According to the latest campaign finance filings, a local activist has started the "Watchdog for San Clemente Responsible Government" political action committee to oppose incumbent Councilman Jim Dahl and candidate Mike Mortenson.
The man behind the PAC, which had nearly $10,000 in its coffers as of Oct. 20, is Charles Mann, who is a member of the city's General Plan Advisory Committee and a local political activist who says he champions open space and historical preservation.
"My goal is to be a source for the voters to get info on the candidates," Mann said Friday.
He criticized the San Clemente City Council's practice of hiring the the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce to print city materials and conduct promotional events when the Chamber endorses candidates for council and has an affiliated political action group that donates to campaigns.
He also criticized the thousands of dollars in stipend money Dahl has received from being San Clemente's representative on the Transportation Corridor Authority boards involved in overseeing construction of the 241 extension. Dahl was in favor of the extension, deeply unpopular among certain factions in town.
Every representative to the TCA from agencies around the county receives the same stipend in return for attending meetings.
Mortenson said he was disgusted by the Watchdog PAC's efforts and accused them of spreading lies about him and Dahl.
"It says on [opposing incumbent candidate] Bob Baker's website 'special interests and PACs will try to buy this election,'" Mortenson said. "I think that's true, but it's ironic that this PAC is trying to buy the election in favor of Charles Mann's special interest, whatever that is."
Mortenson pointed to mailers he said were sent out by the Watchdog PAC accusing him and Dahl of supporting digital billboards along the I-5 through town and wanting to turn San Clemente into Huntington Beach, both claims which Mortenson says are false.
"What I think is extremely interesting is that they can't put forth their own ideas for the future of San Clemente," Mortenson said. "It's petty, and it's silly."
Mann was a vocal critic of the Playa del Norte retail-restaurant project that was scrapped with the failure of Measure A in 2011. He also helped finance the "No on A" campaign to fight the North Beach redevelopment, as well as other redevelopment projects in San Clemente and around Orange County.
The Playa del Norte project was favored by Dahl. Currently, both Dahl and Mortenson are the favored candidates by business groups in town. The San Clemente Chamber of Commerce officially endorsed the two, instead of incumbent Bob Baker, Chris Hamm and David Clegg, the other candidates running. (challenger Bob Baker, who will have a 0 next to his name on the ballot to distinguish himself from the incumbent with the same name, will still appear on the ballot, but he has dropped out of the race.)
Michael Kaupp, head of the Downtown Business Association, donated $400 to Dahl in October, and the chamber-affiliated PAC Business for a Better San Clemente gave him $7,000. The California Real Estate Political Action Committee has also donated heavily to Dahl and Mortenson―Dahl received $2,000 this month and $2,000 in the previous period.
It is unclear until Monday how much money Mortenson spent and received this period (Oct. 1 through Oct. 20) because his filing isn't turned in yet. City Clerk Joanne Baade expects the filing to be waiting in the mail Monday. Candidates are allowed to send in forms using certified mail and still meet the deadline, she said.
Bob Baker 1, according to the filings, loaned himself another $8,000 in October in addition to the more than $30,000 he had loaned his campaign through Sept. 30, making his bid for office almost entirely self-financed for this go-round.
Chris Hamm ramped up his fundraising efforts, collecting almost $11,000 in cash and in-kind donations in October, about twice the amount he collected through Sept. 30.
A firefighter himself, Hamm notably collected $1,500 from the OC Professional Firefighters Political Action Committee.
Pacific Corporate Consultants, Inc. of San Juan Capistrano donated Hamm $4,762 in signs and mailers, while former San Clemente Councilman and local politico Wayne Eggleston paid for $903 in print ads in October, brining Eggleston’s year-to-date Hamm donations to $1,291.
Clegg signed a form early in the campaign saying he was planning on spending less than $1,000, and, therefore, didn't have to report individual contributions bel
Read details of the candidates' previous batch of filings here.