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State campaign watchdog releases list of top soft-money recipients

April 5, 2010 |  3:00 pm

A state agency has released a list of the top 10 legislative beneficiaries of independent campaign spending. The list, which dates back to the time the state's current campaign-finance laws were adopted in 2001, shows that outside groups have spent more than $15 million on just 10 candidates in those nine years.

The top beneficiary has been Orange County Democrat Lou Correa, who saw nearly $2.4 million spent on his behalf by outside groups in 2006, according to the list from the Fair Political Practices Commission. Correa is up for reelection this year and could find himself in yet another expensive campaign.

Increasingly, state contribution limits have driven big political donors to outside groups and coalitions. The money is funneled through independent expenditure committees, which have their own political consultants and campaign teams and are barred from coordinating with the candidate's campaign. But these groups are also free from the contribution limits imposed under Proposition 34, passed by voters in 2000.

But big money doesn't always buy victory. Two of the top recipients on the list were never elected to the Legislature. Democratic Senate candidate John Dutra, who came in third with more than $1.7 million spent on his 2006 race, lost in a Democratic primary. Chula Vista Republican John McCann received a $1.2-million helping hand from outside groups, but lost his 2008 Assembly race to Democrat Marty Block (D-San Diego).

You can see the entire list here.

-- Anthony York