In the Sacramento mayor’s race, there’s a big blowup because former state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg transferred $1.4 million from his statewide account. His main rival, City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby, has gone to court and is railing about outside special interests.
But what voters should be more exercised about are the independent expenditure committees bankrolled by unions and business groups. They can spend as much as they want, and they’re why mailers are flooding mailboxes.
In reports filed as of Thursday, Protecting Sacramento, an independent committee funded by the city firefighters’ union, said it had spent more than $115,000 on mailers promoting Ashby, a loyal supporter. It had $30,000 in the bank as of May 21.
On the other side, three committees funded by business, trade and construction groups reported spending about $210,000 on Steinberg’s behalf, including mailers, phone banks, canvassing and consulting.
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It’s not as much as what the campaigns are spending, but it certainly helps them get their message out.
That money is an investment in the next mayor by vested interests that have a lot at stake.
The city firefighter contract is up in 2018. Besides salary increases, such contracts largely determine potential cost savings and efficiencies, such as civilian paramedics in ambulances or reining in pension and retiree health costs.
Building and trade groups are looking to cash in on the city’s burgeoning development, especially downtown and in Natomas as the building moratorium ends. The pace of construction will be determined partly by rules set by City Hall, which is also looking at renovating the Community Center Theater and expanding the Sacramento Convention Center.
Legally, independent committees are not supposed to coordinate with the candidates they’re backing. But sometimes, it’s awfully hard to tell because the messages in the mailers are so similar.
For instance, an Ashby mailer highlights her work to improve emergency response times; one from Protecting Sacramento claims response times have been reduced by three minutes in her Natomas district.
A Steinberg piece highlights his endorsement from Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, among others. Two different mailers from the State Building and Construction Trades Council use the exact same laudatory quote from Feinstein, who says he “isn’t afraid to tackle the tough issues.”
Both Ashby and Steinberg are playing by the rules. But voters should be aware of the special interests who are backing them with lots of cash.