Tribes Add Millions to McClintock, Bustamante
Big cash infusion to battle Schwarzenegger's TV ads
Three Southern California Indian tribes plan to spend nearly $3 million on television ads in the recall campaign to support Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock -- a huge boost to two candidates who are struggling to match Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger in television advertising.
Schwarzenegger, with the biggest campaign bank account of any candidate, is expected to flood the airwaves with so many ads in the last 10 days of the contest that Californians will have to keep their TVs off to avoid seeing one. But the donations by the tribes could enable the front-runner's rivals to keep their campaign messages on TV until the Oct. 7 election.
Schwarzenegger's campaign seized on the donations Friday as more evidence of a plot by gaming tribes to boost McClintock as a way to split the Republican vote and help elect Bustamante.
"The Indian casinos are underwriting the candidacies of Bustamante and McClintock, (but) they don't want them both to win," said Schwarzenegger spokesman Rob Stutzman. "So Republicans should ask some good, hard questions about what's going on when they see that much money going to McClintock."
Television advertising is crucial in California, where it's nearly impossible to reach voters with the traditional retail politicking that works well in smaller states. But the amount of media coverage of the race -- called "free media" by the campaigns -- has made TV advertising less important in this campaign.
The Morongo Band of Mission Indians said they would spend more than $1.1 million on TV advertising to help McClintock, according to a report filed with the Secretary of State's office Friday.
First Americans for a Better California -- a joint committee of the Pechanga Band of Mission Indians and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation -- reported spending $1.5 million to purchase TV ads to support Bustamante, as well as nearly $500,000 on a mailing for the lieutenant governor.
The Pechanga tribe gave $1.5 million to the joint committee Friday, while the Sycuan tribe gave $400,000.
The Pechangas are also helping McClintock, giving $76,000 to the California Republican Assembly -- a conservative group that has endorsed him -- as well as $49,000 to Tax Fighters for Tom McClintock.
MCCLINTOCK DEFENDS DONATIONS
McClintock's campaign rejected the charge that the tribal contributions were part of a secret plot to boost Bustamante's campaign. The conservative Ventura County lawmaker maintains the donations reflect his 20-year record of supporting tribal sovereignty.
McClintock's campaign, which has been struggling to raise $500,000 for commercials scheduled to run next week, welcomed the independent expenditure by the tribe.
"It means that we have more money to get the message out that we're the only candidate with any momentum in this race," said John Stoos, McClintock's deputy campaign director. "It's great news. . . . That means we have $2 1/2 million of TV next week -- and that's the last week of the campaign."
The independent expenditures planned by the Pechanga and Sycuan tribes are crucial to Bustamante, who was ordered by a state judge Friday to cancel as much as $1 million in advertisements, which he paid for with money funneled through an old campaign account. Bustamante had just $185,000 in cash reserves as of last Saturday.
Schwarzenegger carries a significant financial edge into the last days of the race. The actor, who has raised nearly $14 million so far, had more than $3.8 million in campaign accounts as of last Saturday.
And Schwarzenegger donated $3 million to his campaign Friday, raising the amount he has contributed to his campaign to more than $7 million.
The money has allowed his TV ads to run nonstop, particularly during news programs on cable and local broadcast stations.
A LIMIT TO TV SPENDING
Political consultants, however, note there is a limit to how much money a candidate can spend on TV before he starts to see diminishing returns.
"It's hard to spend too much more than $2 million a week. That's pretty heavy television advertising," said Sal Russo, a Republican consultant in Sacramento. "You start to get marginal value over $2 million. . . . You can go overboard and spend $2.5 million. But with $2 million, you get very close to having every registered voter seeing that spot 10 times in the course of a week."
Russo, who is working for the Recall Gray Davis committee, just finished editing a TV ad aimed at pointing out Davis's failings as governor. But the committee has just $40,000 in cash reserves and is raising money to try to get it on the air.
Gov. Gray Davis, the target of the recall, appears to have saved enough money for a final TV push. His anti-recall campaign had $1.4 million in the bank as of last Saturday, the most recent campaign filing date, after raising more than $9 million. And Davis continued this past week to haul in five- and six-figure contributions from unions and wealthy individuals, raising his committee's contributions to almost $12 million.
"We are going to have more than enough money to get over the finish line," said Peter Ragone, spokesman for Davis' Californians Against the Costly Recall committee.
Meanwhile Rescue California, the committee that put the recall on the ballot, raised less than $300,000 during the past three weeks and as of last Saturday had a measly $19,000 in cash reserves.
Proponents of the recall have complained that donors are lavishing money on the leading candidates in the replacement election, but have devoted little to efforts to oust Davis.
E-mail Zachary Coile at firstname.lastname@example.org.