Ad Watch: Ad linking Richard Pan to Koch Brothers misleads

An independent group backed by trial lawyers, environmentalists and nurses has sent out a campaign mailer attacking Assemblyman Richard Pan in his race to represent the Sacramento region in the state Senate. Those interest groups are supporting Pan’s Democratic colleague, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, as they vie against Republican Jonathan Zachariou for the top two spots to advance to the general election. Following are excerpts of the ad and analysis by Laurel Rosenhall of The Bee Capitol Bureau.

Mailer: “The billionaire Koch brothers made their fortune on petroleum, chemicals and fertilizers. Now, they are using their estimated $40 billion each for political influence to further their corporate and personal agendas. One of those who received their support: Assemblymember Richard Pan.

“Koch Industries, a privately held company principally owned by the Koch brothers, has given contributions to two California-based PACs known as FairPAC and CMTA. Both of those PACs have contributed to Richard Pan’s campaign for Senate and are spending outside money to get him elected.”

Analysis: Linking candidates with businessmen Charles and David Koch has become a common campaign practice across the country for Democrats attacking Republicans. This mailer is trying to appeal to liberal voters and position Pan as the more conservative of the two Democrats in the race.

But the connection the mailer draws between Pan and the Koch brothers is misleading because the financial link it cites is weak.

It is true that Koch Industries gave $6,800 to the California Manufacturers and Technology Association PAC in 2013, and that the CMTA PAC gave Pan $1,000 the same year. But the Koch contribution amounts to less than 9 percent of the political donations CMTA has received this election cycle. And Pan was one of more than 50 politicians whose campaigns the PAC supported during that time.

CMTA also gave $5,000 to another PAC called Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy, which supports many business-friendly Democrats. That PAC spent $5,910 to benefit Pan this year.

The claim that the Kochs also supported Pan through FairPAC is even more misleading, because the committee returned two contributions it received from Koch Industries. Campaign finance reports show that Koch Industries gave FairPAC $6,800 in 2013 and $6,500 in 2012. FairPAC returned those sums to Koch Industries in December 2013. During 2013-14, FairPAC gave Pan four contributions totaling $4,000.