Feinstein whups competitors in fundraising

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein outraised her next-closest electoral competitor 18-to-1 in 2012’s first quarter, displaying substantial fundraising muscle in the wake of an embezzlement scandal that had depleted her coffers.

Meanwhile, Republican challenger Elizabeth Emken of Danville loaned her own campaign $200,000 – something a spokesman in November had said she wouldn’t do.

Dianne FeinsteinFeinstein, D-Calif., rasied $1,128,573.48 and spent $447,458.03 in the first quarter, and had $7,279,096.15 cash on hand with $5,289,997.89 in outstanding debts as of March 31. Of that debt, $5 million is what she personally loaned her campaign last year as the extent of former treasurer Kindee Durkee’s embezzlement became clear.

Emken raised $61,482.01, loaned her campaign $200,000 and spent $42,920.08 in the first quarter of 2012, and had $252,003.57 cash on hand as of March 31 with outstanding debts of $317,911.77 (including her loan). Emken rolled out a finance committee roster in January, was endorsed by the California Republican Party in March, and several weeks ago made a fundraising trip to Washington, D.C. and New York City.

Also, the separate Emken 2012 Victory Committee received its only contribution – $10,000 – on March 31, the last day of the quarter, from Charles Munger Jr., the Palo Alto physicist who bankrolled California’s recent redistricting reforms and is son of billionaire Warren Buffett’s investment partner.

Another Republican candidate, Dan Hughes of Oceanside, raised $39,164.15 and spent $123,619.62 in the first quarter, and had $16,212.64 cash on hand with $50,000 in outstanding debt – a loan he made to the campaign late last year – as of March 31.

(UPDATE @ 2 P.M. WEDNESDAY: Hughes this morning told me he’ll contribute another $150,000 to his own campaign to match Emken. “I will not be bullied out of this race as she is not the right candidate to represent us,” he said.)

Another 21 candidates are in the race, but none of them have showed significant fundraising activity.

Elizabeth EmkenEmken, 49, took a loss the last time she loaned money to one of her campaigns. She ran in the June 2010 GOP primary for what was then the 11th Congressional District seat, finishing fourth in a field of four; the nominee was David Harmer, who then lost the general election to incumbent Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton. Campaign finance reports showed Emken had loaned her primary campaign $300,000 – 54 percent of her campaign’s $556,000 in total receipts – but only ever got back $100,000 of that. Another $408,000 went to operating expenses, and the final $48,000 – which had been contributed for use in the general election – was refunded to those who gave it. That campaign committee shut down in September 2010.

“Elizabeth is not planning to self-finance this campaign. We’re focused on building a broad foundation of support,” Tim Clark, Emken’s then-spokesman, said in late November, adding that Emken has “tremendous appeal among California voters” and that he had “no doubt that Elizabeth will have the resources necessary to get her message out.”

Mark Standriff, Emken’s current campaign spokesman, said Tuesday that “things have changed significantly.”

“Elizabeth has become the endorsed party candidate and the standard bearer for fiscal conservatives in California, and there’s tremendous energy and excitement for her,” he said, noting she has more fundraising events scheduled in the next few weeks. “There’s going to be an ongoing aggressive effort to fundraise from now until Nov. 6.”

He said Emken’s loan to her campaign was a means of maintaining the momentum she’s been building. “I’d rather be Elizabeth Emken explaining how she turned pennies into millions than be Dianne Feinstein and have to explain how she turned millions into pennies,” he said, an apparent reference to the Durkee embezzlement scandal.

Standriff said the Emken 2012 Victory Committee to which Munger contributed is a joint effort with the California Republican Party.

“As soon as Elizabeth became the official party-endorsed ‘de facto nominee,’ we went to the party and worked out this joint fundraising agreement so they can go out and raise federal money for the campaign through the party,” he said. “We appreciate everybody’s support from large donors all the way down to volunteers who are giving their time and energy to the campaign.”

This June will be California’s first U.S. Senate subject to the “top-two” primary system, in which voters of all parties can choose from among candidates of all parties, with the top two vote-getters – regardless of what party they belong to – advancing to November’s general election.

Feinstein, 78, had a personal net worth of up to $93.7 million in 2010, making her the 7th-richest member of Congress, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    Emken will have to spend oodles of cash to put her name on the voters’ radar. Then, she will be accused of trying to “buy” the election.

  • Rick K.

    Dianne Feinstein allowed her treasurer to abscond with $4.5 million of campaign funds. Now Feinstein is trying to get the Federal Election Commission to bend the rules to allow her donors to exceed the contribution limits to cover the stolen funds.
    Senator Feinstein sits on the Appropriations committee that controls the nation’s purse strings. If she can’t manage her own millions, why should we continue entrusting her to manage the nation’s trillions? As Feinstein herself argued when she first ran 20 years ago, “It’s time for a change in Washington.”

  • JohnW


    Good points. Under “letter of the law” FEC rules, Feinstein shouldn’t be allowed to go back to the original donors and see if they would like to help replenish the funds that were stolen, all of which would be publicly disclosed. That would be terrible. But, of course, pursuant to Citizens United, a gazillionaire, foreign or domestic, can anonymously fund a smear campaign and ruin any public officeholder or candidate.