Last-minute political expenditures made in local campaigns are often an indication that the people spending the cash don’t want their identities to become an issue with voters. The tactic works well because local media outlets — which aren’t aggressive in reporting campaign money in the first place — are usually entirely missing from the election beat once the campaign ends. Last week’s late campaign disclosure filings provided several intriguing examples.
For instance, on Monday of last week, the day before the election, the Sycuan Indian tribe reported spending $29,991 for “survey research and GOTV” (political parlance for “get out the vote”) activities on behalf of San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders. Considering the relatively narrow margin of Sanders’s low-turnout primary victory, the extra voters Sycuan got to the polls may have made the critical difference in helping Sanders avoid a runoff with failed challenger Steve Francis. As a so-called independent expenditure, the effort was exempt from a law barring corporations from making contributions to San Diego city candidates. It also got around the $320 restriction on personal contributions. Sycuan owns the U.S. Grant Hotel and is also lobbying hard to annex a big chunk of property next to its reservation in the hills above El Cajon, so Sanders’s goodwill is apparently worth big money; the mayor has in the past appeared in TV spots promoting the tribe.
In addition, on May 22, state filings show, Sycuan funneled $25,000 to a so-called slate mailer sponsored by the Lincoln Club of San Diego County, a pro-growth group of local GOP fat cats. The money was reported to be in support of the Sanders-backed Propositions A, B, and C. On top of that, on May 27 the tribe gave $25,000 directly to the pro-ABC committee.
In another late round of tribal giving, the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians gave $50,000 to the state Democratic Party on June 2, the day before the election. And one more last-minute contributor was Wal-Mart, the controversial big-box retailer from Bentonville, Arkansas; on May 30, the company gave $15,000 to the county Republican Party, which backed Sanders and city attorney candidate Jan Goldsmith, along with Carl DeMaio’s winning race for city council and April Boling’s council battle with former TV anchor Marti Emerald, now headed for a November runoff.
In one other example of a last-minute contribution, on June 2, beer-brewing giant Anheuser-Busch of St. Louis, which owns SeaWorld, quietly dropped $10,000 into an L.A.-based campaign group calling itself the Committee for Community Values. That shadowy organization had only days before given $27,000 to Auday Arabo’s Democratic primary bid to replace termed-out GOP assemblywoman Shirley Horton. Arabo, a former prosecutor who now works for a mini-mart lobbying organization, came in third in the race, won by San Diego community college board chairman Marty Block, whose campaign was largely backed by members of the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ bar.