As the June primary approaches, special-interest bucks are rolling into California legislative races. At the top of the corporate money heap here is ex–Democratic assemblyman Juan Vargas, running for a seat in the state senate after three years as an influence peddler for Safeco Insurance and its successor company Liberty Mutual. While in the assembly, Vargas was widely viewed as a close ally of the insurance business, which has been a source of recent contributions. As of March 17, he had raised $74,000 this year for his 40th District primary campaign against Assemblywoman Mary Salas, leaving him with $139,362.29 in the bank.
Donors included the Personal Insurance Federation of California PAC ($3900); California Casualty Indemnity Exchange ($3900); Farmers Services LLC ($3900); Mercury General Corporation ($2000); Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company ($1000); Anheuser-Busch ($3900); California Bankers Association ($3900); BNSF Railway Company ($1300); California Medical Association ($7800); California Dental PAC ($7800); and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees ($2500). David Malcolm, the ex–port commissioner and mortgage broker who served time in state custody after copping a plea to conflict-of-interest charges, gave $3900, as did his wife Annie.
One local legislator who isn’t running this year is nevertheless stocking up on cash for the future. A committee named Friends of Chris Kehoe for Assembly 2012 raised $23,450 on behalf of Democrat Kehoe, an ex-assemblywoman who is termed out of her current state senate seat in two years. There were no individual donors, just a well-heeled gaggle of unions, Indian tribes, and corporations, including BNSF Railway ($1300); Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians ($1000); California Association of Highway Patrolmen PAC ($1300); Genentech, Inc. ($1000); McDonald’s California Operators PAC ($1300); and Time Warner Cable ($900).