by James Poulos | December 7, 2015 10:10 am
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.”
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.”
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.
Source URL: https://calwatchdog.com/2015/12/07/harris-campaign-splurges-stumbles/
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