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John Hrabe: Quirk-Silva Received $292K in 18 Days via Democratic Central Committees from Blue Shield, Disney, AEG, Aecom, Tom Daly, CSEA, AFSCME Local 685, UDW, CAHP, CDF Firefighters, SW Regional Council of Carpenters, or How AD-65 Really Was Won

Posted by Newsletter Reprint on November 29, 2012

John Hrabe published this piece on his blog and republished it on the Flash Report.

Regardless of your opinion on the propriety of these donations, it’s clear Quirk-Silva’s monetary infusion led to her victory.  $292,000 via Democratic Central Committees overwhelmed $50,000 via Republican Central Committees.

(Note: This article may be republished, provided it is attributed to the author, John Hrabe, with a link to its original url.)

Democrat committees funneled special interest money to O.C. candidate

Special interest groups circumvented state campaign finance laws by using Democrat Party committees to funnel more than a quarter-million dollars to a crucial Orange County assembly candidate, an investigation has found.

In a span of 18 days, late in the campaign, six Democratic county central committees contributed $292,200 to the Assembly campaign of Sharon Quirk-Silva, who defeated Assemblyman Chris Norby, R-Fullerton, by fewer than 5,400 votes. The hundreds of thousands of dollars in last-minute campaign funds secured Quirk-Silva’s election and helped Democrats gain their first super-majority in both houses of the state legislature since 1883.

Irony Alert: Quirk-Silva accused Norby of supporting special interests.

The county party committees made the contributions to Quirk-Silva’s campaign within days and, in some cases, within hours of accepting contributions from the state’s most powerful special interest groups, including labor unions, corporations and a Los Angeles development group.

The Quirk-Silva campaign denies any wrongdoing or coordination of campaign finances between special interest groups and county party committees.

“The Sharon Quirk-Silva for Assembly campaign never requested more than the legal limit from any donor,” said Jason Mills, Quirk-Silva’s campaign manager. “The campaign had no discussions with any of the outside groups listed seeking to arrange contributions larger than what is required under California state law.”

State Campaign Finance Law Allows Parties to Serve as Cash Conduits

Individuals and businesses are limited each election to a maximum contribution of $3,900 per candidate. However, political party committees can accept substantially more than state candidates — $32,500 per election. Political parties can also transfer unlimited funds to state candidates. This system of campaign finance regulations allows parties to function as the middleman for interest groups seeking to support state campaigns.

The state Fair Political Practices Commission, which is responsible for enforcing the California Political Reform Act, has described this strategy as “money laundering” in a similar case involving two Republican legislators. In October, the FPPC alleged that Tom and Bill Berryhill circumvented state campaign finance rules by transferring funds through two Republican central committees during the 2008 campaign.

An FPPC spokeswoman said that the agency “cannot comment on a specific situation,” but confirmed no complaints have been received in the Quirk-Silva case.

Quirk-Silva’s victory has been called the “key to achieving the coveted supermajority” for state Democrats. When asked by the Voice of OC about the significance of Quirk-Silva’s upset, Assembly Democratic spokesman Steven Maviglio said, “This was the prize that made it happen.”

Given the state’s strict campaign finance limits, how could Democrats funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to a candidate in the final weeks of the campaign?

Same-Day, Same-Dollar Contributions to Central Committees

Campaign finance records show a pattern of large campaign contributions from special interest groups to party committees that were quickly transferred to Quirk-Silva.

On November 2, healthcare giant Blue Shield of California sent $25,000 to the Del Norte County Democratic Central Committee. The very same day, the party transferred the same amount, $25,000, to Quirk-Silva’s campaign.

On October 17, the Del Norte committee also accepted a $25,000 check from PACE of CA School Employees Association, a labor union that represents 215,000 bus drivers, janitors and other school employees. On October 19, the Del Norte Democratic Party sent $10,000 to Quirk-Silva’s campaign.

Could there have been coordination between the school employees’ union and Blue Shield to send $50,000 to the same Democratic central committee?

Del Norte Contribution: Blue Shield, School Employees Shared Lobbyist

In September, the Los Angeles Times reported that both the school employees association and Blue Shield share the same influential Sacramento lobbyist, Dave Low. At the time, health advocates questioned whether Low’s dual role posed a conflict of interest.

