Outside groups seen as crucial for Joel Anderson in San Diego supervisor race

State Senator Joel Anderson (L) in an undated courtesy photo and San Diego county Supervisor Dianne Jacob at the Board of Supervisors meeting at the San Diego County Administration Center on July 21, 2015 (R). Credit: Megan Wood/inewsource.

Republican State Senator Joel Anderson’s campaign to dislodge fellow GOPer Dianne Jacob from her seat on the county Board of Supervisors in next June’s election has struggled to attract significant local funds, according to an inewsourceanalysis of campaign finance data covering the first six months of the year.

State senator Joel Anderson is challenging fellow Republican Dianne Jacob, who has represented East County on the county Board of Supervisors for more than 20 years. His success may depend on large donors financing an independent committee that doesn’t have to follow local campaign contribution limits.

Between Jan. 1 and June 30, Anderson raised $253,890 with 79 percent of the funds coming from a single $200,000 contribution from the San Diego County Republican Party back in early March.

Anderson’s campaign finance report, filed July 31 with the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, represents the first test of the state senator’s fundraising capacity since he filed paperwork in early February to run for the District 2 seat, which covers mostly unincorporated areas stretching from La Mesa in the west to Imperial county in the east and Julian in the north to the Mexican border in the south.

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Representatives for Anderson did not return calls and emails for comment.

The county GOP endorsed Anderson, who easily won reelection to his senate seat last November, in early February. U-T San Diego (now the San Diego Union-Tribune) reported that party leaders were upset with Jacob and three of her four fellow supervisors for approving a $25,000 per-election limit on how much political parties can contribute to county candidates (parties could previously contribute unlimited sums of money).In addition, large developers who hold significant sway in the party have long been upset with Jacob’s aversion to high-impact development in rural East County.

The party made its $200,000 contribution on March 4, the day before the limits went into effect.

Tony Krvaric, chairman of the San Diego County Republican Party, declined a request for an interview, writing in an email that “I’m confident Senator Anderson will have the resources he needs to run a successful race, and there’s a long time between now and June.”

Key Points

1. A single contribution from the county Republican Party accounted for almost 80 percent of State Sen. Joel Anderson’s haul of $254,000 in the first six months of the year.

2. Political watchers say Anderson would likely depend on support from independent expenditure committees not bound by local campaign finance limits to run ads on his behalf.

3. County Supervisor Dianne Jacob raised $221,000 and finished the first six months of the year with $544,000 in cash on hand.

4. Sixty percent of Anderson’s funds came from people living outside the second district compared to 41 percent of Jacob’s funds.

A possible lifeline for Anderson

San Diego County imposes strict limits on direct contributions to candidates. Individuals may only contribute up to $750 per election. Contributions from corporations, labor unions, political action committees (PACs) and other non-individuals are banned. (The one exception is for political parties.)

Anderson, a state senator since 2010, has long relied on sources other than individuals for the bulk of his campaign cash.

From his failed 1998 run for state assembly through his 2014 reelection as a state senator, just 18 percent of Anderson’s contributions has come from individuals, according to data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics. The vast majority was raised in the form of contributions from PACs, corporations and other non-individuals that are banned from contributing to supervisorial candidates in San Diego.

That, say experts, leaves one avenue for Anderson to tap: the support of independent expenditure committees.

These committees cannot contribute directly to candidates. They can, however, spend money on their behalf. These “independent expenditures” are things like radio commercials, mail pieces and internet advertising that support or oppose candidates for office.

Anderson’s First Half Fundraising

  • Contributions (including non-monetary/in-kind): $253,890
  • Expenditures: $16,194.46
  • Current cash-on-hand (as of June 30): $271,720.54

Unlike candidates for county offices, independent expenditure committees can accept contributions in unlimited amounts from PACs, corporations, unions and practically any other source.

The only restriction on such committees is a prohibition on coordinating with candidates or political parties.

Brian Adams, a political science professor at San Diego State University, said that prohibition won’t present a big problem for Anderson.

