Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Bloomberg's PAC spends $2.5 million against Democratic Congressman Joe Baca

Mayor Bloomberg And Islanders Owner Announce Plan For Team To Play In Brooklyn

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has launched a political action committee that is pouring big sums of cash into races around the country, including an Inland Empire Congressional contest.

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.

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Bloomberg money bomb drops in Corona Congressional race

Mayor Bloomberg And Islanders Owner Announce Plan For Team To Play In Brooklyn

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at a press conference on October 24, 2012, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

The Mayor of New York came through. Michael Bloomberg created his own political action committee, Independence USA, and promised to help select House candidates around the country who support tougher gun control measures.

New filings with the Federal Election Commission show Bloomberg's PAC spent nearly $200,000 on a race in the Inland Empire. The latest FEC report shows two expenditures: $65,000 last Tuesday and another $130,000 on Thursday to pay for campaign mailers that support Democratic State Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod in her race to unseat incumbent Democratic Congressman Joe Baca in Corona.

On this year's NRA report card, the National Rifle Association gave McLeod a "D," describing her as an "anti-gun" candidate; Baca, described as "generally a pro-gun candidate,"got a "B+." When Baca first ran for Congress in 1999, the NRA named him one of its “Defenders of Freedom.” Nearly all other California Democrats in Congress get an "F" rating from the NRA.

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Nearly all big campaign donations come from tiny fraction of population

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Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

Rep. Joe Baca, D-CA, is running for re-election against a fellow Democrat, California State Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod.

There’s been a lot of talk about political action committees and the jaw-dropping amounts they’re spending on campaigns.  If you sift through candidates’ filings with the Federal Election Commission, you'll discover that just a tiny fraction of contributions come from friends and neighbors within Congressional districts.

Because of California’s new election rules, two Democrats are running against each other in Corona.  Incumbent Congressman Joe Baca is being challenged by State Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod. The campaigns combined have raised just over a million dollars.

It’s not a huge amount of money, compared to other contests. But the donor base reflects a common pattern in Congressional races.

For Baca, 60 percent of his money comes from political action committees — mostly farming, telecom, and labor groups.  McLeod gets less than 20 percent of her money from PACs, mostly from Emily’s List and other organizations that support women candidates.

But buried in that pot of money for both candidates are thousands of dollars from lobbyists and consultants — donations described as “individual contributions.”

Sheila Krumholz is executive director of the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. She says lobbyists have "long played the money-in-politics game." She calls it a cost of doing business.

Changes in federal law have made it more difficult for lobbyists to pick up the tab for a meal, but it does not restrict their ability to give money to a candidate's campaign.  Krumholz says many lawyers should be lumped into this category — particularly those with a D.C. address, since they serve as de facto lobbyists. 

Krumholz calls them "Washington animals." She says they know how to work the system, how to navigate the halls of Congress, "and they know the power of personal connection, how to use their contacts."

One way to build up that rolodex is to work both sides of the aisle. Lobbyist David Turch, for example, wrote a check to Joe Baca for $1,000.  But he’s also given to GOP Congressional candidate John Tavaglione in Riverside.  Over the years, Turch has contributed to Californians from both parties: Democrats Dianne Feinstein, Lucille Roybal-Allard, and Janice Hahn; as well as Republicans David Dreier, Darrell Issa, and Elton Gallegly.

Baca’s opponent, McLeod, has lobbyist money as well. All four partners of the Sacramento firm Lang, Hansen, O’Malley, and Miller each kicked in $2,000 to her campaign. The firm represents clients as varied as Facebook, Walmart, Hollywood Park, and the City of San Clemente.

Melanie Sloan of the D.C.-based watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics says when lobbyists contribute, it’s not exactly quid pro quo.  It’s about building a relationship and access. Wanting to give back, she says, is human nature: "You’re likely to help people who’ve helped you."

Sloan says if a lobbyist has helped retain your seat and bundled lots of contributions, "you as a member of Congress, because you’re a human being, are just going to feel grateful and more likely to at least give that person a hearing."

Baca and McLeod each raised more than $15,000 from lobbyists and consultants — but from two different cities.  Most of Baca’s come from Washington, where he’s served in Congress since 1999. Most of McLeod’s are from Sacramento, where she’s been in the state legislature since 2000.

