Campaign finance reports show who is bringing in the most – and who is giving it
It is no secret that political campaigns cost money. Politicians have expenses that range from cell phone bills and headquarters rent payments to refreshments at fund-raisers.
And while there is no doubt the need for money is there, the sources of that money can sometimes show the political leanings of candidates in officially nonpartisan races – such as those for the Nevada County Board of Supervisors.
“It shows who is backing whom,” said Linda Stevens, candidate for Nevada County District 3 Supervisor.
Since the campaign for the Grass Valley-based District 3 began in June, candidate John Spencer tallied $38,796 in donations – more than both his opponents, Stevens and Bruce Conklin – combined. All three are vying to fill the opening created with the resignation of Supervisor Drew Bedwell, who was diagnosed this year with Hodgkin’s disease.
While Spencer racked up large donations from conservative legislators, contractors and businesses such as Sierra Pacific Industries, Stevens ($11,347 raised) and Bruce Conklin ($15,258 raised) pieced together small donations from supporters across the community.
Stevens has a jar at her barber shop in downtown Grass Valley, and customers often throw in a $5 bill or change, she said.
“I don’t have very many contributions over $99. It is the little people (who support me),” Stevens said.
“I have never really had big support in any of my bids for office.”
On the other hand, Spencer had 31 individual contributions of more than $100.
Of these, the Nevada County Contractors Association Political Action Committee was the top donor. Association Executive Director Barbara Bashall said this is “because we think he is a moderate and he cares deeply about Nevada County.”
Bashall also said she thinks it is unfair to consider the Contractors Association as necessarily pro-development. “We consider ourselves small builders,” she said.
But with growth as a recurring theme in this year’s election race, questions may be raised as to what the donations from local construction, real estate and surveying companies might mean. Seghezzi Enterprises, Papola Enterprises and Neithercutt Construction Inc. are just some of the few businesses that have also contributed to Spencer’s campaign.
Spencer, who could not be reached Wednesday to comment for this story, is also the only candidate with such significant backing from regional politicians. Campaign committees for Assemblyman Rick Keene, R-Chico; state Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley; and U.S. Rep John Doolittle, R-California each gave Spencer’s campaign $2,500.
Though Spencer is more financially well stocked for the Nov. 2 election, Conklin said he does not need much money to be successful.
“Of course we need some to finish the campaign, (but) we are running a frugal campaign. We have a lot of volunteers,” he said.
Conklin’s largest donor is Louis Sans, a real estate broker who works out of Auburn. On Wednesday, Conklin said little about Sans, who donated $2,500 to the Conklin For Supervisor campaign.
“I know that he is interested in local issues and that he supports good government,” Conklin said.
Conklin’s other top contributors include a retired librarian and a few old friends, he said.
Beason vs. Diaz
Financing for the county’s District 1 race is difficult to compare to District 3, since records stretch back to last year and include the March primary, in which neither of the top two candidates could get a majority vote – sending them to Nov. 2 for a rematch.
Candidate Olivia Diaz has proven to be the more accomplished fund-raiser, bringing in $78,540 this year. Beason brought in a total of $52,593.
“People are supporting Olivia because of her environmental platform and her care (for growth issues),” said Paul Matson, Diaz’s campaign manager.
Diaz and Beason have both raised concerns about the impact of taking money from developers. In a recent candidate forum, Beason blasted Diaz for taking money from Brian Bisnett, a backer of the large Kenny Ranch development proposed near Grass Valley. Bisnett gave Diaz $200 in the most recent campaign finance period.
“(Bisnett) is not a developer. It would be no different from taking money from an architect; he is merely the person taking the plans,” Matson said.
Beason has said he has returned two checks from developers, an approach the Contractors Association supports.
“I think Nate has been committed to not taking money from developers, not that I would classify us as developers,” Bashall said.
Both Beason and Diaz have relied heavily on small donations by individuals. The median contribution amount for Diaz was $130, while the median for Beason was $100.
How much candidates have raised:
Bruce Conklin: $15,258
Linda Stevens: $11,347
Nate Beason: $37,965
Top donors since March 2 primary
$1,300 – Judith Funk, Nevada City, no occupation
$1,000 – Evans Phelps, Nevada City, Owner of Inside Out Inn and Nevada City Planning Commissioner
$1,000 – Keven P. Eckard, Auburn, California Probate Referee
$3,000 – Nevada County Contractors Association PAC, Nevada City
$2,500 – Rick Keene for Assembly 2004, Chico
$2,500 – Aanestad for Senate 2006, Grass Valley
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