Every major candidate running for San Diego mayor has another job in politics. With those jobs come fundraising accounts to raise money to get elected again. After they entered the mayor’s race, each of the four candidates did something different with their other accounts.
Carl DeMaio closed down his City Council account. Bonnie Dumanis left her district attorney account open but said she wasn’t going to raise any money into it. As of last month, Congressman Bob Filner was continuing to collect donations for his national account, too.
Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher closed down his state campaign account after he announced for mayor last month, but opened a different one. State law allows sitting legislators to collect up to $50,000 in private donations into an “officeholder account” to pay for expenses such as travel and cell phones for their staff, but not for campaigning.
“We don’t have any plans to use the officeholder account for anything other than routine administrative or travel-related expenses,” Fletcher said.
Still, the state’s rules on officeholder accounts are broad enough to thin the line between day-to-day office work and running for re-election. Legislators, for instance, can use the money to pay for a letter to their constituents talking about all the great laws they’ve been passing. That may not be campaigning, but it helps get your name out there.
Fletcher said he won’t be using the money for anything that could be construed as campaigning. “We’re not going to do any mail,” he said. He added he hasn’t started raising any money for it.
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An extra $50,000 in private donations helps anyone in their bid for another office. But the state’s limits on officeholder accounts make them an unattractive loophole to try to evade campaign laws, said Thad Kousser, a political science professor at the University of California, San Diego. Giving money to political parties or to independent organizations is much easier, he said. They have much fewer restrictions on donations and how the money can be spent.
“If there is someone who wants to give you more than the campaign limits, there just are so many other places you can have them funnel their money to,” Kousser said.
It’s been more than a week since backers of a pension reform ballot measure released a financial analysis showing savings of at least $1.3 billion over the next three decades.
Fletcher is the only major candidate who hasn’t taken a position on the measure yet. He said he’s still reviewing the data.
“We’re going through them,” he said. “We’ve got a list of questions. I’m going to meet with the proponents.”
But he will take a stance before it’s clear if the measure qualifies for the ballot. He expects to make a decision, “within the next month, if not sooner.” Supporters have until mid-October to gather about 94,000 valid signatures.
For folks scoring at home, two major candidates are opposed to the measure and one is for it. Filner is against it, saying the measure relies too much on employee concessions. Dumanis also opposes it, saying firefighters should still receive pensions. DeMaio co-wrote the measure and is one of its biggest champions.