Mark McDermott

Councilman Steve Diels sues Republican congressional candidate Pete Kesterson

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Redondo Beach Councilman Steve Diels last week filed a lawsuit against Republican congressional candidate Pete Kesterson and the California Secretary of State, protesting Kesterson’s ballot designation. Kesterson’s states that his occupation is “taxpayer advocate.”

Kesterson, a Redondo Beach resident and chair of the city’s budget and finance commission, subsequently withdrew his proposed ballot designation and resubmitted it as “financial adviser.”

Diels said that the Election Code clearly states that the ballot designation should show an actual vocation, not an avocation or a political stance, and that Kesterson’s claim would have mislead voters.

“I believe you should go by the rules, and the rules are really clear,” Diels said. “You are supposed to tell people who you really are.”

Kesterson acknowledged that his ballot designation may have been “a stretch,” but he defended himself as a genuine taxpayer advocate. He cited his work as the chair of the local Republican Club working against a proposed increase in business taxes in Hermosa Beach and in utility taxes in Redondo Beach.

“I don’t man it’s a stretch on the truth,” Kesterson said. “I mean the rules – it must be your vocation, what you get paid for…I spend as much time as [a taxpayer advocate] as I do on what I do as a living, even though I don’t get paid for it. So from a pure time standpoint, it’s what I do.”

Diels said that Kesterson has actually worked as his financial adviser.

“He’s my financial adviser and he’s never saved me a nickel on taxes,” Diels said. “If anything, based on his actions with Measure UU, he probably raised my taxes. It had to be challenged…Somebody had to say something, so I did, and I’m disappointed he wouldn’t be more forthright with the voters from the get go.”

Measure UU was the proposed removal of an exemption from the utility users tax that is currently enjoyed by the AES power plant. Diels supported the measure, arguing publically that it was an issue of fairness because every other business in the city pays UUT taxes. Kesterson opposed the measure – which lost at the polls – on the  grounds that it represented “double taxation” on the power plant and that its cost would have inevitably been passed on to consumers.

The city had hoped to generate between $1 million and $2 million annually by removing the exemption. Diels and other council members took exception to Kesterson’s role on the “No on UU” campaign, which included numerous mailers containing factually questionable accusations regarding the city’s spending practices.

During the course of Kesterson’s run for congress, it came to light that Kesterson had filed two personal bankruptcies, including one in 2008. Diels subsequently withdrew his endorsement of Kesterson, who is running for the District 36 seat in the U.S. Congress, and instead backed his primary opponent, Matty Fine.

Kesterson suggested Diels legal action against him was a “political vendetta.”

“There is no question in my mind if we didn’t help defeat Measure UU he wouldn’t care what our ballot designation was,” Kesterson said, adding that he would have fought Diel’s lawsuit, except that it would have cost taxpayers money because the Secretary of State was named on the suit.

Diels said that Kesterson’s actions both during UU and with his ballot designation show a disregard for truth that would not serve District 36 well.

“We need honest people with practical experience,” he said. “Not Pete.” ER

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