Meredith McGehee, policy director of the Campaign Legal Center, a non-profit that enforces campaign finance laws, says the shocking thing isn't that lobbyists and consultants give, "It’s that if you really look at the number of people generally who give $200 or more in federal elections, it’s .26% — far less than even one percent of the population."

Meaning most large campaign contributions come from a small pool of givers. And now, McGehee says, the Citizens United decision has made it possible for special interests to do more than just make a $2,500 individual contribution to a candidate: they can give an unlimited amount to a political action committee. 

Joe Baca's FEC information can be found here:

Gloria Negrete McLeod's FEC information can be found here:

 

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Michael Bloomberg's PAC could boost challenger in Ontario Congressional race

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AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, second from left, is behind Independence USA, a political action committee that will support candidates willing to crack down on illegal weapons.

Seems like everybody’s creating a political action committee this year — from Stephen Colbert to the brother of a Fullerton Congressional candidate.  Now, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is getting into the Super PAC act. And his support could help a Democratic challenger unseat a Democratic Congressional incumbent in the Inland Empire.

Bloomberg made the announcement on his website. He’ll spend at least $10 million supporting gay marriage ballot propositions, as well as moderate local and Congressional candidates on both sides of the aisle who work in a bipartisan manner.

The New York Times identified one of those candidates as California State Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod, who's running for Congress. She first heard the news after returning to her office from a funeral. She says there were "tons of e-mails" telling her about an article in the Times.  "And I said, 'About what?'”

Because of California’s “top two” election system, McLeod is running against another Democrat, incumbent Ontario Congressman Joe Baca. He was both shocked and surprised by the news and asked, “Why am I being attacked from the East Coast and Bloomberg?”

The issue is guns. Bloomberg says he’ll support candidates who will crack down on illegal weapons. When Baca first ran for Congress in 1999, the National Rifle Association named him one of its “Defenders of Freedom.” On this year's NRA report card, the group gives Baca a “B+” grade — described as “generally a pro-gun candidate.”

Baca says he believes in protecting the Second Amendment of the Constitution — the right to bear arms. He says it’s important to uphold that right, "But I also believe that we need to focus on firearms that fall into the wrong hands."

Most California Democrats in Congress rate an “F” from the NRA. Baca points out McLeod got a “D,” which the NRA gives to "anti-gun" candidates who usually support restrictive gun control legislation.

But McLeod's position on guns sounds similar to Baca’s. She says she also believes in the Second Amendment: "My husband is a former police officer so we, in fact, do have guns.  They’re put away in a safe. I don’t have a problem with legitimate people having guns as long as they’re registered and they know how to use them."

Baca — who won the primary by nine percentage points — has raised $900,000 for his campaign, with nearly $300,000 in cash to spend in the last few weeks before the election. McLeod has raised less than a third of that amount, with less than $100,000 in cash on hand.

An infusion from Bloomberg could make a difference to McLeod’s campaign, but she notes it would be an independent expenditure. "I have absolutely no control" of that kind of contribution, she says.  "I can’t even see it. I don’t know anything about it, they can’t coordinate with me."

McLeod says this isn’t the first time the promise of campaign PAC money has been rumored.  In the primary, there was talk of money for candidates challenging incumbents. It never materialized for her.

Attempts to get a response from Mayor Bloomberg and his Independence USA PAC were unsuccessful. 

 

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Hispanic Caucus picks favorites in California House races (updated)

Emergency room physician Raul Ruiz is running against Republican incumbent Mary Bono-Mack in a Coachella Valley district that includes Palm Springs.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is ostensibly a bi-partisan body that in the past has had Republican members. But it has none at the moment, so it's no surprise that the caucus’ political action committee is spending money on two races where Democratic Latino challengers are facing off against vulnerable Republicans.

The Committee for Hispanic Causes/Building our Leadership Diversity PAC, or CHC BOLD PAC, sent $10,000 apiece to emergency room doctor Raul Ruiz, who is running against Palm Springs Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack, and former astronaut Jose Hernandez, who is challenging Fresno Republican Jeff Denham. 

In a race for an open seat, L.A. City Councilman Tony Cardenas got $6,000. He's running against David Hernandez, who heads the San Fernando Chamber of Commerce and is running as an independent. In the June primary, Cardenas finished well ahead of Hernandez, 64% to 22%.

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