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SD7: Enter the Koch Brothers

The latest salvo in 7th State Senate District special election’s independent-spending war – which now totals at least about $6.23 million – comes from an out-of-state group with ties to the Koch brothers, America’s favorite/most-despised conservative money men.

The only good thing left to say about this East Bay Democrat-on-Democrat showdown between Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, and Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer might be that it’ll be over on May 19, two weeks from today.

Independent Women’s Voice, a Washington, D.C.-based conservative nonprofit, started airing a television ad Monday night on cable channels in the district, (see update below) attacking Bonilla for accepting gifts and travel from special interests:

As noted by the Center for Media and Democracy’s SourceWatch, Independent Women’s Voice has received funding from the Koch-bankrolled Center to Protect Patient Rights, and has several staffers who’ve worked for other Koch-affiliated groups.

“So why are the Koch Brothers trying to come to Steve Glazer’s rescue?” asked Steve Maviglio, who runs a union-funded independent expenditure group that’s backing Bonilla. “That’s a good question. Maybe Steve Glazer can answer it – or denounce the special interests that are working overtime to get him elected for airing it.”

Glazer “dislikes the independent expenditure activity by all sides,” spokesman Jason Bezis replied Tuesday. “He said at the recent League of Women Voters debate that voters should immediately throw away and recycle all of the flyers in the mail. Similarly, he feels that voters should ignore all of the misleading media advertising.”

Bezis said Glazer would rather that voters consult “trusted sources of analysis such as newspaper editorials and local leaders who have knowledge of these candidates.” Judge their respective endorsements for yourself: Bonilla here, and Glazer here.

By my count, about $3.2 million has been independently spend on Glazer’s behalf, mostly by Bill Bloomfield – a Republican-turned-independent businessman from southern California – and by JobsPAC, the California Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee.

And about $3.03 million has been spent independently on Bonilla’s behalf, mostly by Maviglio’s labor-funded group, Working Families Opposing Glazer; Putting the East Bay First, another union-funded group; and the California Dental Association.

Please note that these figures are changing by the hour, as more TV ads are aired and district voters’ mailboxes are increasingly choked with several mailers per day. Everyone on both sides is convinced they’re doing the right thing; I’m coming to believe that practically none of them are.

Glazer later Tuesday agreed the “campaign spending and special interest involvement in this race is over the top.” He said this underscores the importance of requiring more integrity and transparency of campaigns and elected officials, per a “clean government code of conduct” he rolled out several weeks ago.

Glazer’s plan would require lawmakers to refuse all gifts, food and drink from those trying to influence the legislative process, and would ban campaign contributions during the “crunch times” when most laws are being passed. It also would require candidates to make public any questionnaires they complete while seeking endorsements, ban any per-diem payments to lawmakers for weekends and holidays when the Legislature isn’t in session, and ban use of campaign funds to pay family members for services.

Not a blessed one of which would change anything about how this ugly this contest has become.

UPDATE SATURDAY 5/9 8:50 A.M.: It now appears this Koch-related ad has NOT aired on television as pro-Bonilla people said, only online – yet it has inspired a $150,000 contribution from Tom Steyer to the labor group supporting Bonilla. More details here.

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.