SACRAMENTO — With the election just days away, millions of dollars in late contributions are pouring into the state's most fiercely contested legislative races and high-stakes initiative campaigns.
The last-minute dollars can be devastating because they can finance unexpected campaign offensives when there is no time for opponents to strike back.
In the struggle for control of the Assembly, Democrats and Republicans employ the same tactics, with GOP Gov. Pete Wilson and Democratic Assembly Speaker Willie Brown along with their parties moving money into races where they see the opposition as most vulnerable.
In just two days, Wilson committees and the state Republican Party moved $400,000 to Republican candidates in 11 Assembly races, according to late contribution reports.
But the Democrats were making moves and countermoves over those two days, with the Speaker and the Democratic State Central Committee funneling $275,000 to 10 Democratic candidates.
Similarly, several initiative campaigns are collecting and spending substantial amounts of cash in the crucial final days before ballots are cast.
The opposition to Proposition 167, which would cut sales taxes and increase taxes on businesses and upper-income individuals, has been leading the way, collecting $2.3 million in the last two weeks. The added cash brings the total collected by the No on 167 campaign committee to $10.2 million--almost 30 times the amount raised by proponents.
Those contributing the most this week to defeat the measure include the Atlantic Richfield Co., $85,245; Transamerica Corp., $30,000, and Waste Management, Inc., $20,000--businesses whose taxes would rise if the initiative passes.
No other initiative campaign has attracted quite that much money. But the opposition to Proposition 166, the California Medical Assn.-sponsored measure requiring employers in the state to provide basic health care coverage to most employees, has collected $1.5 million over the past two weeks. That brings the total collected by opponents to $7.1 million with some of the largest amounts coming from insurance companies, which would be more tightly regulated if the measure passes.
The late contributions have made it possible for opponents to launch an all-out advertising campaign during the last few days before the election.
In contrast, the proponents, including doctors and hospital groups, have raised a total of $1.9 million, with $171,000 coming in during the past two weeks.
The last-minute shifting of legislative campaign money provides a guide to the state's hottest races.
In just two days, Brown and the Democratic State Central Committee sent $48,500 to the campaign of Julie Bornstein, a Democrat who is challenging incumbent GOP Assemblywoman Tricia Hunter of Bonita. Wilson and the Republicans in the same period sent $10,000 to Hunter.
The two parties are also throwing late contributions into another San Diego County race in which Democratic Assemblyman Mike Gotch faces a strong challenge from conservative GOP candidate Dick Daleke.
In 48 hours, Wilson and the Republicans moved $40,000 to Daleke's campaign, while the Democrats spent $41,000 to promote Gotch's campaign.