A Sacramento judge on Thursday rejected calls from mayoral candidate Angelique Ashby demanding rival candidate Darrell Steinberg return cash that he transferred into his campaign fund.
With the primary election just days away, Ashby’s camp had called for an injunction that would force Steinberg to surrender $220,000 moved from his lieutenant governor campaign into the Sacramento mayor’s race. Ashby claimed the cash would cause irreparable harm to the councilwoman’s campaign.
But Sacramento Superior Court Judge Raymond Cadei called the possibility of harm “speculative at best” in handing down his ruling from the bench. Cadei said Ashby was unable to demonstrate any harm and said there was no evidence to show any future violations would take place.
“I do not find any basis for filing any injunction for the expenditure of funds,” Cadei said in declining a preliminary injunction.
Following the hearing, Steinberg spokesman Jason Kinney derided Ashby’s effort as “throwing legal Jell-O” on the wall.
“This was probably a waste of time and resources, but we’re going to keep moving forward,” Kinney said. “The law’s not on their side.”
Ashby’s camp claimed victory despite the Thursday ruling since Steinberg agreed in a May 26 declaration not to spend the cash transferred into the mayoral campaign before the June 7 primary. The amount is roughly equal to the councilwoman’s entire fund, according to her campaign.
Ashby attorney Andy Rockas argued in court that California law requires candidates who were defeated or withdrew from a general election to refund general election contributions to their donors.
“Today we were able to successfully prevent Steinberg’s campaign from using over $220,000 in illegal campaign contributions in the Mayoral primary – money that never should have been funneled from his state war chest into a local race,” Ashby spokesman Josh Pulliam said in a statement.
“All we wanted to do was prevent him from being able to use this money,” Pulliam said.
In the one-page declaration, filed with the court in May, Steinberg also said he would return any contribution to any donor who objected to the money going toward his run for mayor.
Kinney said the declaration “affirmed what we said all along.”
Estimating Steinberg’s war chest at slightly more than $1 million, Kinney said the campaign “has no intent of spending all the money.”
“We spent enough money to get his message out,” Kinney said, calling Steinberg’s election effort “fundamentally a grass-roots campaign.”
Rockas said by bringing the issue to court, his client’s campaign is keeping Steinberg accountable.
“What we seek is to maintain the integrity of the political process,” Rockas said.