Already up on ethics charges for funky financial dealings, she is now exploiting FEC rules to raise big bucks from California politicians. She charges for her endorsement on elections mailers. This cycle alone, she has raised an astounding 59% – almost $300,000 – of her total campaign bucks through this skirting of the intent of the law.
“Friends of Barbara Boxer” paid $5000 for the privilege. Gloria Romero, the former Senate Majority Leader running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, chipped in $25,000. Gavin Newsom, mayor of San Francisco and a candidate for lieutenant governor, and Kamala Harris, San Francisco’s district attorney and a candidate for state attorney general, have kicked in $45,000 and $25,000 respectively. Dave Jones, candidate for State Insurance Commissioner, invested $25,000.
From state assembly candidates to judges to city council members, city attorneys, school board candidates and even insurance commissioners, all are willing to pony up amounts far in excess of what the FEC allows. For a fee, she has endorsed 46 candidates and ballot measures.
According to the Sunlight Foundation, an FEC spokesperson said that:
money paid for slate mailers “…is exempt from the definition of ‘contribution’ and ‘expenditure’ under the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA).” Like the interest campaigns earn from a bank account or investment income they might receive if they’ve invested in stocks, slate mailers are income to the campaign, usually categorized as “other” in FEC summaries and by other organizations that aggregate contributions data like the Center for Responsive Politics.
Further, Waters is the only representative (so far) to monetize her elected position in this way – but she has figured out a way to capture some big bucks. From the same article by the Sunlight Foundation, we read:
Waters’ unusual fundraising niche has proved lucrative. Most candidates rely on individuals, PACs or their own wallets (called self-financing). Other incumbents from the Los Angeles County Congressional Delegation get 99.3 percent or more of their campaign cash from those three sources of funding, with the balance coming from other sources that include income like interest payments, returns on investments, transfers from other committees and reporting errors. For her colleagues from Los Angeles that fourth category of money—usually labeled as “other”—makes up between 0 and 7 percent of their campaign cash; Waters comes in at 59 percent.
Now that people know, instead of Waters backing off, I predict more California politicians will take advantage of this loophole. What do you think?