While a granddaughter of a La Jolla billionaire Democrat spent a chunk of her sizable inheritance coming in third in the North County open primary to replace departing Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, a fund with unknown donors cleaned up with a stealthy strategy to keep the seat in GOP hands by knocking a Republican San Diego County supervisor out of the running.
Well-heeled advocates for Democrat Sara Jacobs, including her grandfather, Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, plowed their so-called independent money into a high-profile campaign, including a write-up in Cosmo, a pose of the 29-year-old candidate with a beaming Barack Obama, and TV endorsements by border area congressman Juan Vargas and Kensington's Susan Davis, neither stellar names in Issa's 49th District.
Meanwhile, a political outfit once linked to the conservative Koch brothers of Wichita, Kansas played another kind of game. According to numbers compiled by OpenSecrets.org American Future Fund Political Action weighed in with $304,459 for Orange County Republican Diane Harkey, a member of the state board of equalization, and $366,004 on behalf of Assembly Republican Rocky Chavez, both vying for the seat.
To clear the way for its two GOP favorites in the crowded field, campaign disclosure filings show American Future spent $121,700 to take down another Republican, county supervisor Kristin Gaspar. She had entered the race playing up her backing of Donald Trump and his anti-immigration efforts, including a White House meeting with the president himself.
Precisely who is currently funding America Future's efforts is difficult to determine. "American Future Fund Political Action is a federal political committee which primarily helps members elect candidates who reflect our values through a variety of activities aimed at influencing the outcome of the next election," says the group's website.
But details are hard to find.
The Kochs' political funding network was widely reported to have decamped American Future after a 2014 California fundraising scandal, and American Future's latest available quarterly disclosure report, filed March 31 with the Federal Election Commission, shows just $2935 cash on hand, with debts and other obligations of $92,647.
Somehow though, on May 29 of this year, American Future paid $70,000 to FP1 Strategies of Alexandria, Virginia for digital advertising against Gaspar. In addition, a firm called Creative Direct of Richmond, Virginia got $25,850 on May 30 for anti-Gaspar "voter contact mail" work, according to the filings.
The grand total of $792,163 spent by American Future on San Diego's North County congressional contest amounted to the bulk of the entity's $1,079,710 in spending so far in the 2018 election cycle, disclosures show.
California primary results weren't all good for American Future, which spent $122,460 on Scott Baugh, who lost out to 48th District GOP incumbent Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.
On the other hand, in the 39th District, GOP businesswoman Young Kim, backed by American Future with $111,510, came in first over Democrat Gil Cisneros. Republican Bob Huff, on whose behalf American Future spent $53,577 in the same race, per OpenSecrets, placed sixth. Harkey will face off in November against Democrat Mike Levin, who edged Sara Jacobs for a shot at the Issa seat.