Loyal Donors Deliver Despite McClintock Dislike of Asking
When he entered politics 20 years ago, state Sen. Tom McClintock paid for his campaigns the old fashioned way: He tapped the same moneyed interests that finance most legislators’ campaigns.
For the last 10 years, however, McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks) has received only modest sums from such GOP stalwarts as the oil and insurance industries. Instead, McClintock, the antitax, free-market Republican who hopes to replace Gov. Gray Davis in Tuesday’s election, has come to rely on some of the most conservative political donors in California to sustain his campaigns.
As GOP leaders have urged McClintock to cease campaigning and most major Republican donors have contributed to action movie actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a political moderate, many of McClintock’s most conservative donors have remained loyal.
With the recall campaign bringing him national exposure, McClintock has expanded his base. He traveled to Colorado last weekend for a fund-raiser put on by national conservative leaders Richard Viguerie, Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schafly and Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.
One host of the event was Howard Ahmanson Jr., scion of the family that founded Home Savings & Loan. Ahmanson, a major financier of free-market and religious think tanks, and his wife, Roberta, have given McClintock $202,000 since 2000, making them among his largest donors, campaign finance reports show.
Ahmanson and a political action committee he founded with three others have given McClintock at least $400,000 in the last decade, making McClintock one of the largest beneficiaries of its money.
“Howard Ahmanson’s support is the California conservatives’ equivalent of a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval,” said Jack Pitney, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and a former Republican strategist. At a time when the California Republican Party is trying to portray itself as more moderate, Pitney said, Ahmanson “has been an important source of life support for conservatives.”
Ahmanson’s patronage benefits several nonprofit think tanks, including the Claremont Institute, where McClintock worked for two years after losing his 1994 run for state controller, and the Chalcedon Foundation, which promotes a brand of Christianity known as Christian Reconstructionism. Chalcedon produces journals for which McClintock political aide John Stoos routinely writes.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Ahmanson served on Chalcedon’s board of directors and was its largest benefactor, giving it at least $733,000. He remains a donor to the nonprofit organization, which was founded by Rousas John Rushdoony. Often called theologian to the religious right, Rushdoony, who died in 2001, advocated a nation ruled by Biblical law, a vision that assigned the death penalty for 18 sins, including murder, rape of a betrothed virgin, adultery and sodomy.
Ahmanson could not be reached for comment. But at a news conference this week, McClintock said he knew nothing about Ahmanson’s theology, other than that he is a Christian.
“I don’t believe the religious views of any of my supporters ... is relevant to this campaign,” McClintock said. “This great debate that we’re involved in is over the future of California. I leave theological questions to everyone’s individual conscience.”
Ahmanson was one of the largest donors to McClintock’s 2002 run for state controller, having given him $150,000. Altogether, McClintock received $2 million in contributions from all sources during his run for controller last year. He narrowly lost to Controller Steve Westly, who spent $10 million on his campaign.
One of Ahmanson’s past partners in political giving is Edward Atsinger III, owner of Salem Broadcasting, the nation’s largest chain of Christian radio stations. Atsinger helped McClintock win his Senate seat by lending him $100,000, but has not donated to him in the current campaign.
Republican campaign consultant Arnold Steinberg, who worked for McClintock early in the lawmaker’s career and for Ahmanson more recently, said that McClintock and Ahmanson find common ground on free-market issues, not matters of religion -- though like Ahmanson, McClintock opposes abortion rights.
Ahmanson “likes McClintock. He respects McClintock. He agrees with McClintock,” Steinberg said. “He never seeks anything in return. He is looking for people who have certain views.”
In the recall campaign, Ahmanson finds himself in direct alliance with wealthy Native American tribes, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, owners of a newly expanded casino resort in Temecula, and the Barona Band of Mission Indians.
Ahmanson and the two tribes have given a combined $205,000 to the California Republican Assembly, a group that represents perhaps the most conservative organized wing of the state GOP. It also receives donations for anti-gun-control groups, including the Gun Owners of California, one of the most ardent foes of restrictions on firearms.
This week, McClintock noted that religious conservatives and tribes with casinos “agree on absolutely nothing -- except one thing, that McClintock says what he means, keeps his promises, stays the course.”
McClintock said his free-market approach to economics also appeals to both Ahmanson and the tribes, many of which are seeking to lift caps on the size of their casinos.
Until this election, McClintock had received relatively modest sums from tribes, though he has been a regular supporter of tribes’ rights to manage their own affairs and expand their casinos. Between 1994 and the end of 2002, casino-owning tribes had given McClintock $160,000. In the recall campaign, tribes have given $88,000 directly to his gubernatorial account.
Dwarfing the direct donations, one tribe, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, has launched statewide television ads favoring McClintock. Other tribes are paying for campaign mail and for phone banks on McClintock’s behalf.
Altogether, tribes had spent $2.7 million for McClintock as the campaign entered its final week -- a sum that almost certainly will be more than McClintock will have raised on his own by the time voters go to the polls next Tuesday.
