More and more these days, political committees are taking on a life of their own, outlasting the campaigns they were created for by years and raking in thousands of dollars in contributions on behalf of elected officials who raise the cash from those who have a special interest in one issue or another. Reformers have long tried to outlaw the practice, saying it is an open invitation to corruption, but thus far they have had no success.
A recent example is furnished by GOP San Diego County supervisor Bill Horn, reelected to office in November 2010, yet still collecting money for that campaign to pay off creditors. According to Horn’s most recent financial disclosure, filed last month, the campaign fund was very busy last year, raising $78,432 and making total expenditures of $95,233, leaving it with cash in hand at the end of 2011 of $1145, along with outstanding debts of $15,450.
Five-hundred-dollar maximum donations to Horn included those from Urban Land Institute associate Molly Chase of Los Angeles; former San Diego mayor Dick Murphy aide and lobbyist John Kern, now at an address in Williamsburg, Virginia; Newport Pacific vice president Christine Cavanaugh; Christopher Garrett of Latham & Watkins; J & J Properties associate Amy Brothers; Sycuan tribal treasurer LaShunna Davidson; Sycuan tribal councilmember Henry Murphy; ex–GOP assemblyman George Plescia, listed on Horn's disclosure as a consultant to California Policy Advisors, a Sacramento lobbying and government affairs firm; Southwest Strategies accounting clerk Constance Ziegaus; mega-developer Scott McMillin; and Phillip Schott of El Macero, near Sacramento, a government relations specialist at Schott & Lites Advocates, Inc.
The two Sycuan donations, as well as an additional $250 contribution from tribal project manager Cody J. Martinez, came on the same date, July 5, in the midst of intense lobbying of the board of supervisors for approval of the tribe’s controversial move to annex the 1350-acre former Singing Hills Golf Course to the reservation. Last month the supervisors voted unanimously to drop their opposition to Sycuan’s plan in exchange for various financial and environmental concessions made by the tribe, though critics say the deal will still result in a loss of tax revenue to other local agencies.
In the second half of 2011, according to its statement, the campaign fund paid Horn campaign consultant Tom Shepard & Associates $10,500. Shepard’s firm was still owed $7500 at the end of the year. Another creditor, the campaign accounting firm of Scott & Cronin, received $3070 in debt repayment and was still owed $650. Horn also made a payment of $4500 on a $10,000 debt to campaign manager David Graham, a onetime supervisorial aide, leaving a remaining balance due of $5500 and one more reason for Horn to continue soliciting funds for the 2010 campaign in 2012.
This item has been updated to clarify George Plescia's employment status at the time of his contribution to the Horn campaign.