PolitiCal

On politics in the Golden State

Category: Super PACs

Bloomberg's Super-PAC spends $2.35 million to defeat Rep. Baca

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Super-PAC "Independence USA" poured an additional $2.35 million into a television advertising campaign to defeat Democratic Rep. Joe Baca of Rialto.

Baca is being challenged by fellow Democrat, state SMayor Bloombergen. Gloria Negrete McLeod of Chino, in the 35th Congressional District in San Bernardino County.

Bloomberg, a billionaire political independent who has endorsed Democratic President Barack Obama for president, in October announced that he was forming the Super-PAC to back candidates in either party who support his top causes, including tougher gun laws and same-sex marriage. The Super-PAC is targeting Baca because the mayor believes he is weak on gun control laws, he told the New York Times.

The $2.35 million will support a television ad campaign opposing Baca and supporting McLeod, according to a disclosure filed with the Federal Election Commission. That will be in addition to more than $400,000 spent by Bloomberg’s PAC on the race for mailers and other campaign material.

Baca, in a statement released Thursday, criticized Bloomberg’s campaign as being “full of lies.” Baca, first elected to Congress in 1999, is the only Democrat representing the Inland Empire in Congress.

“It is appalling that an East Coast outsider like Mayor Bloomberg is trying to dictate the outcome of a congressional race thousands of miles away,’’ Baca said.

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-- Phil Willon in Riverside

Photo: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Source: Associated Press.

Howard Berman outraises Brad Sherman but still lags in cash on hand

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The weekend brought good news and bad for Rep. Howard Berman, who is gripped in a tough race against fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman for a San Fernando Valley congressional seat.

The latest campaign finance reports showed Berman has outpaced Sherman in fundraising since the 2012 election cycle began. Berman added some $500,000 to his coffers during the latest reporting period, bringing the total raised to almost $3.5 million. Sherman has reported collecting more than $2.7 million altogether. But, because he had stockpiled funds raised earlier and lent himself $700,000, Sherman has much more money in the bank—more than $3 million, compared with Berman’s $447,000—as the competitors move into the final months before the Nov. 6 election.

The so-called "super-PAC” supporting Berman, the Committee to Elect and Effective Valley Congressman, reported it was down to $7,800 cash on hand and was nearly $48,000 in debt. The group, which is allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts from donors so long as it does not coordinate its efforts with the candidate’s campaign, spent nearly $600,000 to support Berman during the primary.

Also Sunday, the Berman campaign fell just short of getting the 60% of delegates needed to win an official endorsement from the California Democratic Party. The 58.5%,  compared with Sherman’s 23.4%, certainly gives Berman bragging rights—Berman on Monday called the margin “a clear sign of our campaign’s momentum.” But it wasn’t enough to win him the money, campaign volunteers and other help an official endorsement could have brought.

Berman earlier had lined up backing from most of California’s top Democratic elected officials, including Gov. Jerry Brown and both the state’s U.S. senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

Sherman’s campaign, which had worked hard to deny Berman the state party endorsement, emphasized its 10-point margin over Berman in the June 5 primary and its considerable financial advantage.

“We feel very confident about our situation,” Sherman strategist Parke Skelton said in a statement issued Monday.

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--Jean Merl

Photo: Reps. Howard Berman, left, and Brad Sherman during their first candidates' debate in January. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times

 

 

Surprises shake up congressional races in the Inland Empire

Click for interactive primary results mapOne of the biggest upsets in Tuesday’s “top two” primary came in a San Bernardino County congressional race where the top Democratic candidate, Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, appears to have failed to collect enough votes to make it to the November runoff election, according to the preliminary ballot count.

The top two finishers were Republicans -- Rep. Gary Miller of Diamond Bar and state Sen. Bob Dutton of Rancho Cucamonga.  What makes it so surprising is that Democrats have a five-percentage-point edge in registered voters in the district, which spans from Redlands to Upland.

Democratic leaders in Washington were hoping to pick up the seat, one of a handful in California they consider critical to the party’s effort to recapture control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

INTERACTIVE MAP: California primary results

The race in the 31st Congressional District was tight: Miller nabbed 26.7% of the vote, compared to 24.9% for Dutton and 22.8% for Aguilar.