McClintock has raised $2 million in his gubernatorial campaign fund. The cost of front-runner Schwarzenegger’s campaign is approaching $20 million. Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante has raised more than $10 million.
Schwarzenegger has used $9 million of his own money to fund his campaign. Schwarzenegger and Bustamante, the front-runners in the race to replace Gov. Gray Davis in Tuesday’s recall race, also are raising donations from an array of wealthy individuals and entities.
McClintock’s fund-raising is much different. In a state in which hotly contested legislative races can cost $5 million, McClintock is an anomaly. A review of his campaign finance reports dating to 1982 shows that he has never been a major fund-raiser. Until the recall race, McClintock had raised $10 million for his state campaigns over 20 years.
Although most legislators rely on interest groups that have the most direct stake in the 1,500 bills introduced each year, McClintock prospects outside Sacramento, and excels at collecting money in checks of $100 or less. Even now, McClintock charges as little as $50 a head for admission to his fund-raisers.
“He simply has not been an aggressive fund-raiser,” said lobbyist and former Assemblyman Bob Naylor, who was GOP leader in the lower house when McClintock first won election.
“The aggressive legislators have three events a year. He has one.”
During the 1980s, when Naylor served as minority leader, McClintock relied on traditional Republican donors such as oil, insurance, tobacco, real estate interests and pro-gun groups. He even got money from some of the Democrats’ most loyal donors -- public employees’ unions, the California Teachers Assn. and lawyers who represent plaintiffs in personal injury suits
Like other lobbyists, Naylor views McClintock as a loner who casts votes on legislation as he sees fit whether or not representatives of interest groups buttonhole him in the hallways or attend his fund-raisers.
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These contributions were reported by candidates on Tuesday’s ballot who have received at least $100,000 for their gubernatorial campaigns. Totals are for all contributions through Sept. 20 and for contributions of $1,000 or more through Tuesday. Donations of $1,000 or more must be reported within 24 hours of receipt.
*--* Contributions Candidate or committee Total reported Reported in 24 hours ending Wednesday Cruz Bustamante $4,622,057 $230,385 1,844 contributions 50 contributions
* The California Faculty Assn., a union representing teachers in the Cal State University system, contributed $21,200.* A political fund of the Laborers International Union of North America made an identical donation. Former U.S. Rep. Tony Coelho, who for a time ran Al Gore’s presidential campaign, gave $10,000.
Bustamante controls three other committees:
Californians for Stability is an anti-recall fund that has raised more than $465,000. The Cruz Bustamante Committee Against Prop. 54 has collected more than $5 million, most of it transferred from the Lt. Gov. Bustamante 2002 Committee, an old reelection campaign fund. Excluding the transfers, the old committee reported raising more than $665,000.
A. Jerrold Perenchio, chief executive of the Spanish-language television network Univision, contributed $100,000 to the anti-Prop. 54 committee. Perenchio previously gave $50,000 to defeat the recall, and made contributions to both the Bustamante and Arnold Schwarzenegger campaigns. The Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters gave $50,000 to the same fund.
*--* Tom McClintock $1,566,623 $10,000 4,399 contributions 6 contributions
* Byron Weisz and Wayne Weisz, executives at Lodi, Calif., businesses that manufacture fire protection systems, both contributed $2,500.
*--* Arnold $16,444,379 $90,000 Schwarzenegger 3,692 contributions 59 contributions
* Tri-J Land & Cattle Co. in Fresno contributed $5,000; it was one of 11 ranches or farms that gave a total of $18,000. Twelve construction or development companies or their executives gave a total of $17,000. Charles Cale, a Los Angeles private investigator, made a $5,000 contribution.
Schwarzenegger also controls Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall, a pro-recall committee that has raised more than $1 million.
* William A. Robinson, former majority owner of freight carrier DHL Airways, gave $100,000, which doubled his total contribution to the pro-recall fund. Howard Keyes, a major Van Nuys auto dealer, contributed $25,000; Keyes has also supported the candidate’s gubernatorial campaign. Andrew Littlefair, a former aide to President Ronald Reagan who made an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Congress in 1988, gave $20,000.
*--* Davis Fights the Recall Californians Against $12,174,356 $680,490 the Costly Recall 902 contributions 15 contributions of the Governor
Gov. Gray Davis controls this anti-recall committee.
* The Service Employees International Union, which operates more than 40 California chapters, contributed $500,000 through a political fund. Robert Abernethy, president of Self-Storage Management Co. and a longtime Davis supporter, gave $50,000. Telecommunications giant Verizon and television syndication pioneer Michael King both made $50,000 contributions.
Davis also continues to raise money through his former reelection committee, the Gov. Gray Davis Committee, which has transferred more than $1.9 million to Californians Against the Costly Recall.
A third committee, Taxpayers Against the Governor’s Recall, has reported more than $2.25 million in contributions.
*Contributions to candidates from each outside source are limited to $21,200. There is no cap on the amount candidates can give their own campaigns, or on donations to noncandidacy committees.
Reported by Times staff writer Joel Rubin and Times researcher Maloy Moore.
Source: Campaign reports filed with the California secretary of state.
Los Angeles Times