Filner donations trickling in

May 03, 2002|By MATT YOUNG

Special to this newspaper

WASHINGTON (MNS) — Before California's primary elections in March, Carlton Hargrave, a restaurant owner from Calexico, gave the legal limit of $1,000 to Democratic Rep. Bob Filner, who is running to represent Imperial County beginning in January.

Through March, the 56-year-old Hargrave was the only person in Imperial County who donated money to Filner's campaign this election cycle, which began in January 2001.

‘‘I have not yet represented Imperial County,'' Filner explained. ‘‘I don't know anybody. I had my first fund-raiser (in the county) last week,'' at which he said he received many donations.


Besides, Filner said, Imperial ‘‘is not a very wealthy county.''

Filner represents the congressional district centered in Chula Vista. Because of California's redistricting last September, he will run for re-election in November in a district that will include Imperial County beginning in January.

Despite the lack of contributions from Imperial County, Filner had received $335,000 through March from individual donors and political action committees, which are special interest groups, often representing employees of companies or members of labor unions, according to, a Web site that tracks fund raising.

According to Brookings Institution fellow Tom Mann, PACs generally contribute as a way of ‘‘gaining or maintaining access'' to politicians, to support someone from their city or to support a candidate with the same ideological viewpoint.

Filner said while some congressmen get 90 percent of their campaign funds from special interest groups, he receives only 40 percent.

PoliticalMoneyLine tells a different story. According to the site, 60 percent of Filner's money in this race came from PACs.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, who represents the county only until next year because of redistricting, received 44 percent of his campaign funds through March from special interest groups.

Still, Hunter raised $211,000 from those groups compared with Filner's $199,000. Hunter has raised more money overall, at $435,000.

If Hunter is re-elected, he would represent eastern San Diego County.

Filner stated he doesn't think taking money from special interest groups implies an obligation.

‘‘It's illegal to say, ‘If you give me something, I'll give you something,' '' Filner said.

He said many of his special interest contributors are labor groups, which are ideologically aligned with the Democratic Party.

Construction, manufacturing and government workers unions are his top contributors, according to Dwight L. Morris and Associates, a campaign finance study group.

‘‘It's not a quid pro quo. It's who we are'' as Democrats, Filner said. Still, he said, ‘‘I believe all private money should be out of the system'' and would like politicians to have free media coverage during debates.

While Filner does not yet represent Imperial County, he has asked Congress for $14 million for an emergency radio network and $6 million for a school/government communications network for the county.

‘‘He inherited this district'' from redistricting, said Filner's defeated primary opponent, Daniel Ramirez. ‘‘(Filner) goes down here and looks like he's doing something. That's hogwash.''

Filner has his own gripes with Ramirez, as well as with his current congressional competition, Republican candidate Maria Guadalupe Garcia.

‘‘I may file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission,'' said Filner, who contends the candidates have failed to disclose their campaign finances.

The Federal Election Commission requires candidates to report fund raising or spending of more than $5,000. Ramirez said he spent $5,700 but only raised $3,500. He said he has not reported the money to the commission because he thought he had to raise $5,000 to do so.

Commission spokesman Bob Biersack said generally candidates are fined for failing to report finances. But, he said, ‘‘If someone knowingly and willingly'' does not file a financial statement, ‘‘then it could become a criminal problem handled by the Justice Department.''

Still, Filner said, ‘‘the FEC doesn't have the resources to follow up on candidates, especially if they lost.''

Two Imperial County donors, Stephens said, gave $1,000 each to Garcia. But she said there have been 25 donors to Garcia's campaign, 23 of whom apparently gave a total of $600.

No contributions were from PACs, she said. Garcia had another theory about Filner's one Imperial County donor through March.

‘‘I think that just reflects his failure to resonate his voting record with Imperial County,'' Garcia said.

She argued that while Republicans and Democrats split pretty evenly in Imperial County, both are social conservatives who disapprove of what she called Filner's liberal social positions, like voting in 1997 against a proposal to ban so-called ‘‘partial-birth abortion.''

That's not liberal, retorted Bob Mulholland, campaign adviser for California's Democratic Party.

‘‘Republicans are against a woman's right to choose three days, three weeks, three months. That's baloney,'' he said.

While Filner won his Democratic primary with 70 percent of the vote, only 40 percent of Imperial County Democrats voted for him. More county Democrats chose Ramirez to represent them.

Despite his lack of contributions from Imperial County, Filner is likely to win the general election, according to California Political Review Online, sponsored by the California Public Policy Foundation.

‘‘Loyal voters in both parties make the November outcome for Bob Filner highly likely to mirror the registration statistics,'' the site reported.

Fifty-three percent of county registered voters are Democrats and 27 percent are Republicans, according to a February report by the California Secretary of State.

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