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Oceanside elections draw outside campaign donations

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to include an interactive map for tracking contributions by ZIP code. 

OCEANSIDE — In aggregate since 2014, non-local donors have supplied relatively substantial campaign funds to candidates in Oceanside’s city council and mayoral races.

Of itemized monetary contributions and loans totaling about $757,000, including candidates funding their own campaign committees, donors with non-Oceanside addresses gave 43%. That’s according to The Coast News’ analysis of seven years of candidates’ campaign finance disclosures, tabulated by the city clerk, current through June 30.

INTERACTIVE MAP: Click on a ZIP code to see aggregate contributions (monetary and loans only) candidates have received from donors in that area, over the period 2014-2020. Zoom out to see contributions from the broader region. Source: Candidates’ campaign finance disclosure forms, as compiled by Oceanside City Clerk

Individual donors, whether local or non-local, account for about two-thirds. Organizations that aren’t contributor-funded — predominantly businesses, but also the occasional family trust, or the like — account for about one-third.

Non-locals might take interest in Oceanside politics for any number of reasons — they work for the city government, they own property or a business in the city or the candidate is a family member or friend.

But ultimately elected officials are accountable to the electorate, which consists of resident voters. So, to the extent campaign money says anything about candidates’ priorities and loyalties, The Coast News thinks it newsworthy that such a large proportion flows in from elsewhere.

Campaign finance is a hugely complex subject. Readers should interpret The Coast News’ analysis as sketching a rough but imperfect “sixty-thousand-foot” picture of local campaign finance macro-trends.

Excluded from the analysis: (1) un-itemized contributions less than $100 (no accompanying donor addresses); (2) the market value of donated goods and services, such as food at a fundraiser; (3) contributions from political action committees (PACs), unions and other membership organizations; and (4) such groups’ “independent expenditures” made on a candidate’s behalf, but not necessarily with the candidate’s blessing, such as for mailers or signs.

Dollars in these omitted categories would add to the total picture. Un-itemized contributions would add some $45,000 — plausibly largely from local donors, but too little to make a huge difference. Donated goods and services and contributions from other recipient committees, taken together (minus the overlap), would add roughly $316,000; and other committees’ independent expenditures would add at least $210,000.

The latter two additions were excluded because committees like PACs use funds pooled in turn from myriad donors (sometimes other PACs) or dues-pay members. This (re)mixing makes determining the origin of every PAC dollar an Oceanside candidate receives a dubious enterprise.

This analysis also includes likely errors candidates made in their disclosures, though we fixed a few entries we determined for sure they categorized incorrectly.

Based on The Coast News’ analysis, Councilman Jack Feller stands out as the only candidate to receive contributions every year. His present mayoral committee has received roughly half its contributions from local donors and one-third from individuals. In aggregate over the years, his committees have received less than half from locals and about half from individuals.

Councilman Chris Rodriguez raised the most money in 2018 and 2019. His last campaign committee — from which he plans to transfer funds for his current mayoral run — received less than half from local donors and about two-thirds from individuals.

“I hold multiple fundraisers a year and cast my net far and wide,” Rodriguez told The Coast News.

Mayoral candidate Rob Howard has raised among the most funds so far in 2020. Overall, he’s received about half from local donors, including self-loaned funds. He’s received contributions from donors in 23 cities in California, plus 14 cities in 10 different states and the District of Columbia. Individual donors account for nearly all his contributions.

“Like many candidates, I loaned my campaign money to get started. … I reached out to my considerable network inside and outside of Oceanside,” Howard said.

Mayoral candidates Esther Sanchez and Ruben Major stand out as having received the huge majority of contributions locally and from individuals. Though Sanchez has self-funded half of her campaigns, in aggregate. About three-quarters of the remaining half came from locals, 85% from individuals.

Major loaned his campaign nearly all its funds. Generally speaking, candidates might use self-loans to kickstart their campaigns, and then repay those loans with future contributions from other donors.

In Major’s case, “It’s possible but highly unlikely that they will get paid back,” he said. “We stopped actively soliciting donations since COVID hit. … Because of the current economic status, it feels extremely wrong to be asking for campaign contributions.”

Michelle Gomez stands out as the top fundraising non-mayoral candidate. Just over a quarter of her contributions have come from local donors and about two-thirds from individuals.

She also stands out for receiving a fair amount from unions or other labor organizations (though our analysis didn’t include those monies).

“Unions are huge stakeholders in Oceanside as thousands of their registered members call Oceanside home,” Gomez said. “Of greater concern to voters is the fact that Oceanside currently has no local campaign finance regulations of its own. … Candidates can accept unlimited contributions from any U.S. based individual, political action committee, or corporation. … We need to have contribution limits.”

Jane Marshall has received about three-quarters of her contributions from locals and nearly all of which from individuals.

Mayor Peter Weiss, who’s running this year for a non-mayoral council seat, has received about half his contributions from locals, less than half from individuals. His top donors include several from outside Oceanside connected to real estate.

“I support growth and business development,” though he hasn’t been actively soliciting contributions,” Weiss told The Coast News. He said Oceanside needs investment and development to generate revenues for city services.

“I don’t think I’ll be influenced one way or the other … just because someone gave me 500 bucks,” Weiss said.

Numerous non-local donors during the analysis period have to do with real estate, for example: Howard Jacobs of GK Asset Management (Rancho Santa Fe); Ure Kretowicz of Cornerstone Communities (San Diego); Stirling Development (Foothill Ranch); Colton Sudberry of Sudberry Properties (San Diego); Craig Manchester of Integral Communities (Newport Beach); Mobile Home Acceptance Corporation (El Cajon).

6 comments

Nadine Scott September 5, 2020 at 4:10 pm

This article is interesting in that one could never draw any conclusions from it. If you want to know who ‘s supported by whom just read the City Clerk’s page. Many years ago I suggested an automated filing system and it’s called NetFile. Zack Beck implemented it and it works well. Or if you don’t like that route, just ask the candiadate.
Question: If you’re supporting Measure L., the fake farm housing development, you can be sure those candidates are being supported by developers and outside realtor groups.
Here is the public info: https://www.ci.oceanside.ca.us/gov/clerk/elections/electronic_filing_.asp
Of course some of these candidates are also supported by independent groups who have been notorious about not following the rules in Oceanside- again developers, Real Estate Concerns, etc.

Rainer Mueller September 3, 2020 at 4:58 pm

Graphics/charts would improve this article.

Jordan Ingram September 4, 2020 at 10:23 am

Your wish is our command. Please check out our interactive map for campaign contributions by ZIP code from 2014 to 2020. Enjoy!

Cindy September 3, 2020 at 12:56 pm

I clicked on Support the Coast News at the bottom of your article… and nothing happens. And, I didn’t see any other link to donate.

Jordan Ingram September 3, 2020 at 3:27 pm

Cindy,

Thank you for your message and your support! I’m not sure what happened but you should be able to support us here: https://thecoastnews.com/support-coast-news/

Lowell September 2, 2020 at 4:35 pm

Does anyone think it’s just a coincidence that real estate developers are major financial backers of candidates in nearly all North county cities? Care to guess which candidates they tend to support. I’ll give you a hint…it starts with the letter R.

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