Dark Money Group “A Brighter Future” Endorses Four Challengers in School Board Race (Updated)

Endorsements, and mailers that tout those endorsements, are a common place in Santa Monica politics. Local news covers endorsements from political parties such as Santa Monicans for Renters Rights or Santa Monica Forward. Statewide and regional groups such as Streets for All and the Sierra Club blast out endorsement announcements to hundreds or thousands of people on mailing lists. 

However, there are other groups that are far less public, have names that don’t explain or reflect their values, and really only appear at election time dropping large amounts of difficult-to-source dark money. This is especially true if they don’t file forms required by state boards that track who is providing funding to what campaigns and political action committees. (Update: September 27, 2022: While the forms in question are not on Santa Monica’s site to track elections, they do appear on the County’s FPPC disclosure website. We regret the reporting error and you can read the reporting forms for 7/1/2021 – 12/31/2021 and 1/1/2022 to 6/30/2022. The required form 410, which would indicate where the General Purpose PAC planned to file their other required disclosure forms, is not available on the County’s website).

A Brighter Future Political Action Committee (ABF) is new on the Santa Monica political scene and they’ve yet to formally introduce themselves outside of a website that doesn’t list any of their members, major donors, decision makers or goals outside of vague platitudes. Ironically, one of those vague platitudes is a pledge that their candidates would bring “transparency and accountability.”

The group was founded by Kat Blandino in 2021 and has been busy ever since. A Brighter Future held fundraisers and other events beginning in January 2022.  This event was attended and covered by Santa Monica Daily Press columnist Charles Andrews. The group has endorsed four challenger candidates for the Santa Monica Malibu School District Board.  Blandino recently submitted an opinion piece to the Santa Monica Lookout that identifies her as chair of ABF.

ABF even obtained a California campaign number.  However, according to the State Fair Political Practices Commission, City of Santa Monica, and City of Malibu,  the group has neglected to file California Fair Political Practices Commission Forms required by all candidates and campaign organizations that have received $2,000 or more. (Edit: Please see note above)

A call to Crummitt and Associates in Long Beach, the only phone number listed for A Brighter Future PAC, was not returned as of press time.

In 1974, California voters passed Proposition 9 to enact the Political Reform Act of 1974 to establish a Fair Political Practices Commission that would set the rules for campaign finance, public official conflict of interest, lobbyist reporting, and gifts to public officials.  According to the Commission, the Act was passed because “Before the Act there were few rules governing the conduct of elected officials, campaigns, and lobbyists. Many considered politics to be similar to the “wild west,” where lobbyists could give gifts to members of the legislature without restriction, and campaign contributions could be made in cash without disclosing the source. There was little transparency, and trust in government was at an all-time low.”

Non-compliance with the Act can lead to administrative fines and penalties although some groups may choose a fine over disclosure as the amounts aren’t that high. For example, in 2017 Measure LV treasurer Armen Melkonians faced a $3,500 fine for not turning in the same forms. Armen Melkonians is now running from Santa Monica City Council with the endorsement of the police officers’ union, so non-compliance doesn’t carry a hefty political cost unless voters decide that it does.

A Brighter Future PAC could not be reached for comment because the group lists no contact information on its website and has not filed required disclosure forms that would include contact information.

Note: An earlier version of this post noted a $285 fine for Measure LV treasurer Armen Melkonians. The post has been updated to reflect a fine of $3,500.

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