“The question is, does Blue Shield have access to insider information through these unions?” Gerald Kominski, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research told the Times. “It doesn’t look right.”

According to state campaign finance records, the Del Norte County Democratic Central Committee had accepted $204,524 in campaign contributions from January 1 to October 20. Based on this figure, the combined Blue Shield and school employees’ contributions represented a quarter of the committee’s total annual receipts. Yet, 70 percent of the funds were immediately transferred to a candidate more than 750 miles away.

Neither Low nor the Del Norte County Democratic Central Committee responded to email requests for comment.

Same-Day, Same-Dollar Donation from Disney to Democrats

In addition to the Del Norte County Democratic Central Committee, another county party processed same-day, same-dollar contributions. On October 19, the same day that Del Norte Democrats sent funds to Quirk-Silva, Disney Worldwide Services, Inc. contributed $10,000 to the Democratic Party of Orange County. The very same day, the party contributed the exact same amount, $10,000, to Quirk Silva’s campaign. The state’s campaign finance laws would have precluded Disney from making a five-figure contribution directly to Quirk-Silva.

Representatives for Disney and the OC Democratic Party deny that there was any coordination of campaign contributions for Quirk-Silva’s benefit.

“There was in no way any coordination regarding this contribution and to my knowledge Disney did not support or endorse Sharon Quirk-Silva’s race for Assembly,” said Nick Anas, executive director of the Democratic Party of Orange County. “Disney Worldwide Services was a platinum sponsor for the 2012 Annual Truman Awards Dinner on Monday, September 17th, in which they agreed to a Platinum sponsorship of $10,000, which is detailed in our program book.”

A Disney spokeswoman corroborated the OC Democratic Party’s version of events— that the funds were for an event more than a month earlier. Anas added that the county party also contributed $10,000 on October 19 to the Yes on Measure BB campaign in Irvine, which passed and allowed city funds to go toward schools. And Anas said that on the same day the party also kicked in $10,000 to the campaign opposing Measure V in Costa Mesa. Measure V would have made the city a Charter City, allowing more leeway in limiting union power. Measure V lost. However, he confirmed, “No funds were earmarked.”

A.E.G. Had Financial Incentive to Defeat Libertarian Norby

More campaign finance irregularities can be found with a Los Angeles development group’s contributions to two Democrat central committees.

Anschutz Entertainment Group Inc., the Los Angeles-based sports and entertainment mogul that owns the Staples Center, contributed $25,000 to the Los Angeles County Democratic Party on October 18. Four days later, on October 22, the Los Angeles party sent a check for the same amount, $25,000, to Quirk-Silva’s campaign.

A.E.G. wasn’t limited to one county party committee contribution. On October 19, the day after it sent $25,000 to the L.A. County Democrat Party, the party sent the same amount, $25,000, to the Kern County Democratic Central Committee. On the same day, the Kern County party committee sent $15,000 to Quirk-Silva in Orange County.

“There was no coordination,” claimed Candi Easter, the chair of the Kern County Democratic Central Committee. “We did not even know of the AEG contribution until after we had approved the donation to the Quirk-Silva Committee.”

Why would a Los Angeles-based company contribute thousands of dollars to party committees in the Central Valley and Los Angeles, which would in turn benefit an Orange County candidate? The answer may be found with redevelopment reform.

Norby, Quirk-Silva’s libertarian-minded opponent, has been a vocal critic of redevelopment agencies, which commonly benefit wealthy development companies at the expense of taxpayers and small businesses. In 2011, Norby was one of only a handful of state legislators to oppose SB 292, which was hurried through in the final days of the legislative year. The legislation created a special process for reviewing environmental challenges to a privately financed Los Angeles stadium, a project that would financially benefit the Anschutz Entertainment Group.

Los Angeles County Democratic Party: A Reliable Campaign Conduit

The Los Angeles County Democrat Party proved to be a reliable conduit for special interest contributions. Within days of accepting $137,250 in campaign contributions from seven special interest groups, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party distributed $127,200, or 93 percent of these received contributions, to Quirk-Silva’s campaign.

