Tuesday, June 3, 2014

ELECTION SPECIAL: Lots of Rich Californians Want Your Vote Today

California Gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari and his ax
It's election day in eight states, but as usual my eyes are on California, my home state, where the Top-Two primary system gets another tryout. Top Two, which was passed four years ago, allows California voters to ignore political labels, cross party lines and pick whichever candidate they like most. Gee, what a concept.

But perhaps the most interesting thing about today's otherwise garden-variety non-presidential election, whose turnout is expected to be historically low, is that a whole bunch of really rich folks on the ballot are desperately trying to buy their way in. New data released by MapLight, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that addresses money's influence on politics, reveals that 16 candidates on California's ballot have contributed more than $100,000 to their own campaigns. 

Doesn't do much to dispel the notion that Californians are narcissists, does it?

Of these 16 moneyed candidates - 11 Republicans, 5 Democrats - their contributions make up, on average, just over 50 percent of the overall amount raised by their campaigns, according to MapLight numbers, which are based on summaries submitted by candidate committees in Form 460 reports as of May 14.

Republican Neel Kashkari, pictured above wielding his trusty ax, is the biggest of the big spenders. Kashkari - yes, that's appropriately his real name - whose TV ads have been airing non-stop in recent days, contributed $1 million to support his not-so-Quixotic bid to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown and sit in Sacramento's comfiest chair. And he just gave himself another $1 million, post Maplight's analysis, according to the Sacramento Bee.  

It appears to be paying off for Kashkari, a former Goldman Sachs executive and Bush Administration official who looks like a cross between Howie Mandel and Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movies. He's taken a slim five-percent lead (18 percent to 13 percent) over Tea Party rival and former border vigilante Tim Donnelly in the most recent poll commissioned by the Los Angeles Times and the USC Dornsife school. He trailed Donnelly just a few weeks ago. 

If that poll result holds up today, Kashkari, who says that if elected he will invite more oil companies to drill here, would go into a runoff with Brown, who polled at 50 percent. Now that would make for some lively debates.

Running a distant second in the "I like me" stakes is California Democrat Derek Cressman, who in his pursuit of the Secretary of State gig has spent $353,900 of his own money, according to MapLight. Meanwhile, Assembly candidates Jay Obernolte and Karina Onofre's personal contributions both embarrassingly make up approximately 95 percent of the total amounts taken in by their campaigns, according to MapLight.

But easily the most recognizable big-spending candidate in this primary is Sandra Fluke, the attorney and activist who was unfairly and harshly criticized by many on the right for testifying in favor of requiring employers to cover birth control in their health insurance plans. Rush Limbaugh rudely called her a "slut."

Fluke is among a crowded field of candidates in California's 26th Senate district, which encompasses the Los Angeles area. We'll find out today if her 15 minutes of fame combined with $100,000 from her own deep pockets - who knew? - will lead to success at the polls or prove that she really is a fluke. 

By the way, one of Fluke's opponents in the race, Amy Howorth, also spent more than $100,000 on her own campaign. But as far as I can tell, no one's called her any names.


  1. You make politics fun to read! Most days I can't stomach the ridiculous child-like behavior of politicians & their monopoly money.