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Outside Spending Ramps Up As Tuesday’s Election Approaches

The San Diego County Registrar of Voters Office in Kearny Mesa, May 30, 2014.
Michael Schuerman
The San Diego County Registrar of Voters Office in Kearny Mesa, May 30, 2014.
Outside Spending Ramps Up As Tuesday’s Election Approaches
Outside Spending Ramps Up As Tuesday’s Election Approaches GUESTS:Jill Castellano, reporter, inewsource

Maureen Cavanaugh. It's Friday June 1st. Our top story on Midday edition one of the big factors and sometimes the deciding factor in politics is how much money a candidate can raise. This primary season PBS news partner eye news source has been following the money not only how much politicians are raising but where it's coming from. Joining me is Jill Castellano reporter with News Source. And Jill welcome. Thank you. We're getting down to the wire and this is the time when politicians really dig into their war chests on advertising and campaigning isn't it. It definitely is. Now's the time to spend any money you have leftover. It's just a few days from the election. It's the final push to get voters attention. Voters are finally so close to the election day they're really seriously thinking about who they're going to vote for. They're paying more attention to advertisements that they might see slipped under their door or commercials they might see on TV. It's definitely the time to step up and spend a lot of money. And we're definitely seeing a lot of money spent on commercials specifically in these big races. Tens of thousands of dollars of airtime just to get in front of these voters faces the 14th Congressional District is considered one of the most competitive races in the country since House Republican Darrell Issa decided not to run for re-election. There is a wide field of candidates in that race. What have you been tracking about which candidates are raising and spending the most money. Well it's pretty interesting the top two candidates in fundraising are people who've mostly funded their own campaigns. We have Paul Kerr and Sarah Jacobs two Democrats Paul Kerr has raised four point four million dollars which is a lot of money but about two million of that is coming from himself. Money he's given himself for his campaign and then Sarah Jacobs about two point two million dollars raised over a million dollars of her own money going into this race. These are people who really want to win. Now how much money is being spent in this race by outside groups looking to support candidates. It's quite a lot of money in total. These candidates have raised about 11 million dollars to support their own campaigns over a dozen candidates. But we've seen about five point eight million dollars in additional spending by these outside groups. These are people who as long as they don't coordinate with the campaigns they can spend unlimited amounts of money supporting people that they want to be elected. So for example Sarah Jacobs she's a former nonprofit CEO a Democrat. She's gotten the most money from outside groups a group called Women Vote has spent two point three million dollars supporting her campaign. And this has happens to be a group that has received about 250000 dollars from Sarah Jacobs grandfather in donations. Billionaire and Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs. So you can kind of see the way that these outside groups can affect the races. Now we've been talking about the district attorney's race over the past few weeks since New York billionaire George Soros started spending thousands of dollars to support Genevieve Jones right. What's the update in that race. Seth Jones right is the Democrat. She's the deputy public defender the challenger in this race. She's raised about 242 thousand dollars total but a whopping two point two million dollars has been spent to support her campaign by these outside groups. And most of that money is coming from a single group. This California Justice and Public Safety PAC funded by George Soros. As of today it's been about over two million dollars spent on commercials and digital advertising to try to get her elected in office. And one thing that we have seen is that the Union Tribune reported that the Soros PAC is actually started canceling its commercials in these days leading up to the election. We're not totally sure why that is but it's pretty interesting as of this week a recent poll has shown that Stephin is in the lead about a 20 point lead over Jones right. But you never know. So where is summer Stefans money coming from. Stephens money. A lot of the outside money going to support her campaign has been from the San Diego Deputy District Attorneys Association. This is a group of people who actually work for the district attorney and they're really really supporting her campaign over 440000 dollars spent supporting her and eighty nine thousand dollars on commercials opposing Jones right like negative ad campaigns in the county supervisors race for District 4 which covers most of the city of San Diego. Two Democrats are being backed by different labor unions. What's the story there. So Nathan Fletcher the Democrat is being backed by the San Diego Imperial County Labor Council and that's a group that his wife Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher used to be the head of. They've given through one PAC about eleven thousand dollars to support him but spent about two hundred and forty one thousand dollars to oppose the other leading Democrat in the race. Lori Saldaña meanwhile Lori Saldaña is being supported by the Working Families council and that's a labor union that broke off of the labor union supporting Fletcher and they've spent about a hundred and sixty seven thousand dollars supporting her. And another one hundred twenty nine thousand dollars opposing Fletcher so it's quite a battle between these labor unions and who they'd prefer to be in office. Can you wrap this up for us. Why has a news source been so keen on tracking the money in this primary. What does the information tell us. I think one of the most simple things that it can tell us is who stands to benefit from a politician being in office. So if we take an example let's say all the hotel developers in San Diego happen to back and spend hundreds of thousand dollars supporting the same candidate in a city council race that might tell you something about the priorities for that candidate might tell you that the developers would benefit from that candidate being in office. And so through these kinds of connections through the money in politics we can learn about the politician's priorities. Probably more than what the politicians tell you their priorities are. I've been speaking with news source reporter Jill Castellano. Jill thank you.

