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Congressman Bob Filner will have at least $36,000 in the bank when the first official campaign finance reports for the 2012 San Diego mayor’s race appear next month.

The Democrat transferred the $36,000 from his congressional fundraising committee to his mayoral account, according to federal financial disclosures released Friday.

The transfer shows the fruits of Filner continuing to keep alive a congressional campaign he’s said he’s abandoned to run for mayor.

Even after his mayoral announcement, Filner was scheduled to hold a congressional fundraiser at a Washington Nationals baseball game. The congressman has said, somewhat cryptically, that he was keeping his federal campaign account open because he, “has certain political responsibilities and obligations” as a sitting congressman.

Transferring money from one campaign account to another is both common and legal, said Dan Schnur, director of the University of Southern California’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics and former head of the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t raise concerns, he said.

“It’s an open question as to whether donors to a federal campaign ought to have their dollars used for a purpose other than what they donated for,” Schnur said.

Both major mayoral candidates who have released their first unofficial fundraising totals, City Councilman Carl DeMaio and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, didn’t transfer money from other campaigns. The two Republicans closed their other accounts, though the assemblyman has opened a separate account to pay office expenses.

Transferring the $36,000 to his mayoral account doesn’t come without difficulties. Filner has to transfer individual contributions one by one and donors only are allowed to give $500 per candidate per election. If a maximum contribution in a donor’s name is transferred from a different account, he can’t give again.

“From the perspective of city campaign laws, it makes no difference where he raised the money because it all has to be transferred to the city committee according to the city’s contribution limits,” said Stacey Fulhorst, who heads San Diego’s Ethics Commission.

Aside from the transfer, Filner paid campaign salaries, reimbursed staffers for mileage expenses and paid for campaign overhead out of his federal account after he declared for mayor, his filings show. San Diego elections rules limit spending on city races to city campaign accounts, but Filner is allowed to spend federal money for federal campaign expenses.

Filner raised $43,000 between April and June and spent $38,000, according to the federal campaign filings. He has about $2,200 left in the account and no debt.

Filner’s campaign spokeswoman referred questions to the congressman, who couldn’t be reached for comment. I’ll update this post if he responds.

Please contact Liam Dillon directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/dillonliam.

Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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