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Outside Spending Grows in Final Days of State Senate Race

Ben Allen for State Senate

Richard Bloom For State Assembly 2014
Richard Bloom for State Assemblymember 2014

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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

June 2, 2014 --There has been a spending frenzy by outside interests in the final days leading up to Tuesday’s primary Election for the 26th State Senate District, which includes Santa Monica.

More than $1.5 million in so-called independent expenditures have been made in the campaign for and against four of the eight candidates (seven Democrats and one independent) in the race, including hundreds of thousands of dollars spent in the past week.

Most affected since May 23 in the campaign has been former Assembly member Betsy Butler, who has been the target of opposition efforts costing more than $176,000. 

This spending includes more than $120,000 on television ads by Alliance for California’s Tomorrow, a California Business Coalition and more than $56,000 on mailers by medical interest groups.

Butler has also benefited from outside help, with the Peace Officers Research Association of California spending $40,000 this past week on radio ads and consulting in support of her candidacy. The Torrance Police Officers Association spent $1,190 to promote Butler earlier in the campaign.

While direct contributions to candidates’ campaigns are capped at $4,100 for individuals and $8,200 for so-called small committees, there is no limit on independent expenditures, as long as the individuals and groups spending the money do not collaborate with a candidate.

Those who are spending money to oppose Butler have also made independent expenditures in favor of her opponents.

Alliance for California’s Tomorrow, a California Business Coalition, has campaigned for Manhattan Beach Mayor Amy Howorth with more than $227,000, including $100,000 in the past week. 

Various groups fund Alliance for California's Tomorrow, including cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris and a committee led by 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.

Medical interests have spent more than $510,000 in support of Vito Imbasciani, who is the State surgeon of the California Army National Guard.

Republican-turned-independent Bill Bloomfield continues to add to his spending total to support Santa Monica-Malibu school board member Ben Allen, despite the two men having no known relationship.

Bloomfield added nearly $150,000 since May 23 to bring his total spending to more than $586,000.

Also this week, a new campaign began in support of Howorth by Independent Voter PAC, which spent $3,500 on Facebook and Google ads. The group has received funding from various pharmaceutical and energy interests.

A candidate in this campaign who has not been helped by independent expenditures is Patric Verrone, former president of the Writers Guild of America, West. He blasted the outside spending this week in a blog on his campaign site.

“Corporate spending on politics has grown to the point where it is overwhelming people’s voices in elections … There is no real democracy if corporations can buy and sell elected officials with what are, in effect, unlimited contributions,” Verrone wrote.

This race does not feature an incumbent because Ted Lieu is seeking a congressional seat. The top two vote getters Tuesday will advance to the November General Election.

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