When Albert Vera Jr. was sworn in as a Culver City Council member on December 14, 2020, he made a speech claiming without evidence that his election victory demonstrated that voters were tired of “negative campaigning.” To the contrary, documents show that the only negative campaigning conducted in the 2020 City Council race was done by the Culver City Police Officers Association (CCPOA) and benefited a conservative slate which included Mr. Vera.
According to their filings with the City (https://public.netfile.com/pub2/?AID=CUL&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1), the CCPOA was the only organization that spent money opposing candidates, not just supporting them. They were the only ones who produced negative ads and handouts. They spent $9254.13 in support of Councilmember Eriksson’s re-election, the same amount on Mr. Vera’s campaign, and two cents more on Heather Wollin’s unsuccessful bid. They also spent $4144.78 on materials attacking Yasmine-Imani McMorrin, one penny less attacking Freddy Puza, and $1409.09 attacking Darrel Menthe. These were the only funds spent in opposition to any City Council candidate by any group in the Nov. 2020 election.
At the Culver City Democratic Club’s 4th of July event with the City Council candidates, Mr. Vera said he would not accept police money (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyntfIrAj8c). He upheld the letter of this pledge, because CCPOA did not donate to his campaign. Instead, the CCPOA supported him with independent expenditures as a Political Action Committee. This support was not spontaneous. Mr. Vera actively sought the support of CCPOA. Like many groups, they sent candidates a questionnaire (https://www.dropbox.com/s/oyvize3osz5mk0t/CCPOA.pdf?dl=0) and made their endorsements based on candidates’ answers. Mr. Vera and his campaign staff completed the ten-page form, and their answers won CCPOA’s support. The Puza and McMorrin campaigns chose not to seek CCPOA’s endorsement.
This form has no questions specific to Culver City. The words “Culver City” are clumsily added in a few places. This is explained by the last page, which gives the contact information for Public Safety Association Consultants (https://www.publicsafetyac.com), not CCPOA. The police union hired this PR firm to handle their opposition to the popular movement led by Black Lives Matter, including their candidate endorsement process.
In contrast, Mr. Vera and his team did not return the questionnaires sent by either the Culver City Action Network (https://culvercityaction.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/citycouncilvoterguide.pdf) or the Culver City Community Coalition (https://culvercitycrossroads.com/2020/10/16/dear-editor-cc-community-coalition-offers-endorsements-on-municipal-contests/), both local grassroots progressive organizations who have led on immigration, renter protections, the environment, equity, and rethinking public safety.
The endorsements candidates seek and accept represent their values. Some members of the public may not have understood the process behind them, and some of Mr. Vera’s supporters may have chosen to overlook some of his choices when they did not match what they believed about him. However, the campaign finance numbers now prove some theories and disprove others. The era when Culver City could boast of “clean,” “positive” campaigns is over, the police union ended it, and the beneficiaries were Councilmembers Vera and Eriksson.