April 23, 2014

California Contest Tops Outside Spending in U.S. House Races

Dan Lungren, Ami Bera battle in targeted race

The U.S. House race between Republican Rep. Dan Lungren and physician Ami Bera in central California has already seen more outside money than any other House race, and with a new campaign from the nonprofit League of Conservation Voters Inc., the money continues to pour in.

The League of Conservation Voters Inc. reported spending nearly $382,000 opposing Lungren in California’s rejiggered 7th District this week as part of its “Flat Earth Five” campaign, which targets five Republican representatives for their denial of global warming.

The $2 million campaign includes telephone calls to voters, direct mail and television ads in an effort to unseat Lungren and Republican Reps. Dan Benishek of Michigan, Ann Marie Buerkle of New York, Francisco Canseco of Texas and Joe Walsh of Illinois.

California’s 7th District has seen in $4.3 million in outside spending so far, and $3.1 million of that has been spent opposing Lungren, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The race has attracted many the big hitters, including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Service Employees International Union, House Majority PAC and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

This is not the first time Lungren has been criticized for his environmental policies. In September, Sierra Club Independent Action, a super PAC, released the ad “Oily Politics,” which emphasizes Lungren’s campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, he has received $46,800 from oil and gas corporate political action committees and employees, the No. 9 industry contributor to his campaign.

Lungren has voted to support new oil refineries and for offshore drilling, as well as to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases. He opposes cap-and-trade and tax credits for wind energy production and green transportation initiatives, according to congressional voting records compiled by the website

His opponent Bera favors tax credits and increased investment in renewable energy and opposes offshore drilling, according to his website.

The Sacramento Bee, which endorsed Lungren in 2010, supports Bera this time around, though it says both are “thoughtful candidates who have a passion for their communities.”

Bera’s commitment to fighting global warming, according to the editorial, helped him win the Bee’s endorsement.

In other outside spending news:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a series of ads in New York congressional districts at a total cost of $1.8 million:

  • Pay More” opposing Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop  in New York’s 1st District cost$305,000;
  • Wrong” opposing Democrat Sean Maloney in New York’s 18th District cost$380,000;
  • Broken Trust” opposing Democratic Rep. Bill Owens in New York’s 21st District cost $390,000;
  • Closed” opposing former Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei in New York’s 24th District cost $185,000;
  • Wrong Way” opposing Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter in New York’s 25th District  cost $185,000;
  • Failure” opposing Democratic Rep. Kathy Hochul in New York’s 27th District cost $130,000.

The Chamber also released “Fast Pace,” which supports Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., and cost $103,000, and reported spending $100,000 on an ad opposing Democrat Lois Frankel, who is running for U.S. House in Florida’s 22nd District.

  • Two more ads from conservative groups responded to Wednesday’s first presidential debate. Conservative nonprofit American Future Fund’s “Out of Time” shows clips edited together making GOP nominee Mitt Romney sound like a smooth, strong speaker and making President Barack Obama sound stumbling and lost. The Republican National Committee’s video highlights three of Romney’s “zingers.”
  • Pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future released “The New Normal,” opposing Obama.
  • Pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action reported spending $3.5 million on ads opposing Romney.
  • Planned Parenthood Votes, a super PAC, released “Working for Wisconsin,” supporting Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who is running for U.S. Senate in the state.
  • House Majority PAC, a super PAC backing Democrats running for U.S. House, released “Bills,” opposing Rep. Allen West, the Republican running for election in Florida’s 18th District. The super PAC reported spending $1.6 million on ads in races across the country.
  • American Bridge 21st Century posted an online video called “The No-Show Treasurer” opposing Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in the state.
  • American Unity PAC, a conservative super PAC, released “Wrong Prescription,” an ad opposing emergency room doctor Raul Ruiz, the Democrat running for Congress from California’s 36th District.
  • Conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation has a politically active “social welfare” nonprofit called Heritage Action for America, which reported spending $25,000 opposing Obama, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Sen. Robert Casey Jr., D-Pa. This is the group’s first reported campaign expenditure. The Heritage Foundation has received significant funding the Charles G. Koch Foundation, and the billionaire sits on the Heritage Foundation’s board. It is unknown who funds Heritage Action because nonprofits are not required to disclose their donors
  • AFSCME PEOPLE, the political action committee of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, reported spending $302,000 on ads opposing Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, the Republican running for U.S. Senate in the state.
Reprinted by Permission © 2013, The Center for Public Integrity®. All Rights Reserved.

About the Author

Rachael is a Master’s journalism student at American University. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Political Science at Reed College in 2010. She has been published in the Portland Mercury, an alternative newsweekly, and several local newspapers and magazines in Laguna Beach, Calif. and Portland, Ore.


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