Money and Politics, Part Deux

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Two weeks ago, I painfully detailed the 74th Assembly District money raised by Assemblyman Allan Mansoor and Newport Beach Councilmember Leslie Daigle.

This week, I’m going to painstakingly look at the Newport Beach City Council races and that crazy Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce’s Business and Political Action Committee (or BACPAC).

Let’s start with the fun one first.

Last year, I wrote eloquently about the BACPAC.  All of you should have read it, but just in case you didn’t, let me summarize …

Each Chamber member has the option of donating $30 (a hard number … no more, no less) to the Chamber’s Political Action Committee.  The dough goes into the Chamber’s general fund and then the Chamber transfers that money to BACPAC’s bank account on a random and willy-nilly basis.

NEVER has the amount transferred from the Chamber to the Political Action Committee been divisible by $30. For instance, according to the Campaign Disclosure Statement for the second half of 2011, the Chamber transferred $2,287 to the PAC.  During the first half of the year, the Chamber transferred $3,430.  None of those figures are divisible by $30, nor is the aggregate Calendar Year contribution of $5,717.

So any accountant will tell you that the Chamber is either not transferring enough of their members’ $30 contributions into the Political Action Committee bank account, or it is transferring too much.

Further complicating matters are the cash dollars that the City of Newport Beach is giving/gifting/subsidizing to the Newport Beach Chamber, because if members’ money is going to the Political Action Committee, what do you think the chances that the City’s money is ALSO going towards political causes?

City Manager Dave Kiff is now asking for an audit, so the Chamber just completely separated its Political Action Committee from its Chamber’s operations to get out of any appearance of co-mingling.

Too little, too late, as far as I’m concerned.

Also, the issue is far from being resolved, since complaints to the IRS and the California Franchise Tax Board have been initiated by local activist Bob Rush in an effort to get the Chamber’s nonprofit status revoked … so stay tuned to that one.

Now, for the fall City Council races, Steve Rosansky’s District 2, Ed Selich’s District 5 and Keith Curry’s District 7 seats are up for election.  While Curry and Selich are running for re-election, Rosansky is termed out, leaving that seat up for grabs.

So far, Selich has raised nothing, but has $5,950 still in the bank from his 2008 election.  He ran unopposed then, and chances are he’ll be unopposed again.  Gotta love Democracy, right?

Curry also raised nothing, but loaned his campaign $150 (primarily to pay his treasurer), ending the year with $101.72 in the bank.  Will anyone run against Keith?  Probably not. Keith is a great fundraiser and in line to be Mayor again,, and running against an incumbent and two-time Mayor would be pretty difficult, if not quixotic. But, based on the history of District 7, you never know.

For the District 2 open seat, only Tony Petros has announced and raised any money, bringing in a respectable $13,048 in contributions, and loaning his campaign $1000 to get the ball rolling.  However, Petros – with only rumored competition – already spent almost half of his contributions ($6,130.63), most of the dough going to his very capable and very high-powered consultant, Dennis DeSnoo.

In comparison, 2010 City Council candidate Ed Reno, facing only rumored candidates at the time, had raised $17,266.98, with over $15K in the bank by the end of his first report in 2009, while eventual winner Rush Hill wouldn’t start raising money until February 2010.

Petros does need to keep his foot on the gas – in case anyone else does jump in, and to discourage that from happening. But perhaps he should start to curb his income/expenses ratio, because if it continues to cost him 50 cents for every dollar raised, any thrifty opponent would be able to match his cash-on-hand pretty easily and then really make it a race come November.

While I really like Tony, that race has still yet to develop.


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