Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee title=
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee
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By Jerry Roberts of Newsmakers

Three veteran political consultants -- two Democrats and one recovering Republican – are operating the independent expenditure committee on behalf of Das Williams that is now attacking Laura Capps in the mail and on radio, Newsmakers has learned.

Democrats Mollie Culver and Tyler Gibson, and GOP strategist Cory Bantilan, who works for the county as chief of staff to Supervisor Steve Lavignino, are raising the money and producing anti-Capps campaign materials and on-air messages that have appeared this week.

Capps, president of the SB school board, is challenging Williams, the incumbent supervisor in the First District. A key issue in the race has been Das's central role in crafting the county's controversial cannabis ordinance, and his past acceptance of tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from those involved in the industry.

As first reported in this space, a mysterious new campaign committee called “Central Coast Residents Supporting Das Williams for Supervisor,” was registered with election officials late last month. The group is legally required to operate independently of Williams’s campaign.

The three consultants, each of whom confirmed their participation in the committee's operations, say that they believe Capp's repeated attacks on Williams's integrity to be unfounded and unfair, and decided to come together "organically," to hit back on his behalf.

Among other charges they make against Capps is that she is a "hypocrite" because her own fundraising in the current campaign does not conform with the limits and standards she has set forth in a campaign finance reform plan as the centerpiece of her challenge to Das.

"As expected, this PAC is doing Das’ dirty work," Lindsay Bubar, senior strategist for the Capps campaign, said in a statement emailed to Newsmakers. "Their first hit piece is full of lies, which, as he did at the debate last week, Das will try to distance himself from.  Except, he can’t."

Responded Das: "It is unfortunate that my opponent has felt that she needs to concentrate on attacking me and running a negative campaign," he said. "Our local politics was once civil and respectful and we should do all we can to promote and revive that ethic."

For those keeping score at home

Full statements from Bantilan, on behalf of the committee and from the Capps and Williams campaigns are below. 

The trio of consultants behind the independent expenditure committee form an intriguing, three degrees of separation alliance steeped in several decades of local politics and campaigns. They are:

  • Mollie Culver, a longtime Democratic strategist, has worked for countless local party politicians, including former legislator Jack O’Connell, Mayor Cathy Murillo, Rep. Salud Carbajal and Supervisor Gregg Hart (not to mention two stints with former Rep. Lois Capps, mother of Laura), and is a favored strategist for those who win the endorsement of the local central committee. She also was a key figure in passage of the disputed cannabis ordinance, meeting at various times with Williams and other county officials, testifying at public meetings and writing letters in her former role as an advocate for the Santa Barbara Cannabis Business Council. 

  • Tyler Gibson, a business associate of Culver’s, who works with her on campaigns and also served as the Organizing Director of the Santa Barbara County Democratic Party. He is listed as the treasurer on filings of the “Central Coast Residents” independent expenditure committee, although he used his given name on committee documents, where he is identified as “William Gibson.”

  • Cory Bantilan, chief of staff to Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, who worked closely with Williams in drafting the cannabis ordinance, during a time when the two elected officials were jokingly referred to around the county building as “the Doobie Brothers.” Bantilan has worked on a host of campaigns for Republicans, including the 2017 mayoral bid of ex-council member Frank Hotchkiss and is former executive director of the Santa Barbara Republican Central Committee.

Calling all Republicans

Much of the committee's messaging so far has aimed at the relatively small number of Republicans in the district. 

The radio ad is running on a local station that features conservative talk show programming and one brochure has appeared in the mailboxes of GOP-registered voters. Both portray Capps as an opportunist and an extreme left liberal, more risky for conservatives than Williams, who is described as "bipartisan," in contrast to the full-throated "progressive" label which he often affixes to himself.

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a-1581801444 Feb 15, 2020 01:17 PM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

The cannabis industry, local realtors, out of county big oil & developers alike are throwing obscene amounts of money into the get Das into the Supes office at all costs campaign. They are also the same people working like crazy to get Porter elected to unseat Joan Hartmann in the 3rd District. They are shady, covert & will stop at nothing to get what they want. This has to be exposed & stopped by the voters. They've done it before & they will do it again. It's not a partisan thing here, but Right vs Wrong aka Good over Evil.

a-1581801465 Feb 15, 2020 01:17 PM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

The typical Democrat politics of personal destruction- the mean-machine they crank up every year when anyone dares to take them on. No wonder so few people dare to run against the local political establishment. Good luck Laura. At least your mother does still recognize you. But give this assault a few more brutal weeks until election days and I doubt if even your children or husband know you after they get done. Thank you for running. You are getting more support now, than before they started this attack.. We don't do nasty politics any longer. We can see through it now. It is bad enough being a one party town; but we don't have to choose the worst iteration of it.

