With Democrats and Republicans each targeting two local House seats in the 2022 election, big money is expected to once again pour into Orange County races over coming months.
We’ve already taken a look at who got how much money in the first quarter of 2021 and what those early totals might signal for those races in the year ahead. But where is that money coming from? And why is it coming into Orange County?
The Register analyzed first-quarter fundraising reports for seven local House incumbents and five declared challengers who’ve reported donations so far this cycle. Here’s what we found:
Who gets the most money from individual donors?
Challengers tend to get a bigger chunk of their financial support from individuals, rather than well-financed political action committees, simply because challengers typically don’t enter politics with the name recognition or clout to woo the bigger money.
So far, three challengers in local races — Whittier Democrat Elizabeth Moreira in CA-38, Huntington Beach Republican Brian Burley in CA-45 and San Juan Capistrano Republican Bryan Maryott in CA-49 — are entirely funded by individuals. A fourth, Hacienda Heights Democrat Jay Chen, who’s challenging Rep. Young Kim in CA-39, has received almost all (99.4%) of his backing from individuals. Also, Laguna Beach Democrat Harley Rouda, a former House member now in a rematch with Rep. Michelle Steel in CA-48, has received 92% of his funds from individuals.
Among incumbents, Rep. Katie Porter, D-Irvine, also is leaning on individuals, who account for 96.3% of the $2.15 million she raised in the first quarter. Among local candidates, Porter also is getting the biggest chunk of her support (72.4%) from small donors giving less than $200.
Getting a high percentage of donations from individuals can reflect popularity among voters. But money is power, and there’s lots of money to be had from political action committees, or PACs.
Who gets the most money from PACs?
Just as challengers tend to receive most of their money from individuals, incumbents in safe seats tend to rely on PACs, which can be tied to political parties, companies, trade groups, nonprofits and issues, among other things.
So it makes sense that Reps. Linda Sanchez of Whittier and Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach, who are both Democrats in solidly blue districts, each received more than 85% of their first-quarter funds from PACs. Sanchez’s biggest donations came from PACs tied to the insurance industry, banking, public employees, transportation workers and beer wholesalers, who each gave her $2,500. Lowenthal’s biggest contributions came from groups tied to electrical workers, sheet metal workers and a Native American group.
Among incumbents in races that are expected to be competitive, Kim received the largest share of donations from PACs, at 15.5%. Her biggest donor was the GOP’s Take Back the House 2022 committee, whose largest donors include hotel magnate Stephen Wynn and local tech entrepreneur Geoffrey Palmer. Kim also received significant donations from PACs tied to Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise and former GOP politicians Ed Royce and Mike Huckabee.
Just behind Kim in terms of percentage of PAC donations was Rep. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, who got 15.3% of his donations from political committees. Levin’s biggest donors include the American Federation of Teachers, progressive political committees and a PAC tied to Democratic Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer.
These donations fit a pattern. Generally, local Republicans tend to get more money from right-leaning political PACs while local Democrats tend to get more money from PACs tied to left-leaning unions and trade groups.
Who gets the most money from outside California?
Once again, Sanchez and Lowenthal tie for first. People from outside California accounted for 92% of Sanchez’s individual contributions and 83% of Lowenthal’s.
But, in both cases, percentages can be at least somewhat misleading. In Lowenthal’s case, he had only two individual donors, one from California, who gave him $100, while another, from New York, gave $500. And Sanchez’s $180 in California donations came entirely from one woman, who’s a teacher in Whittier.
Among candidates for competitive seats, Kim took in the largest share of donations from outside California. She got 37.4% of her $138,331 in itemized donations from residents of other states, with large shares coming from residents of Texas, Michigan and Florida.
Just behind Kim was Porter, who got 36.7% of her $507,985 in itemized donations from donors outside California, including significant numbers from people in New York, Washington and Massachusetts.
Some voters may frown upon candidates getting large shares of donations from outsiders, though it can signal that a candidate has national appeal.
Who gets the most money from inside California?
Aside from Maryott and Moreira, whose campaigns are so far largely self-funded, the local candidate who got the highest share of itemized individuals donations from Californians is Rouda. The former representative who lost to Steel in November got 90.8% of his contributions from his home state.
Chen is next, with 88.4% of donations from Californians.
As for incumbents, Levin is the leader in in-state financing, with 83% of his contributions coming from California donors.
Who draws the most celebrity donors?
No surprise here — Porter, who has a national profile thanks in part to her popularity on social media, has attracted the highest-profile donors. Though Hollywood types don’t account for a big share of her overall donor pool, records show Porter received donations from writer and director Cameron Crowe, actors Jane Fonda and Michael Shannon and “Game of Thrones” director David Nutter.
Source: Orange County Register