorrectly asserted that the group had spent $8,000.)

Tom Hasse, MGM's chief spokesman, called the claims against the group "frivolous," adding that he was "disappointed that taxpayer money should be spent to investigate a claim like this."

Opponents contend that Fox's donation of the ad space to the group to tout the three candidates is tantamount to giving the money to the candidates themselves.

MGM and Fox maintain that Fox donated the ad space before the city ordinance took effect Jan. 7.

Los Angeles Times Articles