New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a busy man these days. But before Hurricane Sandy hit, he launched a political action committee that has dropped $2.5 million on last minute ads and mailers in an Inland Empire Congressional race.
Bloomberg’s political action committee, Independence USA, started spending money in Southern California a week ago, with $65 thousand on mailers supporting Democrat Gloria Negrete McLeod. She’s trying to unseat a fellow Democrat, incumbent Congressman Joe Baca in Ontario.
Day by day, more PAC money arrived. And then this week, more than $2.3 million for TV ads was reported by Bloomberg’s PAC to the Federal Election Commission.
The ad accuses Baca of siding with polluters and voting for a "dirty water bill." That bill was a GOP measure the League of Conservation Voters described as a “blatant assault” on the Clean Water Act. It passed the House, including a vote from Baca, but died in the Senate.
On Friday, Congressman Baca held a press conference, calling the ad “lies and distortion” and told Bloomberg to mind his own business — adding that the money would have been better spent on hurricane victims.
"Doesn’t Mayor Michael Bloomberg have more important things to worry about than a Congressional District in California?" Baca said.
In its mission statement, Bloomberg’s PAC says its purpose is to focus on candidates who are tough on gun control and education policy — no mention of environmental issues.
Martin Johnson, a political scientist at UC Riverside says in politics, your "strategic rationale doesn’t necessarily have to match with your communication." Johnson says Bloomberg's PAC may be targeting issues it thinks Congressman Baca is vulnerable on.
This year, the League of Conservation Voters gave Baca a 74% rating, down from 92% two years ago. Both the League and the Sierra Club declined to endorse either Baca or McLeod, a State Senator, in this race.
But just how effective is $2.5 million in ads just days before the election? Jack Pitney, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, says last minute appeals are seldom very powerful. "If they have dramatically new information," he says, "that’s one thing." But if it’s just another campaign appeal, "it’s a burp in a windstorm."
Pitney says nationwide polls show voters give environmental issues low priority and, in an economically stressed area like the Inland Empire, a vote on a water bill isn’t likely to make the top tier. He adds it may be too late anyway: one in three voters nationwide has already cast a ballot.