a-1581801721 Feb 15, 2020 01:22 PM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

Das is even marketing on Breitbart. What is with that? No, he is not a Republican choice. Not even close. He really has gone over to the dark side of campaigning now, after getting shut down by the Montecito Journal. Fear does not look good on boy wonder Das Williams. It is not worth it, Das.

a-1581804512 Feb 15, 2020 02:08 PM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

Yes, Das has resorted to all desperate tactics to "winning" his seat. Out of county? Heck yes! Out of state? Heck yes! Partisan politics? Heck yes! Accepts money from questionable individuals and organizations? Heck, double YES!

a-1581802274 Feb 15, 2020 01:31 PM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

Face it, the real money used to get elected locally, along with their votes, comes from the government employee unions. They owe Das the most, so he gets their lion's share of campaign dollars. But now we do need to add the cannabis crowd who overnight are throwing their weight around to their most favored candidate - Das has always been part of the pot crowd, from the slow roll out of fake medial pot years ago to now legal pot. Keep in mind, it is still the numbers of voters a candidate gets, not the amount of money or marketing they do. Most voters continue to come from the government employee union members, since voting pro-union is existential to them. The numbers of pot grower voters is much, much smaller. The role of pot smokers is the unknown factor which could bulk up the very few actual votes produced by the pot growers. - do they even vote? We will learn more about our new local voting patterns and who is shaking the election money tree after this election.

ginger1 Feb 15, 2020 01:36 PM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

I might have considered Ms. Capps except she produced numerous attack ads and focused her campaign on her opponent's receiving money from cannabis interests in Carpinteria. Using that logic, one would think that the entire Carpinteria School Board needs to go because they, too, received funding for their schools from cannabis farmers.

This is a small town and many of us know Laura and Das personally, if not tangentially. They are both smart, well-meaning people. It bothers me that Laura feels the need to attack instead of simply presenting credentials and strategies to help our community. Das said it well: "It is unfortunate that my opponent has felt that she needs to concentrate on attacking me and running a negative campaign," he said. "Our local politics was once civil and respectful and we should do all we can to promote and revive that ethic."

So do that. Stop the "Central Coast Residents Committee" from attacking the attacker and just tell us that you've done a good job as Supervisor and would like to serve the community for another four years. You have great credentials. Be proud of that and make sure the voters know that you deserve another term. Stay positive. In our little town that will go a long way. We will appreciate it. It's that simple.

a-1581807303 Feb 15, 2020 02:55 PM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

The hit campaign from the Realtors is so dirty its disgusting. They not only tell lies and manipulate truth, they post the ugliest distorted pictures available. Got mailers smearing Capps and Bennett yesterday from them. Das has joined the Republicans trying to destroy people from his own party.

a-1581812903 Feb 15, 2020 04:28 PM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

Realtors and the Chamber of Commerce both have been destructive and highly ineffectual conservative vote-splitters in too many recent elections. They may have business interests that others like to label as "conservative", but the real local conservatives see them as self-interested, politically naive and just plain greedy. We pay them no mind and regret they are too thick-headed to see how much damage they have done in recent political contests, which allowed weaker candidates to ride in on weak pluralities due to their stubborn three-way vote-splitting. Perhaps they are stealth operatives for the Democrats and their public sector union handmaidens, because both the Realtors and Chamber of Commerce interests have consistently damaged any real conservative chances in this town. So no thank you, they are not really Republicans nor are they conservatives in any meaningful political sense. They are just one more self-interested greed factor interested only in short-term gain. This has been going on for decades - back to the desal plant and peripheral canal voter issues.

a-1581816532 Feb 15, 2020 05:28 PM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

Das has turned this into a partisan campaign. Don't let "Pretty Boy" tell you otherwise. He's in the back pockets of more than you know. Do your homework & seek the truth. Wait until the next financial disclosures have to be made public because that's going to be a guaranteed eye-opener & might even make the KEYT News lead off story!

Alexblue Feb 15, 2020 02:58 PM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

I got Laura's campaign mailer the other day and I was disgusted. From the ridiculous picture of Das which was washed out and manipulated as opposed to the warm toned glam shot of Laura, to the nonsense "they against us" fear mongering BS language, to the most objectionable element which quoted him (apparently) promising to cover something up for a shady lobbyist in an email....

