Report: Pro VHR group spent nearly $500K in South Lake Tahoe election |

Report: Pro VHR group spent nearly $500K in South Lake Tahoe election

The "no on Measure T" group has flooded local mailboxes with mailers urging voters to vote against the measure, which would eliminate VHRs outside of commercial areas and the tourist core in three years.
Ryan Hoffman / Tahoe Daily Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The organized effort to defeat a ballot measure banning most vacation home rentals spent nearly half a million dollars in the 2018 election.

That’s according to an end-of-year campaign report filed by Save Tahoe Jobs: Vote No on Measure T, the committee formed to defeat the 2018 ballot measure prohibiting VHRs in residential neighborhoods.

The report, filed with the city on Feb. 4, shows total contributions for 2018 amounting to $478,575 and expenses totaling $489,924. Some of the largest contributions came from large entities, including the California Association of Realtors and Airbnb.

Measure T asked voters if they wanted to prohibit VHRs in residential neighborhoods. The question came with a three-year buffer before the ban would take effect and a caveat allowing full-time residents the ability to rent out their home up to 30 days per year. It also included stricter occupancy limits.

The measure made it onto the ballot thanks to a successful citizen initiative, which was a response to a perceived failure on the part of City Council to strike a compromise on the VHR issue.

Despite the massive amount of spending by the “No on T” committee, the measure ultimately passed by a slim 58-vote margin.

A lawsuit was filed on Dec. 18 alleging the measure is unconstitutional. The issue has yet to be decided by the court.

Aside from staggering figures, with regards to a local election issue, the end-of-year filing details a final funding push by opponents of Measure T in the weeks before the Nov. 6 election.

The committee received an additional $112,005 in contributions and racked up $106,470 in expenditures in the reporting period that started Oct. 21.

Some of the biggest contributions late in the game came from the California Association of Realtors Issues Mobilization Political Action Committee, which donated a total of $7,000 during the final reporting period; and the Committee to Expand the Middle Class, Supported By Airbnb, which contributed $50,000 during the time frame.

California Real Estate Brokers Inc. chipped in $10,000 and Michael Keller, broker and owner of Keller Properties Inc., contributed a total of $20,000.

Sacramento-based MetroList Services, Inc., which bills itself as a “one-stop real estate website,” contributed $10,000 in the final reporting period, as did Nevada Realtors.

Smaller contributions came from eight individuals throughout California — from Mountain View to Palm Springs.

As for the expenditures, a sizeable chunk — $50,000 — was spent with AKPD Message and Media, a consulting firm originally founded by David Axelrod, a long-time political consultant who served as chief strategist for the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama.

A total of $16,810.23 was paid to the firm Reed & Davidson LLP, based in Los Angeles, for the services of the committees’ treasurer and vice treasurer, Cary Davidson and Flora Yin.

A “civic contribution” totaling $479.70 was made to Sustainable Community Alliance, the local group created by Realtors to fight Measure T. In 2018, the alliance attempted to get its own competing measure on the ballot but failed due to lack of valid signatures.

A total of $9,467 was paid to Cox, Castle & Nicholson LLP, a law firm with offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles, for professional services. The amount was carried over from a previous reporting period, however, it did not appear in the original document filed for the previous reporting period of Sept. 23-Oct. 20.

That is because the No on Measure T committee submitted several amended reports after its original report for the Sept. 23-Oct. 20 reporting period.

The final amended report shows an additional $1,100 in contributions.

The larger difference regards expenses incurred, but unpaid, during the time period and payments made on behalf of the committee.

The No on T committee originally reported incurred, but unpaid, expenses of $6,574.79 with The Strategy Group, another political consulting firm, for “literature.”

However, the amended report shows four more additional expenses with the Strategy Group totaling $12,677.23. Those additional expenditures included $3,593.75 for phone banks, $2,340 for print advertising and another $6,743.48 for literature.

The amended report also shows additional payments made on behalf of the committee. Some of theses include:

  • An additional $3,007 in expenditures with Bay Area-based Cornerstone Printing for literature;
  • An additional $1,550 with Orange County-based Fortified Design for literature and print ads;
  • A total of $1,890 for print advertising with Sierra Nevada Media Group, the parent company of the Tribune;
  • And $3,593.75 with Stones’ Phones — a Washington DC-based consulting firm that, according to its website, specializes “in phone strategies for high‐profile campaigns, non-profits, and progressive causes.”

In its year-end filing, the No on T committee reported an ending cash balance of $12,050.25.

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