Charm House Transparency
Village Laguna has been defending its Charm House tour against those of us speaking out about their lack of transparency for the $50 entrance fee. That’s my thing – transparency. They are obscuring the discussion with rainbows and butterflies and all that Village Laguna allegedly does for Laguna. But they never address the key issue of where the money goes. They are not being upfront about the fact that it goes to fund their “keep Laguna in the 70s” candidates, who often support limiting residents’ property rights. The same historic cottages on the tour are denied doing what they want with their property—sort of ironic, don’t you think?
Village Laguna is registered with the IRS as an incorporated political committee exempt from tax to support or oppose candidates and ballot measures. They must file Form 460 and declare expenditures—those over $100 must be itemized. Yet not one of their itemizations state the candidate or ballot measure to which it went. These payments ranged from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars. Laguna Beach has a $360 campaign contribution limit per person. J.J. Gasparotti said eloquently in his April 12 column, “One of the incubators of corruption is the collection of small sums of money from a large group of people and then disbursing it in big chunks to a small group.” So, who are these large chunks of money benefiting?
According to the Daily Pilot, Village Laguna has complaints filed against it with the IRS, CA Attorney General’s office, Franchise Tax Board, Fair Political Practices Commission and the Laguna Beach city attorney’s office and city clerk. Among the complaints is that Village Laguna transfers money between accounts—from Village Laguna, where your ticket money goes, to Village Laguna, Inc. These transfers do not disclose where the money comes from, which in turn funds their political activities. Do you really think that $40 in dues covers it? Village Laguna board member Rosemary Boyd stated in the Indy on April 25, “Village Laguna raises most of its money through the Charm House Tour and individual dues.” Between December 2015 and June 2017, Village Laguna transferred $29,775. That’s a lot of members supporting a political agenda with dues. Or do they have members who potentially are not legally disclosing their donations? The money must come from the Charm House Tour.
Village Laguna is not disclosing on any of its advertising that your entrance fee is supporting the campaigns of City Council candidates they favor. With a ticket price of $50, under the reporting threshold of $100, they don’t have to report it as a campaign contribution. They never state on their material that they are a political PAC that is registered as such with the IRS, Secretary of State and Franchise Tax Board. From 2012 to 2016, their reported revenues were $174,863, according to IRS filings. (Their 2017 tax report was not available). Their reported political expenditures for that time were $132,887. That is 76 percent of their revenue for political purposes. They don’t disclose their flow of funds and don’t let you know how much to which candidate. They strongly supported Toni Iseman and Ann Christoph this past election, and they’ve recently supported Rob Zur Schmiede and Verna Rollinger. Who else? We don’t know.
Transparency. That’s a word lacking from the Village Laguna playbook. It’s time people know how they fund their political activities. City Council members get to select/appoint members of Design Review Board, Planning Commission and Heritage Commission. If you buy a ticket, you’re supporting their political agenda, which includes limiting property rights.
Michèle Monda has lived in Laguna Beach for 15 years with her husband, Emil, and three sons. She is secretary of Laguna Beach Republicans and treasurer of Laguna Beach Sister Cities.