Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, a Democratic Assembly candidate from the small Northern California farming town of Winters, got a surprise when she bumped into a friend at a local coffee shop.
“A friend said, ‘Oh, I saw your commercial,’ ” recalled Aguiar-Curry, the town’s mayor. “I said, ‘You’re mistaken. I don’t have a commercial.’ ”
That was technically true — it wasn’t her commercial, even though it was aired to support her campaign. Like many advertisements flooding airwaves and mailboxes this year, it was paid for directly by powerful interest groups seeking the upper hand in the California Legislature.
Independent expenditures already have cracked...