With the election Tuesday, groups are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in San Diego County’s most competitive races.

These groups are allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money as long as they don’t coordinate with candidates’ campaigns. And they’re spending big in three races: the 49th Congressional District, county district attorney and county Board of Supervisors District 4.


Will that outside money make a difference in swaying voters? Jessica Levinson, a campaign finance expert and professor at Loyola Law School, said the donors certainly think so.

“Even a billionaire doesn't like to just go out to the street and set money on fire,” Levinson said. “They want to spend because they think it can make a difference.”

Click here to visit the inewsource outisde spending datatabase.
Click here to visit the inewsource outisde spending datatabase.

The outside spending can also be a good guide for voters. By paying attention to who’s putting their money behind the candidates, voters can see who might stand to gain from a certain politician being in office.

“I think arguably it’s a lot more useful than an endorsement, for the voters, because they can look to see who's really willing to put their money where their mouth is,” Levinson said.


49th Congressional Race

The 49th District is considered one of the most contested congressional races in the nation this year, after Republican Darrell Issa decided not to seek a ninth term. Democrats hope to flip the seat by putting their money behind four candidates: retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate, environmental lawyer Mike Levin, business owner Paul Kerr and former nonprofit CEO Sara Jacobs.

Jacobs has gotten the most outside help in the race — a group called Women Vote! has spent $2.3 million to support her campaign. As a candidate, Jacobs has raised $2.2 million, including almost $1.6 million of her own money.

Women Vote! is a super PAC that has spent more than $4.5 million this election cycle supporting female Democratic candidates for Congress who support abortion rights. The PAC has received at least $250,000 in donations from billionaire and Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, Sara Jacobs’ grandfather.

Meanwhile, $1.8 million has been spent by outside groups to oppose Republican Assemblyman Rocky Chavez of Oceanside. The groups have spent the money on commercials, door hangers, mailers and other negative ad campaigns.

A Survey USA poll conducted in April for the Union-Tribune and 10News showed Chavez leads the other candidates with 16 percent of the vote. Outside groups have spent more than $408,000 to support him, and he has raised $233,000 for his campaign.

The $279,000 in outside spending supporting Levin has come from retired Los Angeles businessman Bill Bloomfield, who has spent millions of dollars in California’s political races since 2014.

In total, candidates in the 49th District have raised more than $11 million and seen more than $5.8 million in outside spending.

District Attorney’s Race

The DA’s race has turned into a spending war between four groups supporting interim District Attorney Summer Stephan and four other groups backing Deputy Public Defender Geneviéve Jones-Wright.

Stephan has raised $561,000 for her campaign and received $835,000 in support from outside groups. Most of her outside help has come from the San Diego Deputy District Attorneys Association, which has spent $444,000 supporting her and another $89,000 on commercials opposing Jones-Wright.

Jones-Wright has raised $242,000 and received $2.2 million in support from outside groups. Most of the outside spending for her has come from the California Justice & Public Safety PAC, a group funded by billionaire New York investor George Soros. The PAC has spent more than $2 million on commercials, digital ads and canvassing. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported on Wednesday that the Soros-funded PAC had canceled all of its remaining commercial airtime on her behalf.

A poll conducted this week by Survey USA for the Union-Tribune and 10News shows Stephan with a 20-point lead over Jones-Wright — 45 percent to 25 percent, with the rest undecided.

4th District Board Of Supervisors Race

The race to replace termed-out Republican Supervisor Ron Roberts has turned into an expensive battle between two opposing labor-backed PACs.

Elect Lori Saldaña, a PAC sponsored by the San Diego Working Families Council labor association has spent about $167,700 supporting Saldaña, a Democrat. The group has also spent almost $129,400 opposing the candidacy of Democrat Nathan Fletcher.

A second labor-backed group, San Diegans Opposed to Hypocrisy & Lori Saldaña, has spent about $241,800 opposing her.

Fletcher and Saldaña are both former Assembly members and failed mayoral candidates. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported in March that disagreement over which candidate to back in the race resulted in a high-profile split among San Diego labor groups.

Fletcher has also been opposed by $338,800 in spending from a PAC sponsored by the conservative Lincoln Club.

Fletcher has faced the most opposing outside money, but he’s also been the most successful at fundraising with more than $487,000. The Voice of San Diego also reported last week that he’s getting substantial help from the San Diego County Democratic Party. An inewsource analysis shows the party has spent more than $797,000 since March on his behalf.

Saldaña has raised about $38,000.