Which Laura's campaign shared ZERO context on. So she has an email that shows Das Williams colluding with a shady lobbyist to hide SOMETHING from his constituents?!

Really. It is so serious that she devotes half the mailer, and yet there is nothing, absolutely nothing explaining who the lobbyist is, what the issue is, what Das is supposedly doing for this person, and why no one should know about it.

So in a nutshell Laura is accusing her opponent of something shady and horrible....and zero further information.

Way to bring Washington/Trumpian style campaigning to Santa Barbara. Who design the mailer? Cory Lewandowski?

Laura seems to have learned some very bad habits during her time as a Washington insider. Don't do that here. That is not what this town is about. And, yeah, I'm 1st district, and yeah, that mailer made absolutely clear who should NOT be elected.

And, yes, I previously seriously considered voting for Capps, because anyone running deserves a serious look, and I looked at her on the issues and she sadly is a one issue candidate--cannabis. Her ridiculously thin platform on the other major issues, such as economic justice, were devoid of any real plans. Educating poor people on a minimal tax credit as the full extent of her plan to reduce poverty in SB County is laughable.

All her resources and experience and she comes up seriously lacking--and, the fact is, I'm pretty sure she knows she's not a better candidate with better ideas, she just saw a vulnerable seat because of the Cannabis issue and took her shot at the next rung on the political ladder.

jqb Feb 15, 2020 11:26 PM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

Alexblue, not only was the quote out of context, but critical words were removed and replaced with ellipses. The first ellipsis replaced "that it was unfair and urged him", and the second ellipsis replaced "with a 50-50 recovery model". These words were replaced so as to make an exchange about making an unfair process more fair seem like something far more sinister. And the original L.A. Time article noted that Das's 50-50 cost model was not adopted by the supervisors, resulting in the growers paying none of the costs and the county paying all, but noting that would get in the way of making Das look bad. Unlike all the right wingers attacking Das here, I would be a supporter of a liberal like Laura Capps in most cases, but this sort of thing has ruined her reputation as far as I'm concerned.

a-1581808538 Feb 15, 2020 03:15 PM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

Now i get why Realtors are going to any lengths for Das- he received several thousands in past few days from short term rental companies- who want to take housing away from local renters and turn it into vacation homes- the realtors like that idea

Bubblebee Feb 15, 2020 03:24 PM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

That Williams. Every time I see his smug mug, all that comes to my mind is the 23 of his constituents who were killed in the Montecito Debris Flow.
Has he no shame? The failed evacuation maps happen under watch. And no, you don’t get a pass on that deadly failure because you told your political supporters to leave.
23 dead-many of them were children. And Das was no where to be seen. And more telling than that, not one person responsible for the flawed evacuation maps was ever held accountable.
And now when the campaign gets tough, he becomes a cry baby.
Cry for the lost children Das, not the lost votes.

Bubblebee Feb 15, 2020 06:24 PM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

SB County knew for 50 years? And still they drew a evacuation map that ended up with 23 dead. Any good scientist/surfer should have seen that one coming.
The fact of the matter is that Little Bluff was in charge at the time . The buck stops at the top,

a-1581809303 Feb 15, 2020 03:28 PM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

Clearly they are trying to appeal to undecided Montecito residents. This is so ironic and transparent. Painting a candidate as the moderate democrat choice is a tactic Mollie Culver has used many times, including to get Lois Capps elected. Yet this is from the recent Progressive Voter Guide:
“Supervisor Williams is being challenged by Laura Capps, a fellow Democrat. Williams is the strongest progressive choice because of his strong track record on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and his progressive accomplishments throughout his career in public service. According to our analysis, Supervisor Williams is the strongest choice for progressive leadership in office.”~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Does anyone not realize the conflicts of interest that continue to plague local politics?
Steve Lavangnino, Das Williams and Dennis Bozanich colluded with the cannabis industry, represented by their main lobbyist, Mollie Culver, who is now Gregg Hart’s Chief of Staff, to craft an ordinance which does not benefit the residents of Santa Barbara County. Now Hart’s Staff and Lavangino’s staff have created a PAC to funnel cannabis $ into Das’ campaign and Das knows nothing about it? Right. Oh and where is Dennis? The corruption had become so apparent he had to go. ~~~~~~~~~~~~
Another fun fact; didn’t Lois Capps fire her once right hand woman Mollie Culver? After Ms Culver helped orchestrate a fraudulent coverup regarding a three time DUI killer on her staff, her integrity was out for all to see. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe Das is the candidate closer to the right, he certainly has surrounded himself with dirty “Trump like” practices.

