Allied Business PAC, the aggressive and affluent political group that espouses conservative values, is changing its name and plans to spread its reach into city and school board races.
Headed by Orange County banking magnate Howard Ahmanson, the organization already has moved its offices from Garden Grove to Pasadena and will rename itself California Independent Business PAC.
The political action committee spent more money on legislative races than any other California group--in excess of $5 million--during the 1993-94 election cycle. In contrast, Democratic kingpin Willie Brown raised $4 million.
The new group will look at conservative Republican candidates in school board and city council races in the hope of developing a “farm team” for state legislative elections, a strategy that political analysts say mirrors a common tactic of the religious right.
“We’re hoping to create another level of training for people,” said Danielle Madison, the group’s executive director. “We’ve found in trying to recruit good candidates that it’s hard to find people who have had local experience. . . . We want to find good solid business people to run for office, but sometimes it’s a huge jump from that to the Legislature.”
The name change also marks a shift away from Sen. Rob Hurtt (R-Garden Grove), one of the founders of Allied Business PAC. After he was elected to the state Senate in 1993, Hurtt began moving to the periphery of Allied. The name change removes him from any official connection to the operation.
Ahmanson, who inherited a multibillion-dollar fortune from his family’s savings-and-loan operation, will serve as the new group’s chairman. The other members, wealthy Southern California businessmen Ed Atsinger, Roland Hinz and Rich Riddle, are holdovers from the Allied days.
Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political analyst at Claremont Graduate School, said the group’s move to the local level “is a very smart strategy in the era of term limits” because it gives them a ready talent pool for state races.
She also said it mirrors tactics perfected by the Christian Coalition and other religious right groups.
“Religious groups have always started on the local level,” Jeffe said. “We saw that most clearly in 1990 in San Diego County with the stealth campaigns run by the Christian Coalition, which helped achieve a majority for the religious right on the Vista School Board.”
Madison said the group registered with the state under its new name last month. Allied will continue to operate as a shell organization until several outstanding loans are paid back, then will shut down completely.
The group has consistently pushed a conservative agenda. It is pro-business and anti-tax, and opposes abortion and gun control. Ahmanson and Hurtt have consistently backed conservative proposals such as the school voucher initiative.
Allied also has been quite effective. In 1994, 29 of the 32 candidates who received contributions from the group won primary battles; 24 of them were elected to the Legislature. In 1992, 17 candidates backed by Allied won state seats. Today, there are 25 lawmakers backed by Allied in the 80-seat Assembly and eight in the 40-member Senate.
The group, which raises money strictly by tapping the wealth of its small cadre of members, has proved particularly effective in the aftermath of the state’s term-limits law, which has begun to produce a rapid turnover of officeholders. At the same time, efforts to curtail campaign spending have either been gutted by the courts or rejected by lawmakers, opening the door for wealthy political groups such as Allied to quickly make a mark.
Madison said the move to create a pool of potential candidates on the local level probably won’t begin to take form for about another year. She said the group will focus on districts where voter registration numbers favor a conservative candidate, and a swing of one or two seats would install a conservative majority on a school board or city council.
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The conservative political group Allied Business PAC is changing its name to California Independent Business PAC. The name change marks the organization’s move away from Sen. Rob Hurtt (R-Garden Grove), one of its founders. A look at some of Allied’s actions and beliefs:
* Spent $5 million on candidates and causes during 1993-94 election cycle
* Of the 32 candidates it supported, 29 won primary elections in 1994; 24 were elected to the Legislature
* Backed candidates who now occupy 25 Assembly seats and eight state Senate seats
* Focuses on backing business expansion and anti-tax issues
* Many members advocate “family values” and oppose abortion, gay rights and gun control
Sources: California Common Cause, Times reports; Researched by ERIC BAILEY / Los Angeles Times