Supporters of Bobby Shriver have set up two independent fundraising committees to help him in his contest for a seat on the powerful Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Wealthy supporters of Shriver, such as Oprah Winfrey, can give unlimited amounts of money to the committees, Friends of Bobby Shriver for Supervisor and Citizens Committee to Elect Bobby Shriver. That means the sky's the limit for spending in what already was expected to be an expensive contest.
"Independent expenditures are what we call the new money in California politics,” said Autumn Carter, executive director of the non-partisan think tank California Common Sense. “Sometimes, spending by independent committees can dwarf the campaigns.”
Election law limit Shriver supporters to $300 donations to his campaign because he rejected voluntary spending limits. But they can give unlimited amounts to the independent committees, which are not directly controlled by the candidate. Shriver, the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy, is well connected to entertainment industry figures with the capacity to write big checks.
Shriver's main opponent is former state legislator Sheila Kuehl, who has years of fundraising experience.
In addition to the money he’s raised, Shriver has donated $300,000 to his campaign.
In a debate last week, Shriver said he was forced to reject spending limits because Kuehl is better known. "I haven't had the long-term name recognition that some others have had,” he said.
Shriver suggested Kuehl has her own independent committees. But she doesn't, as Kuehl pointed out.
"I think it sort of fudges the issue a little bit,” Kuehl said of Shriver’s comment.
Kuehl doesn't need independent committees, thanks to Shriver. Because he rejected the spending limits, her supporters can donate as much as they want directly to her campaign. And some have. The California Nurses Association last week gave her $75,000.
The primary election is June 3.