a-1581810081 Feb 15, 2020 03:41 PM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

Liberals got to be such a dirty word, they changed it to progressives. Progressives is now too dirty, so they are falling back on "public servant"? Ha. Just the opposite - on party state liberals make us work for them. Trump won because he was blunt and plain speaking. He put it all out there - unvarnished and exposed. A lesson Democrats refuse to learn. They move only by stealth and subterfuge. Done with their dirty politics.

a-1581931786 Feb 17, 2020 01:29 AM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

"Does anyone not realize the conflicts of interest that continue to plague local politics?" I can only hope you realize how the world works, or else you're a mark. Thanks for pointing it out. Be sure to apply this thinking to 90% or more of all social and business relationships, and review your personal and familial relationships in light of it. Just being realistic.

a-1581981482 Feb 17, 2020 03:18 PM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

So you bribe local officials to get what you want? I’m sorry to disappoint you, but that’s not how it works in my social or business relationships. There are still decent people in this world who don’t work that way. Unfortunately our local career politicians are not. Das’ dog & pony show needs to go. His arrogance is astounding.

a-1581813422 Feb 15, 2020 04:37 PM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

Thanks for putting a face on this recent spate of politics of personal destruction - it makes sense now: Mollie Culver appears to be the common denominator. Appreciate learning this. They was a guy, John something or another, conservative candidates would use decades ago that left the same bad taste in voters mouths - so dirty campaign tactics have long been bi-partisan. And equally distasteful. They do a lot of damage but sadly have proven effective. Knock down the other side, make them unrecognizable and then run them over with a cement truck sums up their campaign marketing tactics.

yin yang Feb 17, 2020 01:26 AM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

That's the name I couldn't recall yesterday! I was so excited to get my second or third paying writing job that I... gulp ... I worked for him. I interviewed people, REAL people, home and land-owning people, in Goleta and Noleta and wrote up the interviews for a brochure produced by Davies for Measure T, against the water moratorium. Dayum, was that the 80's?! Big bunch of good THAT did! ;-)

a-1581815296 Feb 15, 2020 05:08 PM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

Thank you for this. Elements here ought to disturb everyone:
1. Why start this PAC 1/31, and drop an ad now? Desperation. People are afraid Laura Capps is within striking distance of winning, so the attacks are starting. Expect this to escalate.
2. Mollie Culver - someone you never heard of, but whose actions affect you greatly. A master puller-of-strings in this county. She ran Murillo's mayoral campaign and is running her Assembly race. Bring on big union $$$! She ran Salud's Congressional race. She wrote the ordinance, as a cannabis consultant, that has embroiled the county so much. She was Hart's chief-of-staff. You think you're electing candidates with your vote. Start asking who puts them in front of you....she is a tool of the Dem Central Committee, and they control the Women's Political Committee. When you constantly rig elections, and write policies that affect everyone from the inside, paid by the is that democracy?
3. Why would these Republicans get in bed with Culver to take out Capps? They're campaign consultants. They have no Republican clients running in these races, so they need to money. Bantilan is Lavagnino's Chief of Staff. The same Sueprvisor Lavagnino that helped Das write the ordinance that Culver actually wrote for the cannabis farmers. Collier is Venoco's publicist. He needs Das to clearly look the other way on his client's activities.

Follow the money closely. There is a lot of 'noise' in this primary. Oh, and watch for Das' team to bully non-supporters while telling the news media they're 'taking the high road'.

a-1581816033 Feb 15, 2020 05:20 PM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

Spoken well from the far right.

Das is a slippery dude who is deeply in the back pockets big cannabis, oil, developers & anybody else seeking to make money by pulling the wool over the county's citizens' eyes. Just because it's the 1st District doesn't mean he has BIG plans. BEWARE!

a-1581825517 Feb 15, 2020 07:58 PM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

between the oil company lobbyists and the realtor PACS, Das' "circle of friends" is really have Chris Collier singing his praises....HA-- the same guy who represented Plains after the Oil Spill, and represented Venoco before State lands......why are they so afraid to have Laura Capps on the BOS? HMMMMMMMMM

a-1581868607 Feb 16, 2020 07:56 AM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

Chris Collier, Das, et al fear Capps on the BOS because they want the MONEY & POWER. Forget the S.B. County landscape, channel and everything else that makes this place the American Riviera that we, well most of us, love to live & work. A vote for Das is a vote to say goodbye to the protections we have enjoyed for the past few years.

seaninsb Feb 16, 2020 07:11 AM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

I remember 20 years ago when DAS was Hannah Beth Jackson’s coffee boy. Remember seeing him walk into their office every morning with loads of coffee, always running errands. He’s still running errands today just for the wrong people.

