Harris campaign makes moves to reduce costs

Photo courtesy of atlantablackstar.com

Photo courtesy of atlantablackstar.com

The Senate campaign of California Attorney General Kamala Harris has displeased Democratic insiders, who worry that their leading candidate to replace Sen. Barbara Boxer hasn’t run a tight enough ship.

Spokesman Nathan Click recently admitted the operation was “changing campaign managers and making moves to reduce costs,” after what the Sacramento Bee reported was “unusually heavy spending in recent months.”

“Click said the campaign was making spending cuts involving consultants and staff but declined to detail them,” the Bee noted, although the resignation of campaign manager Rory Steele — replaced by senior adviser Juan Rodriguez — was not as easily concealed.

At issue was the campaign’s eyebrow-raising spending, which included repeated, relatively lavish expenditures on Harris’s hotel accommodations. “Cam­paigns typ­ic­ally shell out big bucks on me­dia buys, staff salaries and ex­pens­ive fun­draisers. But spend­ing it on hous­ing, par­tic­u­larly when far cheap­er op­tions are avail­able, is atyp­ic­al, cam­paign vet­er­ans say, and even Har­ris’s fel­low Demo­crats have taken no­tice,” according to National Journal:

“It’s not as if the Cali­for­nia at­tor­ney gen­er­al had money to burn, either. She’s already spent more than 40 per­cent of the $6 mil­lion she’s raised since be­com­ing a can­did­ate in Janu­ary, an alarm­ing burn rate for a can­did­ate who is also on her second cam­paign man­ager and third fin­ance dir­ect­or. In her latest fun­drais­ing re­port, cov­er­ing the peri­od of Ju­ly through Septem­ber, the dis­crep­ancy between money com­ing in and money go­ing out was es­pe­cially acute: $1.8 mil­lion to $1.4 mil­lion.”

Champagne tastes

Compounding the problem, Harris’s taste for high-end living recently landed her in a crisis of a different sort — a state ethics probe involving the Fair Political Practices Commission.

“A $21,000 spruce-up of her San Francisco loft by designer-to-the-stars Ken Fulk wound up putting state Attorney General Kamala Harris under the microscope for possibly accepting an illegal gift,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported. “The A.G. eventually ended up in the clear — but not before cutting a check for more than $10,000.” After the FPPC made some inquiries, “Harris asked Fulk for an accounting for any money she still owed on the job and sent in a final check for $10,245,” the paper added.

California law bars elected state officials “from receiving a gift or gifts totaling more than $460 in a calendar year,” according to the Los Angeles Times, “with a few exceptions.”

Even with her name cleared by the FPPC, Harris has faced a difficult time turning the page on the broader pattern of conduct underscored by her relationship with Fulk. “Har­ris’s frivol­ous spend­ing on air­fare, lux­ury cars, and ho­tels is highly un­usu­al for a Sen­ate can­did­ate that has a re­l­at­ively com­pet­it­ive race,” one nation­al Demo­crat­ic strategist told National Journal. “And the cam­paign is in the fin­an­cial mess that it’s in be­cause of its de­cision to do those things.”

New vulnerability

The scrutiny directed at Harris would be significant regardless of her position heading toward the state primary election. But with California’s new top-two runoff system, known as the “jungle” primary, her missteps have taken on much greater significance. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who also wants to succeed Boxer, has been running a less polished underdog campaign. But she has begun to expand her base of support beyond Southern California, where it remains very strong. According to the Orange County Register, Sanchez recently roped in Central Valley endorsements from Rep. Jim Costa, D-Frenso, and former Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, and even made inroads in Harris’s San Francisco backyard with a nod from Silicon Valley Rep. Anna Eshoo.

With Republicans divided and the state GOP occasionally willing to simply sit out an election in the hopes of helping control the winning Democrat’s agenda, Harris has looked increasingly vulnerable. “Sanchez is more of an ideological centrist, as shown by her most recent spate of endorsements, and thus would more naturally draw support from business and conservative groups, as well as Republican voters,” Dan Walters noted at the San Jose Mercury News. In addition to wiping out a gender gap, “Sanchez could pull Latino votes away from Harris.” The momentum has California’s Northern California liberal establishment on edge, fearing the specter of the more left-leaning candidate losing out in yet another runoff election.

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