Campaigns spending big on advertising as election nears

By Ryann Grochowski | inewsource

Campaign money is useless unless it’s spent.

And local super PACs are on a spending spree with mere hours left until Election Day. In the past week alone, these political committees have spent nearly half a million dollars on television air time. Those ads are hitting your TV screens now.

Super PACs, formally known as independent expenditure committees, can raise and spend virtually without limits. The only catch is these committees may not coordinate efforts with the candidates they support.

Candidates and PACs filed their final pre-election finance reports Friday. Various super PACs supporting San Diego’s two mayoral candidates, Councilman Carl DeMaio and Congressman Bob Filner, reported raising more than $770,000 in only 12 days. The fundraising period spanned Oct. 21 to Nov. 1.

Those PACs raised the bulk of their money from big donors. The Lincoln Club of San Diego, a pro-business political organization that’s endorsed DeMaio, gave $297,000 to San Diegans for Reform in Opposition to Bob Filner. The Lincoln Club is the PAC’s major donor; it’s given the committee $843,000 this year.

The two major super PACs supporting Filner also are raking in six-figure donations, mostly from various labor unions. The AFL-CIO gave San Diegans in Support of Bob Filner $100,000 two weeks ago, bringing their total given to $500,000.

Overall, super PACs working to elect Filner have the fundraising lead. Those PACs have raised more than $2.1 million. Those working to elect DeMaio have raised more than $1.5 million.

These super PACs spent most of their money on television air time and ad production, but they’ve also spent big on consulting services, campaign mailers, and print and web advertising.

The candidates themselves have done their fair share of fundraising and spending in the weeks leading to the election, though on a smaller scale. Individual donations to candidates are capped at $500 per election.

DeMaio’s been the fundraising leader this entire election, and this past period was no different. The councilman reported raising $305,000 from Oct. 21 to Nov. 1, bringing his total raised to $3.63 million. DeMaio has given his campaign about $700,000 this election; Filner $25,000.

Meanwhile, Filner has yet to hit one million in cash raised. He brought in about $80,000 this period, moving his total to nearly $990,000. The congressman reported spending only $30,500 this period, compared to DeMaio’s $535,000.

In the District 1 council race, businessman Ray Ellis far outraised his opponent Sherri Lightner this period. Ellis reported bringing in about $44,000, compared to incumbent Lightner’s $3,855 in cash. Ellis, a Republican, and Lightner, a Democrat, are fighting for the only council seat on the ballot. Whoever wins District 1, which includes La Jolla, Torrey Pines and Del Mar Heights, will dictate the political party majority of council.

Though Friday marked the final finance reporting deadline, candidates and committees are still required to report large contributions and expenditures daily up to Tuesday’s election.

It’s worth mentioning that DeMaio and Filner super PACs aren’t the only super-spenders in play. National super PACs have been pouring money into the 52nd congressional district race between incumbent Republican Brian Bilbray and Democrat Scott Peters.

As of Sunday, super PACs have spent a total of $8.4 million on the highly competitive congressional race. Of that money, $7.9 million has been spent on negative advertising or efforts to oppose a candidate. More has been spent to oppose Peters than Bilbray.

Like the local super PACs, these committees have virtually no fundraising or spending limits. The bulk of the contributions have come from Democrats’ and Republicans’ congressional campaign committees.

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