On October 10, the L.A. County Probation Officers Union, AFSCME Local 685, contributed $10,000 to the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. One week later, the Los Angeles County central committee contributed $11,700 to Quirk-Silva’s campaign in Orange County.

On October 17, Aecom Technology Corporation, a Los Angeles-based technical support services firm that specializes in environmental services, contributed $10,000 to the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. The day prior, the party contributed the same amount, $10,000, to Quirk-Silva’s campaign.

On October 24, the California Association of Highway Patrolmen contributed $25,000 to the Los Angeles County Democrat Party. Five days later, on October 29, the party delivered $10,500 in campaign funds to Quirk-Silva.

On October 26, the CDF Firefighters, which represents the state’s 4,000 members of the state’s firefighter union, contributed $25,000 to the Los Angeles County Democrat Party. Three days later, on October 29, the party contributed $30,000 to Quirk-Silva’s campaign.

On October 31, the L.A. County Firefighters Local 1014 gave $25,000 to the LA County party, a contribution that was followed two days later by a $17,250 contribution from the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters. On November 2, the Los Angeles Democratic Party sent a $40,000 check to Quirk-Silva’s campaign.

The incoming contribution from the carpenters’ union was filed on the same disclosure report as the outgoing funds to Quirk-Silva’s campaign. And 95 percent of the combined contributions from the firefighters and carpenters unions made their way to Quirk-Silva’s campaign via the Los Angeles Democratic Party committee.

State Candidates Funded Party Committees

In addition to financial transfers by special interest groups, state candidates provided cash infusions to both Quirk-Silva and Norby via party committees. In one instance, campaign funds were sent from one Orange County legislative candidate to Marin County and then back to a different Orange County candidate, all within seven days.

According to state campaign finance records, the Norby campaign accepted a $50,000 contribution from the California Republican Party on the same day that the party accepted a $50,000 contribution from state Senator Bill Emmerson’s campaign committee.

This mailer accused Norby of supporting big business.

That contribution mirrors a legislative transfer to the Quirk-Silva campaign.

On October 24, Orange County Assembly candidate Tom Daly contributed $32,500 to the Democratic Central Committee of Marin County. On October 26, the party funneled $15,000 back to Orange County for Quirk-Silva’s campaign.

The Quirk-Silva campaign believes that the transaction by the California Republican Party proves there were no financial irregularities in the race.

“It can’t be a ‘finance irregularity’ as you allege, if our opponent was receiving similar contributions,” Mills said.

Both the Daly and Emmerson contributions, unlike the other party central committee transfers, were not preceded by five-figure contributions from special interest groups. State law precludes legislative candidates from accepting such contributions.

However, another Marin County Democratic Party contribution raises questions.

The same day that O.C.’s Daly sent funds to Marin County Democrats, the United Domestic Workers of America, which is based more than 500 miles away in San Diego, sent a $25,000 contribution to the same committee. Once again, the Marin County party held the funds for less than a week before sending it back to Southern California. On October 31, the Marin County party sent $30,000 to Quirk-Silva.

Ironically, all of this special interest money helped fund negative attacks on Norby. The charge: Norby has “special interest donors.”

(Note: This article may be republished, provided it is attributed to the author, John Hrabe, with a link to its original url.)

3 Responses to “John Hrabe: Quirk-Silva Received $292K in 18 Days via Democratic Central Committees from Blue Shield, Disney, AEG, Aecom, Tom Daly, CSEA, AFSCME Local 685, UDW, CAHP, CDF Firefighters, SW Regional Council of Carpenters, or How AD-65 Really Was Won”

  1. Greg Diamond said

    Actually, given the vote margin, it’s likely that many of these contributions came in Quirk-Silva’s campaign too late to make much of a difference — well after most absentee ballots were cast, for example, and too late for new initiatives as opposed to just adding numbers to existing plans.

    Speaking only for myself and not the state or local party, Nick Anas’s statement is exactly right. The DPOC established three priorities this year and concentrated its resources there. The reason you saw “Same-Day, Same-Dollar” contributions from DPOC is that we wanted to get money to her campaign (and the Irvine and Costa Mesa ones) as soon as we had it in hand — no matter who had donated it. There’s nothing sinister about that. (In other words, at least the “From Disney” part of your headline is bogus. Make it “From DPOC,” thanks.)

