Cash Committees Target Primaries
SACRAMENTO â€" A printed broadside blasts
Republican Assemblyman John Campbell, who is seeking a
state Senate seat in Orange County, as soft on illegal
immigration. California's prison guards union and the
Pechanga Band of LuiseÃ±o Indians paid for
Another mailer touts the anti-tax positions taken by
Campbell's foe in the GOP primary fight, fellow Assemblyman
Ken Maddox (R-Garden Grove). Public employee unions, whose
contracts have been criticized as too rich, are paying for
Welcome to the world of independent political expenditures.
California law bars individual and corporate donors from
giving more than $3,200 directly to the candidates of their
choice. But it permits them to establish independent
committees and spend unlimited sums if they operate at
arm's length from the candidates. Heading into Tuesday's
primary, interest groups have spent at least $5.25 million
on independent efforts to help â€" and hurt
â€" candidates this year, campaign finance
The biggest spenders: unions that represent state
employees, trial lawyers who seek to expand the right to
sue, insurance companies and business groups that want to
limit lawsuits, and dentists and doctors who tap the state
budget for the cost of treating indigent patients.
Some independent committees are outspending the candidates
they back. Democrat Claudia Alvarez, seeking an Assembly
seat in Santa Ana, has raised $212,000 while developers,
Realtors, dentists and others have spent no less than
$555,000 on her behalf. A California Chamber of
Commerce-backed group largely funded by the insurance
industry has spent $93,000 attacking Alvarez's foe, former
Assemblyman Tom Umberg.
Alvarez described herself as "pleasantly surprised" by the
support. Umberg called it "shocking that groups that are
traditionally the support base of the Republican Party
should be weighing in so heavily in a Democratic
But in California, there are few so-called swing districts,
in which either Republicans or Democrats could win in the
November general election. Most legislative districts are
weighted heavily toward one party or the other. As a
result, the real fight for most seats takes place in the
Business groups are backing pro-business Democrats; public
employee unions and trial attorneys are supporting labor-
and consumer-oriented Democrats.
Consumer Attorneys of California, which represents lawyers
who sue businesses in personal injury and other cases,
helps fund no fewer than three independent groups, and is
backing half a dozen candidates. With labor and
environmentalist allies, the three groups have spent more
than $700,000 on primary fights.
On the other side is a group calling itself Moderate
Democrats for California, the single largest independent
spender this year, at $579,000. Its money comes from
insurance, telecommunications, energy and financial
services firms, plus $100,000 from the San Manuel Band of
Mission Indians and $5,000 from the company that owns
Hollywood Park racetrack.
The largest beneficiary of the group's money
â€" $231,000 so far â€" is Vince
Hall, a former aide to Gov. Gray Davis who is seeking an
Assembly seat in San Diego.
The California Teachers Assn. has come to the aid of Hall's
foe, Heidi Von Szeliski, with $100,000. Szeliski, a
Democratic pollster, has worked on more than 60 political
campaigns for the teachers' union.
Another independent expenditure committee â€"
Californians United â€" has sunk more than
$100,000 into television ads and polling for South Gate
Mayor Hector De La Torre, a Democrat seeking an Assembly
seat in the Southgate area against Montebello Unified
School District board member Hector Chacon, also a
Californians United is funded by Philip Morris USA, the
world's largest tobacco company; the Morongo Band of
Mission Indians, owners of a casino outside Palm Springs;
Southern California Edison; and alcohol producer Diageo
North America Inc.
Republicans are involved in fewer primary fights than
Democrats this year. But just as pro-business groups dabble
in Democratic primaries, Democratic donors are seeking to
sway voters in the Republican primary between Campbell and
Maddox for the Senate seat held by veteran Ross Johnson
(R-Irvine) who is being forced to retire by term
So far, independent groups have spent $326,000 on Maddox,
with more than half coming from a group called the Native
American and Peace Officers Political Action Committee. It
is funded by the Pechanga Indian band, owners of a casino
in Temecula, and the California Correctional Peace Officers
Maddox supported unsuccessful Pechanga-backed legislation
last year that would have given Indian tribes more say over
development that might affect their sacred sites. Campbell
(R-Irvine) opposed the measure.
Maddox, a former police officer, has endeared himself to
public employee unions by supporting their pay packages and
other labor-related legislation they have sought.
Both he and Campbell voted for the legislation that
implemented a pay package negotiated by Gov. Gray Davis for
Under the contract, officers stand to receive a raise of as
much as 37% over the contract's five-year life, boosting
their annual pay to $73,000. Maddox defended the vote,
saying the contract is reasonable and that the guards have
"an incredibly challenging job."
Campbell said Tuesday, however, that given California's
budget problems, the contract is "overly generous" and
should be renegotiated.
Campbell said the attack mailers aimed at him will take a
"There is no question that when groups spend $300,000
against you," he said, "it is going to have an effect."
See the article on Los Angeles Times website