“All it takes is a couple of big donors to form a (committee) and to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on his behalf and the playing field is level in that sense,” Adams said. “I certainly think it’s a possibility that the reason why his individual fundraising is low is that he knows—or at least he’s hoping—that some of his allies are going to form a (committee) and spend money independently on his behalf.”

Chris Crotty, a local political consultant who works primarily for Democratic candidates and is not involved in the race, said Anderson is probably already laying the groundwork for such a campaign.

“His fundraising pitches are going to be ‘I can only raise ($750) per individual but if you want to max out to me and you want to give more, then call this person’,” Crotty said.

Jacob campaign “aggressive” in fundraising

For her part, Jacob, who was first elected to the board of supervisors in 1992, pulled in about $221,000 in the first six months of the year. When combined with her sizable warchest from previous campaigns, she had $544,000 in cash on hand at the end of June.

Tom Shepard, Jacob’s campaign consultant, said the possibility of a pro-Anderson independent expenditure effort was part of the reason the supervisor had been “aggressive” in fundraising so far out from the election.

Jacob’s First Half Fundraising

  • Contributions (including non-monetary/in-kind): $221,456.52
  • Expenditures: $52,482.30
  • Current cash-on-hand (as of June 30): $543,613.41

“The primary election’s not until June of 2016 and Dianne was quite active in raising funds over the past six months and will continue to be,” Shepard said. “We’re doing that in the recognition that our opponent doesn’t have to play by the same rules that we do.”

In addition to the $200,000 contribution to Anderson’s campaign, the county Republican party has the option of spending an unlimited amount of money on so-called member communications. Those communications can include pamphlets and direct mailers to registered party members and they are allowed to coordinate with their endorsed candidates on the contents of these communications.

SDSU professor Adams said that Anderson isn’t in such dire straits.

“What matters with fundraising is reaching a minimum threshold to get your message out to voters,” Adams said. “I look at those numbers and I say ‘Joel Anderson is raising enough. He’s raising enough money to get his message out.’”

Out-of-district money flows into race

Both candidates received large proportions of their contributions from outside of the second supervisorial district.

Jacob raised 41 percent of her money from outside of the district, $88,731 out of $216,237 in itemized contributions (those donations for which individual contributor information, including address, must be disclosed).

Shepard chalked that number up to energized support for Jacob among women throughout San Diego county in the wake of remarks by Krvaric, the county GOP chairman, that the party’s sizable donation to Anderson was meant to push Jacob, the board’s sole woman, into retirement.

“I think part of that is a result of the fact that there’s a very active group of women who organized several events in support of Dianne’s candidacy, many of whom didn’t live in the second district but who were offended by what they perceived as an attack on the only female member of the board of supervisors,” Shepard said.

The campaign finance reports do not indicate the gender of a donor.

Anderson was even more reliant on out-of-district money. He raised 60 percent of his money from outside of the district, $31,495 out of $52,625 (excluding the $200,000 contribution from the county Republican party). Forty-four percent of that out-of-district money came from residents of the city of San Diego.

Both candidates received at least 90 percent of their contributions from within San Diego county.

A changed climate for money in local politics

Adams, who has studied the role of money in local elections, said the second district race is something of a poster child for the increasing role money plays in local races.

“Twenty years ago, if you were running for local office or even state office, almost all of your money came from individuals. You had some money from PACs and businesses and so forth,” Adams said. “Now, you have a situation where you’re getting a large amount of your financial support from independent expenditures from those PACs and unions and businesses and so forth that are spending the money independently.”

Crotty, the local political consultant, said the cost of county supervisorial races is higher than ever. And that means relying on such independent campaigns.
“I think to be competitive in a county supervisor’s race today, you almost are forced to consider an independent expenditure campaign,” Crotty said. “The districts are so large and you have to reach so many people in so many different ways…that it’s necessary to spend half a million or a million and upwards to communicate your message districtwide.”

Joe Yerardi is an investigative reporter and data specialist at inewsource. To contact him with questions, tips or corrections, email joeyerardi@inewsource.org or call (619) 594-5321.

By agreement, The Grapevine publishes investigative, in-depth data-driven journalism from independent non-profit inewsource based at San Diego State University’s School of Journalism and Media Studies. For more from inewsource, visit http://inewsource.org/about/.