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Tribe Spends $50,000 for McClintock

The Sycuan Band of Indians has also given $600,000 in support of Bustamante's bid.

September 12, 2003|Dan Morain | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — An Indian tribe that donated $600,000 to help elect Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante as governor has turned its sights on Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock, spending $50,000 in an independent effort to help McClintock's gubernatorial bid.

A campaign finance report filed with the state Thursday shows that the Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Indians in San Diego County gave the $50,000 to a newly formed committee called Tax Fighters for Tom McClintock for Governor.

"What do you know; I'm honored," McClintock said, unaware that the tribe was spending money on his behalf. Campaign finance law says there should be no coordination between candidates and independent expenditures.

Bustamante had been taking unlimited sums into an old campaign committee not covered by state limits on political donations. McClintock, who also has old committees not subject to restrictions, could use the same maneuver but rejected such a move, calling it "cheating." He said he is adhering to caps that prevent donors from giving more than $21,200 to his gubernatorial campaign, a limit that applies to all candidates on the Oct. 7 ballot.

Backers of independent campaigns can raise and spend unlimited sums for or against candidates. And independent expenditure committees are expected to play an ever larger role in California politics now that the contribution caps imposed by Proposition 34, approved by voters in 2000, have taken hold.

Some candidates frown on such efforts, because they have no control over the messages the independent acts send out. In many instances, independent efforts produce the most negative, stinging campaign literature and ads.

McClintock is the beneficiary of at least four independent efforts in the recall campaign. Conservative Christian Howard Ahmanson, an heir to a savings and loan fortune, is spending $75,000 on an independent campaign for McClintock.

A separate committee, the California Republican Assembly, earmarked an additional $57,000 to help elect McClintock, a Thursday filing with the secretary of state shows. And the Morongo Indians have spent $18,000 on McClintock's behalf.

In the contributions race generally, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger had the most money in his campaign account -- $8.4 million--as of Thursday. Bustamante had $6.8 million. Schwarzenegger is his own largest donor, having given himself $3 million.

Gov. Gray Davis, who is not listed as a candidate on the ballot, nevertheless has amassed about $7.2 million this year for his anti-recall effort.

Most polls show that if Davis were recalled Oct. 7, McClintock would place third behind Bustamante, the front-runner, and Schwarzenegger. McClintock also is trailing significantly in the race for money, having raised about $1.3 million.

Bustamante's largest donors are Native American tribes with gambling operations. They have given him $3.6 million so far this year, including the $600,000 from the Sycuan, which owns a major casino in San Diego County.

McClintock has received $109,000 in direct and indirect contributions from three tribes. McClintock and Bustamante each are adamant supporters of tribes' right to govern their own affairs.

Sycuan spokesman Adam Day, though declining to discuss whether the tribe would spend more on behalf of McClintock, said the tribe donated to the senator because he has "a clear understanding of sovereignty and what it means."

Schwarzenegger, unlike Bustamante and McClintock, has not met with tribes, and his campaign co-chairman, former Gov. Pete Wilson, clashed with some Indians when he tried to limit the expansion of gambling on their lands. By helping to finance McClintock's campaign, some tribes may hope to undermine Schwarzenegger and help Bustamante.

McClintock dismissed that idea. "When they give to Bustamante, they are helping Bustamante, and when they give to me, they're helping me," he said.

Richie Ross, Bustamante's campaign strategist, shrugged off such talk as well, saying "The theory is probably more interesting than whatever the reality is."


Times staff writer Joel Rubin contributed to this report.

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