The public got an early look this week at the money behind the candidates in this year's pivotal California elections.
Contributions are rolling in for contestants in some of the state's hottest races for Congress and the Legislature, according to campaign reports filed with federal and state authorities. In addition, the governor is raising money for a tax measure he hopes to place on the November ballot.
In what is expected to be one of the costliest, most watched House races in the country this year, Rep. Howard Berman of Valley Village is vying with fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman of Sherman Oaks for a newly drawn San Fernando Valley district. Berman raked in more than $1 million between Oct. 1 and the end of 2011, the period covered by the reports.
But that still left him with less money in the bank than Sherman, who had stockpiled funds from previous campaigns and reported $3.7 million on hand to Berman's $2.9 million.
Berman's report showed a slew of donations from studio executives and political action committees, including PACs for Walt Disney Co. employees and Sony Pictures Entertainment. He also accepted contributions from actress Bette Midler and from Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) and Anna G. Eshoo (D-Menlo Park).
At least one super PAC has formed to support Berman. Calling itself Rebuilding America and listing Ackley Padilla, brother of state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), as treasurer, the group reported raising $20,000.
Sherman's contributors include attorneys, retirees, accountants, physicians, at least one studio executive, and unions, including those of postal and sheet-metal workers. His donors also included such business groups as the Independent Community Bankers PAC and Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America PAC.
Some interest groups are hedging their bets: Berman and Sherman each received money from the Lockheed Martin Employees PAC, for example.
Gov. Jerry Brown took most of 2011 off from fundraising. But now he is focused on collecting the $30 million he says it will take for his push to raise taxes.
He raised nearly $2 million from a variety of business, tribal and labor interests. Among the largest donations are those from groups that typically don't ally with Democrats, including $250,000 from Occidental Petroleum and $250,000 from the American Beverage Assn.
Brown also reported having more than $300,000 in a 2014 reelection account. And he has more than $5 million left over from his 2010 campaign against Republican Meg Whitman.
The reports also showed that interests with tax measures rivaling Brown's are not backing down, despite his warnings that voters could be overwhelmed by multiple tax questions and reject all of them. Los Angeles attorney Molly Munger gave $800,000 to an effort to place an income tax hike for schools on the ballot. And the California Federation of Teachers last week spent $500,000 on a proposed initiative to raise taxes on millionaires.
This week's filing deadline helped end some posturing from would-be candidates. Former Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg, a Democrat from the Los Angeles area, opted out of a primary challenge against incumbent state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills). Two other Democratic Assembly members -- Oakland's Sandre Swanson and Anthony Portantino of La Canada Flintridge -- abandoned their campaigns against sitting Democrats.
And state Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) announced Tuesday that he would not run against Rep. Linda Chavez (D-Lakewood).
In other widely watched congressional races, Rep. Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro) and Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Long Beach), vying for a new southern Los Angeles County district, both reported that their campaigns have more debt than cash.
The filing by Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett, a Democrat, showed him raising more than $241,000 -- the most of several candidates -- for a seat in that county. State Sen. Tony Strickland (R-Moorpark) entered the race after the reporting period ended but said he raised $317,000 on his first day as a candidate.
Farther north, Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara), who has drawn several challengers in her newly configured, less Democratic district, reported raising nearly $322,000 and having more than $1 million on hand. Her main competitor, former Republican Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado of Santa Maria, reported collecting $50,324 and having $640,000 in the bank. But $250,000 of that was a loan to himself that he withdrew the next day.
For a seat in coastal Los Angeles County, four locally prominent political figures are running, including three Republicans: former Rep. Steven T. Kuykendall of Long Beach, Long Beach Councilman Gary DeLong and Los Alamitos Councilman Troy Edgar. State Sen. Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach, the only Democrat in the race, edged out the others in fundraising for the reporting period, bringing in $166,329. DeLong had the most in his treasury: $367,000.
Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas), whose district was decimated in last year's redrawing of political maps, reported very little fundraising activity, fueling speculation that he will retire.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, reported raising $949,000, bringing her total for her expected reelection bid to nearly $4.9 million, despite having drawn only little-known opponents so far. She had almost $6.6 million in the bank.
Feinstein estimated she had lost at least $4 million to former campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee, who was arrested last year on suspicion of embezzling funds from many of her Democratic clients. Feinstein said she was able to cover the loss herself.
Times staff writers Richard Simon in Washington and Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento contributed to this report.