Wu: Out-of-town donations are pretty common

Palo Alto physicist Charles Munger Jr. has jumped into the 74th District Assembly race.

Not as a candidate. (The field still includes Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa), Newport Beach City Councilwoman Leslie Daigle and Newport real estate investor Bob Rush.)

But as a donor. As of May 15, Munger had made $726,826.20 in contributions to an independent expenditure committee to support Daigle.

Someone from Northern California is spending three quarters of a million bucks to support a Newport council member in a Southern California Assembly race?

Does that sound normal to you? Does that raise some questions in your mind?

But candidates receiving help from, or getting attacked by, an independent expenditure committee is nothing new. In fact, it happens every election cycle in Irvine, Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach and Newport Beach.

The 2008 Newport Beach council race saw two such groups raise quite a bit of money to do just that.

I was the spokesman for a group that raised more than $100,000, including $50,000 from Rush, to attack Councilman Steve Rosansky.

For five weeks, this committee blanketed the city in mailers to tell the voters why Rosansky shouldn't be re-elected. He still won.

Also in 2008, Newport Beach businessman Jack Croul poured in $250,000 in an effort to get Mayor Pro Tem Keith Curry unseated. Guess what? Curry still won.

Say what you want about those efforts, at least the money to attack the Newport Beach council members came from Newport residents, people who were willing to spend lots of dollars to exercise their right to free speech.

But these committees getting money from out of town is not unusual either. For instance, in my ill-fated, ill-conceived 2006 Newport Beach council race, the committee that hit me raised a majority of its funds from a Laguna Beach donor, who may have not known the players in the race, may not have known our positions, party affiliations, or even our names.

So seeing a committee in this Assembly race was not unexpected, as even I had heard rumors of potential groups who were going to jump into this fray, but all of them were local, and I never would have imagined someone from Palo Alto would have had this much interest in this race.

But looking further into Munger reveals he contributed more than $12 million to Proposition 20 and $1.3 million to Proposition 11, both of which essentially took redistricting out of the hands of the politicians and put it into the hands of the independent commissions selected by an independent panel selected by the California governor.

Both of these propositions were opposed by the Democratic and the Republican parties since each was no longer guaranteed a spot in the November elections.

But the biggest result of these two propositions would be more moderate representatives being elected.

Thus Munger's $726,000 support of Daigle, a moderate Republican.

So what does $726,000 buy? As of May 16, here's what we've spent so far:

•Campaign literature and mailings: $87,728

•TV airtime and production costs: $150,000

•Radio airtime and production costs: $54,000

But the big winner so far has to go to the campaign consultants who so far have raked in $30,000.

Between May 10 and May 15, some $321,728 was spent. So at least Munger is stimulating the economy a bit.

Although he's 400 miles away, I'd be bet he probably doesn't know Bob Rush from Rush Hill.

All he knows is that in this race, Mansoor is the conservative Republican, and Daigle is the moderate Republican.

What's another $1 million either way, right?

But consider this. The $321,000 Munger's committee spent as of May 15 is more than Rush, Mansoor and Daigle have on hand combined.

The $726,000 this one man has donated is more than every one of you and your friends, and their friends will have donated to all three candidates combined.

With two strokes of his pen, his voice has become louder than yours — all the way from Palo Alto.

They should just rename it Palo Alto/Charles Munger Jr. Assembly District Assemblyman.

Gotta love free speech!

JACK WU is an accountant who lives in Newport Beach and practices in Costa Mesa. He is a longtime Republican Party loyalist and a volunteer campaign treasurer for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa). His column runs Sundays on the Daily Pilot Forum page. He can be reached at jack@wubell.com.

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