Capitol Alert

Bloomfield spending in East Bay Senate race reported as all positive – is it?

Bill Bloomfield is a businessman, community activist and philanthropist. He has spent more than $1 million in the East Bay’s 7th Senate District race.
Bill Bloomfield is a businessman, community activist and philanthropist. He has spent more than $1 million in the East Bay’s 7th Senate District race. Ron Murray/

On paper, every penny of the $1 million that wealthy Southern California businessman Bill Bloomfield has spent in a hotly contested East Bay Senate race has been to support Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, according to Bloomfield’s required filings with the state.

But some of the mail (click arrow on photo) showing up in 7th Senate District voters’ mailboxes in recent days offers a decidedly negative image of Glazer’s May 19 rival, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord. “Vote No on Susan Bonilla's Special Interest Backers. Vote No on Dirty Politics,” reads one. Another Bloomfield-funded mailer knocks Bonilla for taking per diem and raising money during the final weeks of the legislative session – “the time when deals are usually being cut.”

State rules on outside spending by unions, businesses, doctors and other independent groups require them to disclose whether their spending supports or opposes a candidate. Most other outside committees active in the SD-7 race, such as the pro-Glazer “JobsPAC” and the pro-Bonilla “Working Families Opposing Glazer for Senate”, have reported both support and oppose expenses – sometimes for the same mailer.

Last year, two-thirds of the $79 million in reported independent spending was described as supporting a candidate, with one-third opposing a candidate. But in Bloomfield’s case, all but $123,000 of his $3.9 million in independent spending since January 2014 has been to support a candidate, according to his filings.

The Bonilla campaign accuses the Bloomfield campaign of “bending the rules” so Bloomfield can tell the media that he is only helping Glazer. In fact, the Bonilla campaign said, Bloomfield has paid to “smear Susan Bonilla with false attacks.”

“It’s all about transparency and truth in advertising, so that voters have all the information to be able to make educated decisions,” Bonilla campaign manager Josh Pulliam said of what he claims are Bloomfield’s inaccurate reports to the state.

A Bloomfield spokesman said the committee is following the law. Bloomfield consultant Kevin Spillane said the mailers respond to attacks on Glazer and are not “focused negative pieces which would constitute an oppose designation.”

“They all make an explicit reference supporting Glazer,” Spillane said in an e-mail. “Our legal counsel informs me they are quite comfortable with the classifications they have made to date.”

There has been nearly $2 million in outside spending in the East Bay race since the primary. That is on top of $2.4 million spent before the primary.

There is no record of the Fair Political Practices Commission penalizing an outside spending committee for inaccurately reporting how an expenditure supports or opposes a candidate. The commission declined to comment.

Call Jim Miller, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5521. Follow him on Twitter @jimmiller2.