As the saying goes, money is the mother’s milk of politics! Accordingly, allow me to take you on a tour of this year’s milk run.
First District supervisorial candidate Laura Capps has been trying to make money in politics an issue in her campaign against incumbent Das Williams. The fact remains, however, that Santa Barbara County has a voluntary campaign contribution limit that Ms. Capps, and others, refuse to abide by.
Nonetheless, Ms. Capps received mostly small donations from individuals across the country. My take on the rather puny donations, some as small as $5, is that her friends and supporters wanted to emotionally support her in an uphill battle, but they weren’t about to go “all in.” One of her only large donors is, no surprise, Sara Miller McCune.
Das Williams has a slew of large contributors, upwards of 20 or more, who gave him at least $5,000 each. One of his largest contributors, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Mazess, have given him upwards of $20,000. Mr. and Mrs. Mazess have been just as generous with 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann and a boatload of other progressives and progressive causes throughout the Central Coast for the past several years. Whereas Das Williams’ campaign did get some money from marijuana interests, most all of the large donations he received came from local businesses and other politicians with no connections to the industry.
Speaking of inordinate donations, no single person has ever given as much money to a local supervisorial campaign as has Ms. Alice Gillaroo, who gave Ms. Hartmann a whopping $55,000. I was so dumbfounded to read the report, I checked with the county elections office because surely this had to be a typo. Wrong. I would love to know why one individual would pour this much money into a local supervisor’s race, wouldn’t you? By the way, Ms. Gillaroo lists her occupation as “retired social worker.” Who knew “social workers” could afford to be that generous?
The largest donation to Bruce Porter ($15,000), who is running as an independent against Ms. Hartmann, came from beloved former county supervisor and state Assemblyman Brooks Firestone. What was different about Mr. Porter’s campaign contributions? Most all the donations came from people who live in the district he seeks to represent.
The numerous large contributions from private citizens, with the exception of Ms. Gillaroo, pale in comparison to union contributions. Unions have contributed $150,000 into the campaign coffers of Das Williams and Joan Hartmann in this current election cycle alone, with approximately $75,000 going to each. The largest contributions come from local government unions.
You can easily peruse the campaign contributions yourself on the web at www.sbcvote.com.
Whereas many people these days decry the influence of money in politics, the fact is that politicians have the capacity to create a beneficial or inordinately disparate impact upon one’s world view, job and quality of life, and it takes a boatload of money to campaign effectively. It is therefore no surprise that individuals, corporations and unions have a stake in the outcome of the election process, and politicians have no reasonable alternative than to take the money. Therefore, I don’t begrudge the involvement of any of the aforementioned donors in the process, except, to be honest, that of Ms. Gillaroo, because her donation was quite simply obscene.
Unfortunately, most voters do and don’t “follow the money” like they should. In one sense, if voters followed the money, they could discern the appeal of politicians to major donors. Unfortunately, too many voters follow the money in a different sense, in that they vote for the politician who promises them the most largesse. Either way, money talks, like nothing else, in the halls of government.
Andy Caldwell is the executive director of COLAB and host of The Andy Caldwell Radio Show, weekdays from 3-5 p.m., on News-Press AM 1290.