From the campaign of Gary Newkirk:
Dark PACs are putting their massive thumbs on the scale in City Council elections in Dana Point once again. In 2018, three pro-resident candidates with grass roots campaigns were no match for almost $70,000 in special interest and PAC money which elected the current Council majority. Now, in 2020, with two more districts up for election, tiny Lantern District 4, with a population of less than 7,000 and about 3,900 registered voters, has so far attracted $13,000 in PAC money to support candidate Mike Frost or oppose his sole challenger, Gary Newkirk.
Now, PACs are taking aim at candidate Gary Newkirk, a candidate whose average donation is $212. One of these, the California Homeowners Association PAC, filed a 496 report revealing a $9,960 expenditure by this PAC whose contributors appear to be dark money developer and real estate interests to oppose Newkirk. Imagine the impact of almost $10,000 on a district where only 1,450 people voted in the last presidential election!
Personal donations to candidates in Dana Point are limited to $810 (Newkirk’s average donation is $212). https://www.danapoint.org/home/showdocument?id=31586. Individual and corporate donations are disclosed on each candidate’s FPPC filings for amounts over $99. Corporate and individual donations to PACs, on the other hand, are unlimited and the identity of donors is shielded (thereby the term “dark money”) and the group can call themselves whatever they like. In Newkirk’s case, his filing shows only one PAC donation of $760 which conforms to individual donation limits, from the Democratic Women of Orange County. Unlike dark superpacs, this registered club is run by volunteers and transparently discloses all donations over $99.
The California Homeowners Association PAC targeting Newkirk has a history of funding hit pieces on Orange County candidates ($48,000 was spent in opposition of an Irvine candidate for City Council). “It will be interesting to see what false narrative they spin attempting to smear my reputation”, said Newkirk. “Facts and truth matter. I’m proud of my record serving the citizens of Dana Point in my five plus years on the Planning Commission, standing up for residents and holding development interests accountable to what is appropriate and legal under the City’s zoning codes. The beauty of serving in a public position like Planning Commission is that my record is completely transparent and searchable on the city website www.danapoint.org with every position and vote for every project and proposal that we heard recorded in meeting minutes.”
The sad news for Dana Point voters is that dark PACs, and not people, are influencing local elections once again. If this developer/real estate PAC is spending $10k of dark money attacking grass roots, pro-resident candidate, what do they expect to get from his opponent?