Big bucks for council candidates

Despite the down economy and lack of hot-button issues in the city, Newport Beach City Council candidates raised nearly $140,000 in the first half of 2010.

The fundraising reports, the last of which were made public this week, show real estate developers, attorneys and business groups making the bulk of the political contributions.

Two candidates are contesting for one seat that is being vacated, and three incumbents are running unopposed so far. This fundraising cycle for the November election is the first time that each donor can give $1,000, double the previous limit.

That higher limit may counteract the lower interest in city affairs and the tough economic conditions, said Councilman Mike Henn, who is running for a second term in District 1.

"It just kind of balanced itself out," Henn said.

When he ran in 2006, the city's controversial general plan was up for a vote and candidates brought in about the same amount of funds.

"This time around there doesn't appear to be a large controversial issue to spark people to make large contributions," he said.

Still, pharmaceutical executive Ed Reno, who is running for District 3, pulled in $43,701 between January and June. His donors included major companies in the health and tobacco industries: Altria, the Virginia-based parent company of Philip Morris USA; Irvine-based Edwards Lifesciences, which makes heart valves and other products; and Eli Lily, the Indianapolis pharmaceutical giant.

Architect Rush Hill, who is running against Reno, gathered $31,782 in the same period. Developers, attorneys, family members and other business people made his list. Two people affiliated with Bourns Inc., a Riverside-based manufacturing company, each contributed the maximum $1,000. Three people will Hill's same last name each donated the maximum amount.

Leslie Daigle, who is running for reelection in District 4, brought in $36,723. Her major donors were from real estate and business groups. Daigle has more than $70,000 of individual and business contributions in her coffers – second only to Hill, who has $82,000 after taking out a $50,000 loan.

"I like to think their support reflects my responsiveness, and support for my primary agenda that has focused on programs to clean up our beaches, bay and ocean," Daigle said in a statement.

Two groups that donated to multiple campaigns are the Orange County Business Council's political action committee and the Building Industry Assn. of Southern California.

Henn raised $25,764 from real estate groups and individuals. Nancy Gardner, who represents District 6 in Corona del Mar, did not take any campaign contributions during that period.

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