The unseemly role of money in politics at the state and national levels has a local counterpart these days. Rather sizable amounts are being spent for and against Menlo Park's Measure M, which aims to reduce the scale of office complexes allowed on El Camino Real.
Greenheart Land Co., one of the developers proposing to build about 200,000 square feet of office on El Camino, has contributed $200,000 to a political committee it organized to defeat Measure M. Save Menlo, the grass-root proponent of Measure M, has reported spending $96,000 so far to convince voters to adopt the measure.
One would hope that voters will make their decision on the merits, or demerits, of the measure rather than on the number and size of advertisements, signs and fliers. But with busy lives and insufficient bandwidth to grasp highly complex land-use issues, voters may be influenced by more simple messages.
In addition to the magnitude of local political spending, the Greenheart committee contributed to the re-election campaigns of the three City Council incumbents, who, if elected, would be making critical decisions regarding the proposed Greenheart development.
Those contributions were not cash, but assistance in the form of producing and mailing slate cards to defeat Measure M and re-elect the incumbents, and hiring a paid canvasser that handed out the candidates' "campaign literature." These "nonmonetary" contributions had an estimated value of about $900 for each of the candidates, according to a campaign finance filing by Greenheart on Oct. 7.
Greenheart's political committee is independent and did not need the candidates' approval to hand out the fliers, but at least in the case of incumbents Rich Cline and Peter Ohtaki, received their consent.
"When the Committee learned that (Kirsten) Keith preferred not to have her flyers handed out by the Committee, they immediately stopped," Bob Burke, principal with Greenheart Land Co., said in an email.
Although she has accepted donations from other developers, we think Ms. Keith made the right decision here. It's just not a good idea for candidates who, if elected, will be making consequential decisions about the Greenheart complex to be receiving the developer's campaign assistance, however small, if they can stop it.