Where the Koch brothers go, Tom Steyer can’t be far behind – and the independent-spending maelstrom surrounding the East Bay’s 7th State Senate District special election is no exception.
Days after a Koch-related group launched an ad attacking Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord – and so benefiting her rival, Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer – the San Francisco hedge fund billionaire turned environmentalist gave $150,000 Friday to Working Families Opposing Glazer, a committee created by labor unions to help Bonilla win.
“We need to elect leaders willing to stand up and do what’s right to protect the health and financial security of hardworking East Bay residents, no matter the political consequences,” Steyer said in a statement issued Friday afternoon. “Susan Bonilla has stood up to Big Oil and opposed the $2 billion tax loophole that benefits oil companies at the expense of California families. That’s the kind of thoughtful leadership we need in Sacramento.”
No mention of the campaign contributions Bonilla has taken for this race from oil and gas companies including Chevron, Phillips 66 and Tesoro.
Glazer said Friday he thinks voters “are fed up with all the negative campaigning. Steyer’s money goes to the group that is the biggest contributor to the garbage pile of slick mailers filling voter’s mailboxes.”
“Voters should read our ballot statements, access newspaper editorials and other neutral sources for factual information, and ignore the power plays and smear tactics by all the special interests,” said Glazer, who has had plenty of such power plays and smear tactics deployed on his behalf as well. “When I declared for this office, I promised that I would be a thoughtful and independent representative who would work across party lines as a problem solver not a partisan. It doesn’t surprise me that the interests who want to maintain a dysfunctional status quo are campaigning so hard against me.”
Steyer, who hosted a fundraiser for 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at his home on Wednesday, spent around $76 million last year to influence elections across the nation. His group, NextGen Climate, already is working hard to hold Republican presidential candidates’ feet to the fire on climate-change issues. He flirted with but later ruled out a run for California’s U.S. Senate seat in 2016, but many believe he has his eye on the governor’s office in 2018.
The independent spending in this race now totals somewhere between $6 million and $7 million, roughly evenly split between support for Bonilla and support for Glazer.
But it seems the Koch brothers aren’t nearly as involved in the race as it first seemed.
In a memo to reporters Tuesday, Working Families spokesman Steve Maviglio had written that “a new TV ad went up on cable television last night” from Independent Women’s Voice, a Washington, D.C.-based group with ties to the Koch brothers. But in papers filed Wednesday with the Secretary of State’s office, IWV reported spending only $5,700 to produce the ad and buy online advertising – no mention of any TV airtime.
In an email to Democrats sent Wednesday, Contra Costa County Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Koertzen urged support and contributions for Bonilla because “the KOCH BROTHERS have contributed several hundred thousand dollars to support her opponent.”
Koertzen said Friday that “he was told by someone else that they saw it on TV,” and “we know from experience” that producing and airing a television ad “is at least $100,000, so we’re basing it on that.” Asked about IWV’s $5,700 filing, he said, “They’re hiding something.”
But Maviglio said just a few minutes later that it appears the ad has not aired on television at all; he said they checked with Comcast, who reported there’d been an inquiry but no ad buy.
So $5,700 indirectly from the Koch brothers seems to have leveraged $150,000 from Steyer and God knows how much more from other anti-Koch donors. Nice leverage if you can get it…