Alexblue Feb 16, 2020 11:08 AM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

Oh, really, Sean? You literally have said nothing about his track record, his actions, or his policies. That's all you've got. That he started at the bottom and worked his way up in life, as if that's something to be ashamed of? That's so weak, bro.

And, yeah, Das is running my errands, I'm a constituent and I'm not a wealthy donor or lobbyist, but when I have called or emailed him over the past ten years, he has always tried to provide service--as my elected representative.

It's pathetic that no one seems to be able to talk about policies. I would bet you money that the majority of Capps' defenders on this thread have literally never read her platform. If you have, you'll be hard pressed to pretend there is any real substance there.

"Combat climate change". "Defend Children". "Reduce poverty"

The most feel good ideas, which I am all for, and no real plans on how to do these things much less do them more effectively than Das has. Seriously have you people clamoring and squawking so vigorously even READ her campaign website and her plans for implementing her feel good agenda? I bet you haven't. Educate yourselves by reading your own candidate's materials for a start.

a-1581913281 Feb 16, 2020 08:21 PM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

SEANINSB I remember 4 years ago when Das was simultaneously running for 1st District Supervisor and the Senate 2020. He filed official papers, had 80K in campaign contributions for his 2020 senate bid and then the public found out. The BOS was simply a placeholder until something better came along. Oh but wait something better did come along and her name was Limon. The Machine decided Das better stay put in his soon to be elected BOS position, as Limon made more sense. They moved Gregg Hart to the Second District a few months after his win on SB City Council. They simply shifted the pawns. With Hartmann, Williams and Hart on the BOS they continue to have a majority and no objectivity. Das will win this time around too, because that is who controls our non partisan BOS and City Council.

yin yang Feb 17, 2020 01:40 AM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

Yup. Knee jerk "kick out the incumbent." As I've said, whoever was in office when pot was legalized was going to get the crap kicked out of him/her. Das has worked in several different elected offices, done decent work, and served his constituents. I think and hope he will win on his record.
Capps ran on one issue, and on her name. There must be others on Edhat who ended up on the long-term phone survey? I think she contracted it. It was broad, but obviously about Williams v Capps. I just hope these online discussions lead to thought. But they've turned me off, so I doubt that will be an outcome!

a-1581870048 Feb 16, 2020 08:20 AM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

Look at Laura's political team just juice this Cannabis controversy. Gathering votes from the opposed as if she's the savior. Yet there's zero doubt. There's an about face in the reckoning. The following herd will have been fooled again. Only to be reasoned with the change of heart and political positives of cannabis.

a-1581872068 Feb 16, 2020 08:54 AM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

I’m embarrassed by my fellow Santa Barbarian ad hominem attacks against both candidates. You should Inform yourselves as to how each candidate has voted on issues of import to you, and vote accordingly. Personally, I have been very impressed with Das’s career protecting our environment and sound civic planning. Laura Capps, so far as School Board member was not effective in dealing with the impact the school shooting scares which have been so impactful to the children in our community, and has shown little initiative In addressing the shameful two-school problem plaguing SBUSD- one for Latino’s, and one for wealthy white kids - not a good plan for anyone in our community. BTW - I’m wealthy and white, and so are my kids.

OAITW Feb 16, 2020 11:42 AM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

You have got to be kidding me. You used protecting the environment and Das Williams in the same sentence. Das is nothing but a shill for the real estate and development industry, taking tens of thousands of dollars from out of town developers and while in Sacramento voting to outlaw single family zoning doubling the density in our neighborhoods.

Alexblue Feb 16, 2020 11:46 AM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee


First, increasing density is good environmentally. How do you not know that? Increasing density reduces loss of open space and use of automobiles. So, you fail on that one.

Second--can we, just one time, have some proof. Do you have links to any credible sources that he is taking money from out of town developers? Love to see it.

Alexblue Feb 16, 2020 11:57 AM
Cast of Characters Behind Mysterious Pro-Das Anti-Laura Committee

And by the way, OAITW, do you have any idea how much money Capps has gotten from out of state donors, like the 25k from Washington DC based donors? We don't need that crap here, and she is talking about transparency and campaign finance reform...yet magically that will only happen AFTER she is elected, when she could be doing it right now on her website.

But she isn't. Talks the progressive/reformer talk, but walks the Washington insider walk.


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