    Here’s the actual story: After people down here (especially but not solely with the Quirk-Silva campaign) had been banging every drum since February to tell the party that we had the real deal down here — a gifted candidate that we believed could win. (Was all of this a secret? No — I wrote about it openly right after the primary, when Sharon had been counted out by many. http://www.orangejuiceblog.com/2012/06/ad-65-fullerton-versus-south-of-the-freeways/.) We knew that we had a potential winner — one who could, improbably, deliver a Democratic Assembly majority. They FINALLY did their own polling and found out that we were right. Norby, in contrast, was not beloved by his caucus and despite his efforts he couldn’t raise that late money. (One problem with trouncing someone in a meaningless primary is that people presume that you don’t need it.)

    That good fortune didn’t just happen — getting into the position of being poised to benefit was the result of extremely hard work by Sharon, her husband Jesus, and many others inside and out of the campaign. (Let me claim a little credit for the Democrats of North Orange County club, which along with Jay Chen’s campaign rented the Fullerton HQ from which many people worked on behalf of Sharon and others, myself included, in a truly and properly coordinated campaign.) The voter registration drives that tipped many cities either blue or almost blue are an indication of how hard people worked. Lots of people cooperated — Loretta Sanchez was a prime mover, of course, but even beyond her Sharon has built up a lot of good will with many people over time.

    Once the late polling showed that Sharon was where she needed to be, it was (obviously) a major topic of statewide discussion. People up and down the state knew — without having to give others directions — that this was one of the places that their money could help. (SD-31, SD-5, and some others were in a similar category.) When that happens, people send money where it will help. It’s not a matter of earmarking — it’s a matter of people realizing that if you have money there at the end, both any donor and any county committee are going to know that it needs to go to competitive races, just like they know that it needs to go to Democrats.

    My sense is that which committees would receive donations depends on donors judgments about the good sense and judgment of the people in charge of those committees — something developed from personal meetings at conventions and from documented track records. Knowing where to direct late money, precisely because it can’t be coordinated, is an art. It involves a lot of study of public “late contribution” reports, checking published polls, and then some blind — and hopefully lucky — guesses.

    So “How AD-65 Really Was Won” was not a story of late contributions. It was a story of having a superior candidate who put together a strong operation, uniting the disparate parts of the party, including gobs of active volunteers. The contributions from the final 18 days surely helped, but given a 4-point margin of victory they weren’t likely decisive. Her opponent, by contrast, made some questionable choices — do any of you want to defend this mailer? http://www.orangejuiceblog.com/2012/11/dedicated-husband-chris-norby-puts-out-the-most-shameful-mailer-of-the-year/ — and was apparently overconfident that “he wouldn’t get beaten by a girl.”

    And he wasn’t — he was beaten by a smart, hard-working, well-liked woman — and a party unified behind her.

  2. [...] to be a target by the very sorts of people who got you elected. What am I talking about? Check out this post from OC Political. Quirk got almost $300,000 funneled into her campaign account over the course of [...]

  3. Idebenone said

    Stop million-dollar Anaheim tax giveaway Last week, the Anaheim City Council voted to give an unprecedented $158 million tax subsidy to the developer of two planned four-star hotels in Anaheim’s GardenWalk – a developer who is a campaign contributor to members of the City Council. The giveaway of our tax dollars is particularly troubling when you consider that earlier this year, the Council cut $1 million from the library budget, forcing early closures and the elimination of programs aimed at helping our children. We may only have one chance to tell the City Council to change its bad priorities. Anaheim residents elected the City Council to protect our city services, such as libraries and public safety, not to give away our tax dollars to wealthy developers. The City Council is holding an emergency meeting Tuesday night to reconsider the $158 million hotel tax giveaway. Please come to tell the City Council to rescind their multi-million dollar giveaway. The meeting is at 5 p.m. at Anaheim City Hall, 200 S. Anaheim Blvd. Sincerely, Heart of Anaheim Learn more at http://www.heartofanaheim.com. Join us at http://www.facebook.com/heartofanaheim.

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