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Daily Pilot

Measure V opponents raise nearly $500K

Labor is spending big to defeat a charter measure it terms 'dangerous.' Supporters have raised about $50,000 fighting for what they call necessary financial reforms.

By Bradley Zint

6:12 PM PDT, October 29, 2012

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In its efforts to defeat Measure V, organized labor has continued to raise and spend far more than the proponents of the proposed city charter initiative, campaign finance records show.

As of Oct. 23, the latest date for which disclosures are available, the Taxpayers for Open and Accountable Government and the Committee for Costa Mesa's Future — both in opposition to Costa Mesa's city charter measure — have about $480,000 in their coffers. Together, they have spent about $334,000.

The former is sponsored by the Orange County Employees Assn., which represents nearly 200 Costa Mesa city employees. It alone contributed $252,000 between Oct. 1 and 20.

The single largest expenditure by Taxpayers for Open and Accountable Government has been $152,000 to LUC Media, a Marietta, Ga.-based political media buying firm.

By contrast, the committee in favor of Measure V, Citizens for Costa Mesa City Charter, has raised nearly $46,000 and spent about $50,000 as of Oct. 20.

The Anaheim-based Southern California chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors has also spent about $1,000 to support Measure V.

At $9,500, the Republican Party of Orange County is the largest donor in favor of the charter. Coming in second were Santa Ana-based Nexus Development Corp. and Fullerton-based Ware Disposal, which each contributed $5,000.

Labor leaders stood by the spending, saying they were working to protect the city from a potentially damaging referendum.

"It's unfortunate this City Council majority jammed through their charter scheme behind closed doors with such limited community input," OCEA spokeswoman Jennifer Muir wrote in an email. "Because if they hadn't, the community, business leaders and labor wouldn't have had to spend so much making sure voters know the truth about just how dangerous Measure V would be for Costa Mesa.

"And the entire community would not have had to mobilize to educate voters to vote no on Measure V so that Costa Mesa won't become the next failed charter city, like Bell and Stockton."

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, the charter's architect, said the large spending is an example of "outside labor union money" influencing local politics.

"I think it's obvious to the public when they see money from the union bosses who want to spend to stop the residents from having their own charter," he said.

Righeimer called Costa Mesa "ground zero" for pension reform, "and the labor unions have to make sure that Costa Mesa doesn't have the tools to make that pension reform happen."

Righeimer and the council majority have called for more controlled spending to address the city's looming pension obligations.

Tony Bedolla, director of government affairs with the Orange County Professional Firefighters Assn. — which has given $20,000 toward defeating Measure V — said in a prepared statement that the charter "would dramatically change how the city is governed and would make the city more vulnerable to the same type of corruption we're seeing in other charter cities, like Bell ...

"We believe that citizen input about a number of issues, including public safety, should have been better embraced and accepted as part of the process prior to [the charter measure's] institution. The [Costa Mesa Fire Department] is part of the regional concept of county fire protection that is utilized during incidents that require a response from all agencies, especially those incidents that occur in areas of the county outside of Costa Mesa but end up requiring a response from Costa Mesa resources and personnel.

"Current decisions and proposals regarding public safety by the council demand that all affected participants be allowed to participate in the process. That did not happen in this instance."

In response to the campaign spending, Jim Fitzpatrick, president of the Costa Mesa Taxpayers Assn., which has supported Measure V, said in an email: "Here come the union bosses. An onslaught of [nearly] $479,000 in union spending against Costa Mesa taxpayers and local control provides the energy that divides our community with a message of fear, doubt and misinformation.

"Who can afford TV ads in a local race? Only union bosses."

bradley.zint@latimes.com

Twitter: @bradleyzint