Equality California is defending its financial support of Scott Wiener’s state Senate bid after it came under attack today by the campaign of Jane Kim.
The two San Francisco Democratic supervisors are running for the 11th Senate District seat, which covers all of San Francisco and portions of northern San Mateo County. Gay state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) is termed out of office this year and has endorsed Wiener, who is also gay, to succeed him. (The Bay Area Reporter also endorsed Wiener in the race today.)
The statewide LGBT advocacy group’s political action committee has made electing Wiener to the state Legislature its top priority this election year. Its aim is to replenish the ranks of the California Legislative Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus, as two of its current seven members will be termed out of office come December.
EQCA’s PAC also wants to ensure San Francisco retains LGBT representation in Sacramento. With the city’s two Assembly seats currently held by straight men, San Francisco would be without any out lawmakers in its state delegation since 1996 should Kim win the Senate seat.
“The reason why we are focused on and made Scott’s race a priority is because of the terming out of Senator Leno and other members of the Legislature. Maintaining a strong LGBT caucus is our top priority,” said EQCA Executive Director Rick Zbur. “We know Mark Leno has been a champion in the Senate since 2008, and the Senate seat has been held by an LGBT person since 2004. Scott has been endorsed by Leno and the LGBT caucus.”
Nonetheless, EQCA’s financial backing of Wiener’s Senate bid came under fire today by Kim’s campaign, which accused it of using money from gas giant Chevron that had been funneled through the independent expenditure group known as Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy.
Kim’s campaign claimed that Chevron’s $300,000 donation to the committee April 11 was used later that day to transfer $70,000 to the Equality California PAC. It then noted that on May 2 the Equality California PAC disclosed two independent expenditures on behalf of Wiener: a $113,203 television ad buy and another $8,937.50 expenditure for polling.
“While the money gets passed from committee to committee, the source remains the same – oil giant Chevron,” stated a media release from Kim’s campaign.
Zbur said the EQCA PAC receives financial support from a variety of business interests and political leaders. It began airing its ad in support of Wiener on television last week, added Zbur, in order to boost his name recognition in certain areas of the Senate district.
“None of our contributors have control over where we spend our money,” he said. “We ask them to support our allied candidates. We make the decisions on where we are spending our money based on our priorities.”
An online ad Scott Wiener’s campaign posted Monday features his encounter with a Fox News reporter in City Hall.
Wiener was also criticized by Kim for benefiting from “thousands of dollars” home-sharing site Airbnb has spent to support his Senate campaign. And her campaign mocked Wiener for claiming in an online ad that he “doesn’t talk to Fox News” but is “perfectly happy” accepting financial help from its parent company, Fox Entertainment Group, which has given upwards of $20,000 to the Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy committee.
“This committee in turn has donated heavily to Equality California PAC which will be running television advertisements in support of Wiener (possibly on Fox News itself!),” noted Kim’s campaign.
“Scott Wiener has rejected sensible limits on donations and has been the beneficiary of tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Chevron, Airbnb and other major corporate interests,” stated Gustavo Arroyo, Kim’s campaign manager. “In this election Scott Wiener is standing with the big corporations while Jane Kim fights for the working families of this District.”
Zbur was critical of Kim’s campaign for focusing on it’s spending in the race rather than issues important to the voters.
“When you can’t talk about the issues, you start focusing on side red herring sort of issues,” he said.
Wiener’s campaign manager, Maggie Muir, told the B.A.R the attack from Kim is another sign that Wiener is the clear front runner in the race.
“As Supervisor Kim’s campaign fails to gain traction, it’s not surprising that she is desperately trying to conjure a false conspiracy theory to attack Scott Wiener for an independent expenditure over which he has no control. Indeed, Wiener is legally prohibited from coordinating with outside groups,” she wrote in an emailed reply.
Muir added that it “is surprising” to see Kim “attack and impugn” one of the largest state-based LGBT rights groups in the country, adding that “Scott Wiener is proud, as a gay man, to have EQCA’s support.”
According to Muir, Wiener’s campaign is refusing to “take a penny from the oil industry.” She also noted that Wiener is the sole recipient of the California League of Conservation Voters endorsement.
“The League of Conservation Voters refused to endorse Supervisor Kim, even though the League frequently makes dual endorsements. That decision was based on Scott Wiener’s unparalleled environmental record at the Board of Supervisors, including his groundbreaking legislation requiring solar panels and water recycling in new developments,” she wrote. “Scott is proud to run on his environmental record because, unlike Supervisor Kim, he actually has an environmental record.”
EQCA PAC is supporting several candidates
EQCA’s Zbur also took issue with Kim’s campaign focusing on the group’s PAC only making independent expenditures to Wiener this year.
According to its filings with the secretary of state’s office, the EQCA PAC has directly donated thousands of dollars to more than a dozen straight and gay or lesbian candidates throughout the state, as well as the San Diego Democratic County Party.
The PAC raised $247,000 during the first quarter of the year and spent $181,112. As of April 23 it reported having $81,016.91 in its account.
“No, we haven’t just spent money on Scott,” said Zbur. “We maxed out to almost all the LGBT candidates.”
There are 14 out California statehouse candidates this year, and as noted in the B.A.R.‘s Monday, May 9 Political Notes column, eight of the gay and lesbian candidates have outraised their opponents in their respective races.
Wiener has been one of the most prolific fundraisers. Since announcing his bid last year, Wiener’s total fundraising haul is more than $1.3 million. Kim has raised more than $514,000.
This is not the first time Kim has attacked Wiener’s fundraising, as she was critical of his accepting money from real estate interests during their first debate co-hosted by the B.A.R. in April.
Nor has Wiener shied from attacking Kim on her financial backers in the race. During that same debate he criticized Kim for accepting donations from out of state real estate money.