• Malibu Politics and Campaign Money •
BY ANNE SOBLE
The big news in national politics this week is that the President has thrown in the towel on his opposition to using super PAC money and is out stumping for big donor dollars for his reelection campaign. His supporters say that since his opponent has unlimited access to these donors, it would be like campaigning with the proverbial one-hand-tied-behind-the-back not to have access to comparable financial resources. Political philosophy is giving way to the perceived reality of what it will take to win.
The upcoming Malibu City Council race, however, appears to be shaping up as an effort to turn that traditional campaign thinking on its head and prove that the President's capitulation to politics-as-usual isn't always necessary, at least on the municipal level. A majority of the seven candidates for the three council seats on the April 10 ballot indicate that they do not intend to raise or spend much money on their campaigns and believe they will be able to win without becoming beholden to local interests that may expect quid pro quos for every dollar that is contributed.
Some of these candidates are philosophically opposed to the role of money in the electoral process. They see ending the domination of big contributors as a moral issue. Others do not have a donor base and don't have the time or the desire to put one together, and they are unwilling or unable to spend personal funds on their campaigns. The Malibu election might become an early political science textbook example of a major sea change if it demonstrates that the Internet and social media can alter the old "dollars-for-votes" paradigm on the local level.
This makes the April election exciting beyond the specifics of who will wind up on the council, which, given the complex issues now facing the city, is of major importance. But we don't have to wait until after the votes are counted to begin to see whether change is taking place. On March 1, candidates are required to file their first fundraising and expenditure forms, and that preliminary data will provide the earliest opportunity to compare the seven campaigns.
However, it is the final vote count that will reflect whether individual campaign contributions are more than financial. Do contributions demonstrate commitment to a candidate that translates into campaigning to get that candidate elected and help to personalize an election for the participants? Is there a group dynamic where contributors think that who else is contributing to a candidate is a factor in who they will back? Does that kind of personal connection occur with Internet contact? Research has shown that it does for the 18-to-25 voter age demographic, but whether it does for Malibu's older voter demographics may be a major determinant in who gets to sit on the dais at the first city council meeting after the election.