It’s down to the final week of the campaign, the time when special interests that don’t want their contributions widely reported — at least not until after the election — start dumping money into the efforts of their favorite candidates and issues. This year is no exception, with San Diego County’s Republican Party leading the way. On October 20, for instance, the local GOP reported it spent $11,263 on an independent mailer for Phil Thalheimer’s race against Sherri Lightner in the city council’s First District. It also laid out $8434 for April Boling in her Seventh District race against Marti Emerald.
Under city law, political parties and labor unions can’t give money directly to campaigns; a state law allows them to make so-called independent expenditures on behalf of candidates as long as messages are sent only to members. The parties also don’t have to abide by the City’s ban on corporate contributions and its $270 limit on contributions to individuals. That opens a big loophole through which corporations can pour hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The same day the GOP made its expenditures for Thalheimer and Boling, it received $5000 each from the Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association PAC of Sacramento and S. Lew & Associates of San Diego, run by ex–port commissioner and real estate investor Susan Lew. On October 21, downtown hotelier Doug Manchester gave $31,257. On October 24, Qualcomm, Inc., gave the Republicans $5000. And Blackwater Lodge and Training, builder of a controversial military and police training facility on Otay Mesa, contributed $5000 on October 26.
For its part, big labor was putting its money into two Chula Vista City Council races. On October 20, a group called San Diego Works!, sponsored by the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, spent a total of $5182 on printing on behalf of the campaign of Pamela Bensoussan, running in the Third District. It spent the same for incumbent Fourth District councilman Steve Castaneda. Both oppose a plan by Chula Vista mayor Cheryl Cox to build a nonunion convention complex on the waterfront.
The San Diego County Democratic Party also got into the act, spending a total of $74,010 on behalf of San Diego Third District city council candidate Stephen Whitburn, running against fellow Democrat Todd Gloria. The party also spent $18,953 for First District candidate Sherri Lightner. And as of October 18, it had put $231,891 behind Marti Emerald. Party efforts for incumbent city attorney Mike Aguirre got much less: $29,728.