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Friday, February 5, 2016

Celebrity donors pour money into California congressional seat

Director James Cameron, from left, actor Christopher Lloyd and
director Ivan Reitman have all contributed to candidates in the wide-open
race to represent the 24th congressional district in the Central Coast.

Perhaps the #1 Targeted Seat

(Los Angeles Times)  -  What do Christopher Lloyd, the director of “Ghostbusters,” one of the nation’s largest coal companies, James Cameron and a political action committee representing the nation’s dentists have in common? They all have opened their wallets to influence what is shaping up to be the hottest open-seat congressional race in California.

Among the four open seats in California’s congressional delegation, the race to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Lois Capps (Santa Barbara) is attracting some of the most attention. As the crowded field of at least seven candidates prepared to debate Thursday, here is a look at the dollars flooding the district.

2014 General Election

The Central Coast’s 24th congressional district

Capps’ retirement, and her daughter’s decision not to seek the seat, prompted a mad scramble in a peculiar district where Democrats have a slight advantage in voter registration — 37% Democratic, 34% Republican and more than 23% of voters choosing no party preference. Though President Obama carried the district by 11 points in 2012, tea party favorite Chris Mitchum — actor Robert Mitchum’s son — came within four percentage points of ousting Capps in 2014. A last-minute influx of $170,000 worth of attack ads and phone banking from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee may have saved the party an embarrassing upset.

This time around, Democratic Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal and 27-year-old Republican businessman Justin Fareed are building formidable war chests, hoping to make it out of the top-two primary on June 7.

It isn’t surprising that Carbajal leads the money race with just under $1.38 million raised over the course of the year and $970,309 in the bank. He has received Capps’ endorsement and a seal of approval from the party’s leadership — including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco). Over the weekend, he also won the support of 82% of local Democratic delegates giving him strong odds of winning the California Democratic Party’s backing at its convention later this month.

The lion’s share of his campaign’s money —$1.2 million — came from individual donors ranging from famous Santa Barbara County philanthropist Michael Armand Hammer to filmmaker Peter Douglas and hundreds of other donors. The most common profession listed on federal forms for Carbajal’s donors? Retired, attorney, president/CEO and owner.

Another sign of his strong establishment support: $134,096 of his campaign’s money has come from political action committees and leadership committees: $5,000 from House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer’s AmeriPac, $10,000 from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers PAC and $10,000 from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ fundraising PAC, called the Committee for Hispanic Causes/Building our Leadership Diversity PAC, or CHC BOLD PAC.

Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, a Democrat, is lagging far behind in the money race, though her campaign touts her support from women’s rights groups and a summer poll she conducted showing her leading Carbajal.

Schneider raised $479,183 in 2015 and ended the year with almost $246,947 in the bank. That means Carbajal raised $900,774 more dollars than the next best Democrat in the race.

Schneider boasts financial support from environmental activist Suzy Amis Cameron and her husband, “Avatar” director James Cameron. “Back to the Future” actor Christopher Lloyd gave $5,400 to Carbajal while the original “Ghostbusters” director, Ivan Reitman, gave to both Fareed ($2,500) and Schneider ($2,700).

Achadjian (L) and Fareed

Republicans Katcho Achadjian and Justin Fareed

Republican State Assemblyman K.H. “Katcho” Achadjian of San Luis Obispo is the fourth-best fundraiser — though he enters the race with perhaps the best name recognition among local voters. The former San Luis Obispo County Supervisor led both the poll released by Schneider’s campaign last year and one released by his own campaign this week, showing him with 20% of voters while the two Democrats each got 12%. The rest of the field all had less than 7%.

He raised just under $386,915 in 2015 and has $257,084 in cash on hand. He received $2,000 from the American Dental PAC as well as a few thousand dollars from other members of the state assembly, the San Luis Obispo County Wine Community PAC and the San Luis Obispo Deputy Sheriff's Association PAC. Achadjian received $345,000 from individuals, including several Central Coast businessmen. Among that group was developer Gary Grossman and vineyard owners George and Daniel Daou.

Fareed — who works for his family’s business, Pro Band Sports Industries Inc. — raised more than any other candidate in the last quarter with $438,353 to cap off a year with $869,398 raised. He ended the year strong with $767,265 in cash on hand.

He also received most of his money from individual donors, including Santa Barbara County Supervisor Peter Adam and investor Stephen D. Bechtel Jr., the former chairman of the Bechtel Corp.

He also has received support from GOP Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (Alpine) as well as Kentucky Rep. Ed Whitfield’s leadership committee, Thoroughbred PAC, which contributed $5,000. Fareed once worked for Whitfield in Washington, D.C. Murray Energy Political Action Committee, the political wing of coal mining giant Murray Energy Corp., gave Fareed’s campaign $5,000.

Fareed, who came 615 votes short of beating Mitchum in the 2014 primary to face Capps, is making a strong run for the seat. He hired Kay­la Berube, who was Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walk­er’s state polit­ic­al dir­ect­or in New Hamp­shire, to be his cam­paign man­ager. He also has hired Gridiron Communications as consultants — a firm that counts presidential hopeful Florida Sen. Marco Rubio as a client — and Harris Media LLC, an online and digital strategy firm that has worked for Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s presidential campaign, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud party.

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