Associated Press State & Local Wire
SACRAMENTO: The California Republican party has transferred nearly $1.2 million to Gary Mendoza’s campaign for insurance commissioner – more than double the amount the party has recently given to its candidate for governor, Bill Simon.
A consumer advocacy group on Tuesday criticized the contributions to Mendoza’s campaign – noting that it came days after insurance companies gave about $100,000 to the Republican Party.
The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights questioned the timing of the contributions to Mendoza because they followed several large donations from the insurance industry to the California GOP.
Both Mendoza and the Democratic candidate John Garamendi have sworn off contributions from the insurance industry. But, according to a recent report by The Associated Press, each has taken $50,000 from a subsidiary of an investment firm with major insurance industry connections.
Mercury Insurance, Farmers, Safeco and a large insurance brokerage firm, Elkins/Jones Insurance, recently contributed a combined total of $105,000 to the Republican Party, said consumer advocate Doug Heller. Within days, the party began moving funds to Mendoza.
“It looks to us like the insurance industry is using the Republican party as its Laundromat to give money to the insurance commissioner race,” Heller said.
Absolutely not, said Republican officials.
The Republican party has shifted money to several statewide candidates in the last few weeks with “the ones we believe have the best opportunity to win getting the lion’s share of the money,” said Rob Stutzman, spokesman for the California Republican Party.
“We believe Mr. Mendoza has a good opportunity to win,” Stutzman said.
Mendoza’s campaign also denied any connection.
The industry’s contributions to the state party “have nothing to do with us,” said Kevin Spillane, Mendoza’s campaign consultant.
That the party has given only half that amount to Simon doesn’t indicate that Republicans don’t expect him to win his race, Stutzman said.
The party has given Simon about $576,000 according to the latest campaign finance reports on file with the secretary of state.
Contributions to Simon are “handled differently,” he said.
The party’s donations to Simon have gone for get-out-the-vote activities, Stutzman said. Simon has raised funds himself for media campaigns.
But other candidates for statewide offices don’t have the clout to raise funds for expensive media buys, so the party is helping them, he said.
Tom McClintock, the Republican candidate for state controller, received $102,000 and Bruce McPherson, GOP candidate for lieutenant governor, got $266,000 last week, campaign disclosure records show.
Keith Olberg, Republican candidate for secretary of state, also got $266,000 last week.
Garamendi, the state’s first elected insurance commissioner who’s making a comeback attempt, has raised $3.1 million for his campaign so far, of which $2,452 came from the Democratic State Central Committee.
Before the recent infusion of party cash, Mendoza had raised $1.4 million.