Public Interest Groups Shine Light on 'Dark Money' Groups Targeting Local Candidates

May 14, 2014 | UPDATED 5/16/2014  Two public interest groups held a joint press conference in Sacramento this morning seeking to ex...

May 14, 2014 |

UPDATED 5/16/2014 

Two public interest groups held a joint press conference in Sacramento this morning seeking to expose the financial backers of Independent Expenditure (IE) groups that have sent attack mailers in a number of local races.

Sponsored by Breathe California and Common Cause, the conference was held to help voters understand that IE political mailers sent supporting a candidate, or more typically attacking a particular candidate, are often funded by innocuously named groups that seek to mask the true identity of who is actually paying for them.

Speaking on behalf of Breathe California was Earl Withycombe who explained the origins of a mailer sent attacking Sacramento City Council candidate Julius Cherry. 

"We do not support either candidate in the races affected," Withycombe said. "But we strongly urge the public to be aware that these hit pieces are promoted by groups that are not what they appear to be."  

Withycombe said that according to information filed with the California Secretary of State, the anti-Cherry mailer was funded by the California Senior Advocates League. That group was funded Inland Empire Taxpayers Association, who in turn was funded by Reform California Now, who is funded by tobacco producer Phillip Morris.  

For its part, Breathe California is an advocacy group whose mission is to support clean air and preventing lung and other air pollution diseases.  

In another example, Withycombe cited a mailer send attacking Ninth Assembly District candidate Darrell Fong, who is in a very tight race with Elk Grove Vice Mayor Jim Cooper. This independent mailer was sent by Californians For Jobs and A Strong Economy who receives large funding by Chevron, PG&E, Occidental Petroleum and Walmart.

That piece violated the elections laws Withycombe said by not clearly disclosing the names of organizations contributing more than $50,000 to the IE in the year preceding the mailer.
"We urge Sacramento residents to look very carefully at organizations behind these pieces," he added.

Speaking on behalf of Common Cause was volunteer Charlene Jones who echoed many of the same concerns expressed by Withycombe.

"We must notify voters of these stealth campaigns," Jones said. "Think about why major corporations are dumping major money into our local elections."  

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