Jesse Unruh, the 1974 California State Treasurer, said of political campaign contributions: “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” President Obama raised over $1 billion (that’s with a “B”) for his 2012 re-election campaign. Mike McGuire, our leading State Senate candidate, is sitting on over $300,000 cash and Jim Wood, our leading State Assembly candidate, has a cash war chest of over $200,000. Oh, did I mention President Obama, Mr. Unruh, McGuire and Wood are all Democrats? Next time someone tells you Democrats can’t raise money, be sure to correct them, “No, your no-growth candidates can’t raise money.”
The other day I ran into a District Attorney candidate at the elections office. After the cordial small talk I stood in the background while they conducted business with the elections staff. I could see the look of concern on their face when the subject of filing fees came up. So they suggested I should write a column about the costs of local campaigns.
Just to file the paperwork to get your name on the Humboldt County District Attorney ballot costs 1 percent of the salary of the position, or $1,580 per candidate. If you want a candidate statement next to your name on the ballot, plan on another $999, and that’s if you’re running against three opponents. If you run unopposed, quadruple that number.
It costs money to run for elected office. A lot of money. Those yard signs, buttons, bumper stickers and media buys aren’t free. So if you plan on attending any of the District Attorney candidate’s events, don’t be surprised if you get “asked” for a contribution. Personally, I wouldn’t vote for a District Attorney candidate, or any candidate for that matter, if they didn’t “ask” of the crowd. You have to be shameless to run for public office.
To run a simple county race, the basic budget is $60,000, give or take, for the candidate and the type of campaign you want to run.
- County filing fees: $1,500
- Signs: $5,000
- Flyers/ buttons/swag: $5,000
- Mailers: $5,000
- Graphic design: $2,500
- TV ads : $10,000
- Production costs: $2,500
- Radio ads: $5,000
- Newspapers: $7,500
- Phones/polling: $5,000
- Web servers: $1,000
- Food & beverage: $2,500
- Office/location rentals: $1,500
- Campaign manager: $5,000
This is just a framework, as some costs may be higher or lower. The exception was 2006, when former Supervisor Bonnie Neely paid Chris Kerrigan over $46,000 to be her campaign manager. I would have put that money into TV, radio and print ads and wouldn’t have paid 5-10 times the going rate for a campaign consultant, but hey, it wasn’t my cash.
If you’re running against an incumbent, you’ll have to increase the media buys significantly. If you’re running against a well-funded incumbent, plan on doubling your costs just through the June primaries. If your race goes into the November general election, plan on near doubling these costs once again. The new number is $200,000 to run against a well-funded Supervisor incumbent. I know as that’s what it cost Virginia Bass to match Bonnie Neely in her 2010 Fourth District Supervisor race. [Ed. note — The author assumes you remember that for some reason Supervisor Bass shares a roof with him.]
Is there too much money in our local politics? Of course. Who doesn’t think that? We can thank a certain person who changed the money dynamics of our local politics in 2004. This is why the Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee came out with a resolution to limit campaign contributions to $1,500 per year/per donor including unions, tribes, and PACs.
Now, there will be those who say campaign contribution limits will “restrict the larger donations that our no-growth “smart growth” candidates tend to rely on Bill Pierson by a few wealthy patrons, the Blue Lake Casino tribes or unions (public unions are a major player on the state level, not the county/city levels) who share our desire for hugging trees quality of life … .”
It’s the same tired excuse the no-growth candidates trot out every two years: “We can’t raise money from the general public so we have to rely on Bill Pierson and the Blue Lake Casino for their money bombs.” Sounds to me like two contributors trying to buy status quo. We got ours and don’t care if you get yours. Doesn’t sound very Democratic to me.
We’ll see at the next 460s (campaign contributions disclosure statement) filing deadline on March 24th how each of the District Attorney’s candidates are coming along with raising funds. They’ll spend money faster than they raise it. This I guarantee.
Just maybe our local mainstream media will research the 460s and report the large contributors who are trying to buy influence with their money bombs in Humboldt County. Nahhhh.