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Hancock Leads Chan in Large Contributions

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 09:31:00 AM

With 14th District Assembly-member Loni Hancock pulling away in last-minute large campaign contributors over her rival for the Democratic nomination for the State Senate District 9 seat, former 16th District Assem-blymember Wilma Chan, and a controversy brewing over an anti-Hancock campaign mailer sent out by urban casino interests, the two campaigns traded charges last week over hypocrisy in their fund-raising strategies.  

The main controversy was over more than $40,000 in contributions being funneled to the Hancock campaign through the California Democratic Party. 

In the campaign fund-raising race, key to getting out last-minute literature and funding election day get-out-the-vote activities, the Daily Planet reported three weeks ago that Hancock and Chan were virtually dead even in large campaign contributions in the two and a half months since March 15, with Hancock pulling in $60,050 in large contributions in the that period to $50,340 for Chan. 

Since then, Hancock’s large donor fund-raising efforts have been blowing Chan out of the water, with Hancock raising $133,270 to Chan’s $26,400. And the gap is rising, with Hancock outraising Chan $41,770 to $6,000 in large donations in the last week alone. 

The figures come from a Daily Planet analysis of large contributions in the Senate 9 races posted daily on the California Secretary of State’s website. The postings show contributions of $1,000 or more since that time, and the totals do not reflect the total amount of contributions made to each campaign. Complete donation reports including all contributions and cash on hand are due in the secretary of state’s office this week. 

Leaving out donations coming to Hancock directly from the California Democratic Party, which has endorsed her, top contributions for Hancock during the last three weeks include $7,200 apiece from the California Federation of Teachers COPE and the California Teachers Association for Better Citizenship, $6,200 from the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California PAC, and $3,600 from the California Applicants’ Attorney Association Small Contribution Committee, CBS Outdoor, Vik’s (East Indian Market) Distributors of Berkeley, and the Professional Engineers in California Government PAC. 

Chan received $3,600 apiece from the Asian Americans for Good Government PAC, the Cooperative of American Physicians State PAC, SEIU Local 1000 PAC, and the Carol Liu for Senate Committee of Pasadena. 

But donations through the California Democratic Party alone have been one of the keys in Hancock’s recent fund-raising domination in the Senate 9 race. 

As a result of her endorsement by the party organization, Hancock has received $41,670 in the last three weeks in large donations through the state party, $15,270 more than Chan’s entire large contribution total for the same period. 

And that has caused the Chan campaign to cry foul. 

In a telephone interview, Chan campaign spokesperson Dave Chilenski said that the Democratic Party contributions to the Hancock campaign are a “loophole” that allows Hancock to circumvent state campaign finance law and hide the names of donors to her campaign, as well as allowing individual donors to make donations to Hancock’s campaign larger than the $3,600 limit. 

“We asked Loni Hancock to pledge to reject any money that came through this loophole,” Chilenski said. “But she wouldn’t take the pledge.” 

In a letter sent to her Senate campaign rival last February, Chan cited specific concerns about the California Democratic Party contributions, saying that “there is no way to determine which donations to the Democratic Party were used to directly benefit a particular candidate...Therefore, a party endorsement provides the opportunity for the most blatant form of a dirty money loophole and insider money games.” 

The accompanying “Clean Money Pledge,” signed by Chan, says that she will “direct my supporters and campaign staff to honor this pledge and I will not accept contributions of cash or in-kind services via this loophole.” 

In response, Hancock campaign manager Terry Waller called the issue “absolute bullshit” and said the pledge was “cheap publicity.”  

“Anyone can come up with their own pledge,” Waller said. “[Chan] knew she wasn’t going to get the Democratic Party endorsement, so she made up a pledge out of whole cloth.” 

In addition, Waller accused Chan of “hypocracy” in her stand on clean campaign finance. 

“Loni has agreed to the legitimate state pledge to stay within the $724,000 campaign spending limit,” Waller said. “Chan first agreed to accept that pledge, but when she refiled in February, she withdrew her commitment to the spending limit. That’s circumventing the desires of the citizens of California to limit the amount of money spent on political campaigns.” 

Waller also accused the Chan campaign of accepting “huge sums of money” from independent expenditure committees, which allow campaigns to hide the true source and amount of individual contributions, which Waller said was the same complaint Chan was making about the Democratic Party contributions to Hancock. 

Waller said that in recent weeks, the Chan campaign has sent out “at least five expensive mailers” paid for by the Partners for Wilma Chan independent campaign committee, or paid for in large part by the California Medical Association Small Contribution Committee. She said that there is no way to identify the individual donations to these groups that eventually went to benefit the Chan campaign. “If [Chan] was concerned about hidden campaign contributions, she’d stop these independent expenditures,” she said. 

Waller added that Hancock’s goal is to get private money out of California political campaigns completely, “and that’s why Loni continues to be in the forefront in calling for public financing of campaigns.”