While District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis’ fundraising trails that of her main opponent, Bob Brewer, she recently received a big boost from an influential local Indian tribe.

According to a campaign statement filed last week with the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, Sycuan Citizens for Good Government plunked down nearly $82,000 to pay for radio ads and slate mailers in support of the three-term incumbent. Specifically, the campaign statement lists four independent expenditures made on April 22:

  • Slate mailer: $5,593.05
  • Slate mailer: $7,063.90
  • Radio buys: $60,645.00
  • Slate mailer: $8,500.00

The statement doesn’t indicate which vendors received the money.

Sycuan Citizens for Good Government is a general purpose county committee–meaning that it exists for the purpose of making contributions and independent expenditures for and against multiple candidates–but the four pro-Dumanis expenditures are the only ones the committee has made in county races since 2010. The committee is sponsored by the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation.

When asked why an Indian tribe would be interested in a district attorney’s race, Sycuan spokesman Adam Day said it was all about supporting public safety.

“[Dumanis has] done a phenomenal job of protecting San Diegans from crime, lowering the crime rate and establishing new and innovative crime-fighting tools through specialized crime-fighting units,” Day said. “It’s all about protecting and preserving the public safety.”

Day also said that the expenditures were aimed at boosting Dumanis at a time when her fundraising is lagging that of her main opponent.

“[Brewer’s] out-raised her in campaign contributions,” Day said. “He’s loaned himself a rather large amount of money and he now has far more money through independent expenditure committees than she does as well.”

According to the latest available campaign statements (running through March 17), Brewer has loaned his campaign $96,000. A committee formed late last year specifically to support his candidacy–San Diegans for Better Justice–has raised $47,500.

Brewer can also count on the support of multiple law enforcement unions. At least one of those unions, the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association of San Diego County, spent more than $26,000 on bumper stickers and signs.

The Sycuan Band has long been a player in San Diego politics. Among their more recent contributions was a $10,000 contribution in January to the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC. The contribution came in the midst of a mayoral race that saw the Chamber’s PAC funnel $176,000 to an independent committee backing Republican Kevin Faulconer.

Day was non-committal when asked whether Sycuan planned to make further expenditures in the district attorney’s race, saying only, “It’s possible.”

INTERACTIVE: Click here for a searchable database of contributions in the San Diego County district attorney’s race.

Joe Yerardi is a freelance data journalist for inewsource, where he worked between 2013 and 2016 as an investigative reporter and data specialist. To contact him with questions, tips or corrections, email joe.yerardi@gmail.com.

2 replies on “Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation drops $82,000 into San Diego DA’s race”

  1. That is a lot of money to lay out, even for wealthy Indian tribe with successful gaming operations. Makes one wonder what the quid quo pro is. They are looking to get something from Dumanis. Let’s see if there is a bright investigative reporter out there who can figure out what is really up.

  2. Ms. Dumanis has certainly accumulated some very wealthy supporters during her three terms as DA and as a failed mayoral candidate: hundreds of thousands from a foreign donor, tens of thousands from a local tribe. One has to ask why? And why so much? We’ve all heard “there’s no free lunch.” Now it’s time to ask what do they expect in return?

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