Musical cash

When it came to raising and spending campaign money, it was a busy first half of 2009 for termed-out Democratic assemblywoman Lori Saldaña. She spent the $11,898 remaining in her 2008 reelection kitty on a variety of miscellany, including a $500 contribution to the 2009 campaign of L.A. city councilman Paul Koretz; $273 for a staff lunch at the 4th Street Grille in Sacramento; and $1004 paid to the Altarum Institute of Ann Arbor, Michigan, for “reimbursement — airfare, women conference forum.” (Altarum bills itself as a “nonprofit health systems research and consulting organization serving government and private-sector clients.”)

During the same period, over in her “Lori Saldaña for Board of Equalization 2010” committee, the assemblywoman raised $1600 from the Pechanga Indian tribe. Saldaña spent that money, along with the committee’s previous cash balance of $3482, on more miscellaneous expenses, including $158 to cover a fund-raising–related bill at La Crema Winery, $144 for a staff dinner meeting at Pizza Nova, and $791 for “appetizers only” at Pyramid Brewery in Sacramento.

Meanwhile, through her “Lori Saldaña for Senate 2012” committee, Saldaña raised $21,775 and spent $15,169; the funds were contributed by big corporations and other special interests, including AT&T, the California Nurses Association, Consumer Attorneys PAC, and Genentech. She gave $1000 of the loot to San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council Committee on Political Education and then spent much of the rest on personal items, including a $2650 “seminar” at the JFK School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts; $453 to JetBlue for airfare to Boston for a “women in government” conference in May; and $1450 at Cambridge’s Charles Hotel.

Saldaña tapped yet another of her political committees, her Assembly “office holder” account, for $3658. Contributors to that committee included the California Tow Truck Association and the California State Council of Laborers PAC. Expenses included $172 at Spataro restaurant in Sacramento for a “meeting to discuss fundraising” and a $500 contribution to the ACLU Foundation of San Diego.

As it turns out, Saldaña apparently doesn’t intend to run for either the state senate or the Board of Equalization; instead, she announced late last month that she will take on Ron Roberts in his presumptive reelection bid for the Fourth District seat on the county board of supervisors next year.

But Saldaña isn’t the only one with multiple campaign committees. Notes the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission in a recent news release, “Candidates and potential candidates for state offices in elections slated for 2010, 2012 and even 2014 raised more than $60 million in the first six months of 2009.” It adds that “While this practice is legal, it can often be difficult to ascertain the total amount raised or spent by a given candidate because of their ability to maintain multiple committees.” Another local with a big campaign balance is former Democratic assemblyman Howard Wayne, who at the end of June reported having $81,481 in his “Wayne for State Senate 2012” committee, according to the Secretary of State’s website. Wayne has declared for next year’s race to succeed Donna Frye on the San Diego city council.

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Honestly -- and that may be the wrong word for this cloudy topic -- I never knew an office-holder could maintain many different campaign committees, raise money in each and then apparently spend it as they wish or for a completely different race. What are the rules for this practice? Actually, are there any rules beyond reporting requirements? Should we be grateful that Lori Saldana is being nice to her staff and improving her education with this money? Can she roll the remaining money into her supervisorial race against Ron Roberts? She will really need it.

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