The remaining votes went to a trio of other Democrats on the ballot: Justin Kim, Rita-Ramirez-Dean and Renea Wickman. Combined, they received a quarter of the votes, siphoning support away from Aguilar, who was backed by the Democratic Party.

The Redlands mayor missed making it to November by slightly more 1,000 votes, according to the state’s preliminary election results. Some votes still need to be counted, however, including provisional and late-arriving mail-in ballots.

That congressional race was among the top targets of "super PACs" and other independent expenditure committees, which spent more than $1 million. The vast majority came from the National Realtors Assn., which backed Miller.

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Sherman questions Super PAC cable buy for Berman

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A so-called Super PAC has bought nearly $500,000 in cable television advertising to support Howard Berman, who is warring with fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman for  a San Fernando Valley congressional district seat.

The  Committee to Elect an Effective Valley Congressman bought political ads on several Time Warner Cable systems in the Valley, starting Tuesday and running up until the June 5 primary.

The Sherman campaign announced details of the purchase and raised several questions, including why the Super PAC had not listed other campaign expenditures in its report to  federal election officials and suggested that it was trying to hide the source of its contributors by waiting until  the latest filing period ended, on March 31, to make the  cable TV ad  buys.

Super PACs  can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to support or oppose candidates so long as the organization does not coordinate its efforts with the candidate; it is required to report donors and expenditures.

The Berman campaign said it knew nothing about the cable purchase because, by law, it cannot have contact with a Super PAC.   A representative of the Valley Congressman organization could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sherman made super PACs an issue early in the campaign by challenging Berman to disavow the at least two such organizations that have formed to support him.  Sherman wants Berman to sign a pledge that would help blunt the effect of Super PACS by requiring a candidate contribute to the U.S. Treasury an amount equal to whatever a Super PAC spends on his behalf.  Berman has dismissed the  pledge as a “grimmick.”

Both candidates have millions to spend on the race, which is widely expected to last into the fall  because of the state’s new primary system  that will send the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, to  the November general election.

One other Democrat and three Republicans also are on the ballot in this strongly Democratic district.

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--Jean Merl

Photo: Reps. Brad Sherman, left, and Howard Berman at a debate earlier this year.  Credit: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times

Brad Sherman campaign questions 'super PAC' role

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Rep. Brad Sherman’s political consultant thought he smelled a rat when he uncovered what he considered evidence of some possible — and illegal — collusion between  rival Howard Berman’s campaign and one of the “super PACs” that have formed to support Berman in the costly clash between the two Democratic congressmen for a single San Fernando Valley district seat.

Combing through the most recent campaign finance records filed with the Federal Election Commission, Sherman chief consultant Parke Skelton noticed that the Berman campaign had made payments to the same consultant used by the super PAC Committee to Elect an Effective Valley Congressman, one of at least two such organizations favoring Berman.  Super PACs may collect and spend unlimited amounts to  oppose or help elect candidates so long as their efforts are “independent” and they do not coordinate with the candidate’s campaign.

Skelton found the Berman for Congress Campaign had paid consultant Jerry Seedborg $132,000 while the super PAC incurred a debt of $23,595 to Seedborg’s company, Voter Guide Slate Cards.

"If my worst suspicions are true,” Skelton said in a news release Friday,  “then what we’re seeing is an outrageous example of the destructive role of super PACs in our democracy.  I am deeply concerned that this is evidence the Berman campaign is coordinating with a super PAC — and that would be clearly illegal.”

Not so, said Brandon Hall,  a senior advisor for the Berman campaign.

“Jerry Seedborg and the campaign parted ways almost two months ago,” said Hall, who would not publicly disclose the reason for the parting.   “We have no control over the actions of any independent expenditure efforts, as we are not allowed to coordinate with them.”

Sherman made super PACs an issue early in the campaign by repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, challenging  Berman to sign a pledge aimed at blunting their influence in the race, which is on its way to possibly setting a  record for spending in a House election.

Sherman had more success with another of his challenges in the increasingly contentious contest. He released copies of his 2011 federal income tax returns earlier this week and urged Berman to do the same.

On Friday, Hall said Berman would release his returns soon. And he added that Berman was looking “forward to getting back to the real issues in this campaign,” including the two congressmen’s sparring over who can  rightly take credit for expansion of the 405 Freeway.

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--Jean Merl

Photo: Reps. Brad Sherman, left, and Howard Berman at a candidates forum earlier this year.  Credit: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times

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