Midterm roundup: Kiley fundraising off concerns about radical associations

Friday night, South Carolina’s capital newspaper The State reported House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) swung by that state GOP’s annual fundraiser. His main message was boasting of a coming “red tsunami” that will easily sweep the GOP back into control of the U.S. House.


In the past, McCarthy has said he would bet his house on winning back the House. This time McCarthy recommended conservative voters invest their own money to book flights to Washington for Jan 3, 2023. “I want you all there because I want you to see Nancy Pelosi hand me that gavel,” said McCarthy.

At least McCarthy wasn’t calling for Republicans to assemble in D.C. for a Jan. 6 reunion, but for McCarthy to become the next Speaker of the House, it would help the GOP to not lose any of their current 11 House seats in California. This includes the open CA-3 that stretches across 10 different counties, but centers on growing Sacramento suburbs like Folsom and Roseville. However, the day after McCarthy made his touts, his Trump-endorsed candidate in the CA-3 – State Assemblyman Kevin Kiley – communicated a far more dire warning in a fundraising email to supporters titled “New Poll Results.” (See right.)


“Our district has become less favorable for Republicans,” he warned. “National polls show that although Biden is historically unpopular, support is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats for Congress.”


Of course, alarmist fundraising emails are as old in politics as chest-thumping, fake certainty like McCarthy’s. So which is more accurate? Well, on the one hand Kiley’s concerns are not mirrored by the at-arms-length national prognosticators who have largely called the CA-3 seat safe or likely Republican. However since Trump would have won the redesigned district in 2020 by just 1.9%, I think Kiley’s concern is well placed in his battle against the moderate Democrat and Navy veteran Dr. Kermit Jones who finished Q2 with more than three times as much cash on hand ($595,407 to $162,067).


But Kiley’s email also appears to be his first freely offered comment related to the story SactoPolitico exclusively broke last year about his serving as a featured speaker at a March 2021 rally co-organized by an individual who had recently called for Americans to arm for civil war. The rally also featured several speakers with ties to QAnon, militias and a national hate group. Kiley and his team have yet to return numerous requests for comment from us in the 17 months since.


Kiley’s reference to the issue, though, was at the least more than a bit cagey, but also possibly contrived. Kiley specifically wrote that his campaign had caught Dr. Jones doing push-polling and making “the insane allegation that I support calls for a ‘second civil war in America.’ A person this shameless would do grave damage in Congress.”


I have closely covered this race, regularly interviewing Dr. Jones and his team. With me, they have consistently called for Kiley to explain his “radical associations,” including his decision to attend that March 2021 rally, but never did they claim they knew Kiley held the same beliefs. They just feel an explanation to voters is in order. So I reached out to the Kiley camp to provide their proof of catching Dr. Jones’ push-polling and that he claimed Kiley supports a second civil war.


So far, the Kiley campaign has provided no response to these requests or a renewed request for comment on Kiley’s attendance the March 2021 rally.


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Earlier this month, the Federal Election Commission had been asked by Bay Area Congressman Eric Swalwell to rule on whether certain child care costs to be covered by campaign funds. As reported by OpenSecrets.org, this turned testy when some commissioners took exception to the Trump-nominated commissioner Trey Trainor calling Swalwell “abhorrent” for using child care to take an international trip on Congressional business.


Other commissioners upbraided Trainor for the ad hominin attack. They requested Trainor stay focused on the commission’s job to only rule on the acceptability of using campaign funds for this purpose, but he refused to do so, continuing his parenting beef online.

OpenSecrets also published the chart to the right that showed several Republicans also using campaign funds to cover child care costs. Topping the list is Republican Congressional candidate Tamika Hamilton, who is running in Sacramento’s CA-7 against Democratic incumbent Ami Bera. Including recently filed Q2 expenditures, she has totaled more than $45,000 in child care costs covered by campaign funds since February 2021.


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Last week, the California Labor Federation issued its endorsements for state and federal offices. Not surprisingly, most endorsements were for Democrats, but the CFL did something the California Democratic Party would not do. The CFL did not endorse the Democratic incumbent for the state Board of Equalization Dist. 4, Mike Schaefer.


Schaefer has a disturbing legal history that includes a spousal abuse conviction, a near million-dollar fine as a “slumlord,” and a restraining order keeping him away from a Hollywood actor. More recently, a SactoPolitico investigation found Schaefer lied in campaign speeches and on his original official candidate statement about being endorsed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis also contested the endorsement Schaefer claimed he had received from her. Unfortunately, none of this prevented the state Democratic Party from endorsing him in March or since then retracting that endorsement.


But refreshingly, the CFL endorsed the other Democrat who made the top-two runoff. He is a long-time Board of Equalization staffer and good-government candidate named David Dodson. New CFL head Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher said on Twitter, “I’m really proud to say that @CaliforniaLabor chose to endorse @Dodson4BOE. While it’s usually easier to go with a so-called ‘friendly incumbent’ — it’s always better to stand on principle.”


Here is a Q&A Dodson conducted in June with SactoPolitico.


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Lastly, SactoPolitico loves studying quarterly campaign finance filings. Here's a roundup of different items unearthed:

  • Last quarter, Orange County’s U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel accepted donations from PG&E (guilty of dozens of wildfire deaths), Walgreen’s (fined $680 million in May for opioids distribution violations) and the Oil Pipelines Association (despite October’s Newport Beach spill).

  • In other PG&E news, Sacramento-area U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui reported her leadership PAC accepted a second $5,000 donation this cycle from the ever-generous PG&E. This is on top of Matsui’s continued acceptance of donations from major opioid makers and distributors this cycle, such as AmerisourceBergen, McKesson, CVS, Walmart and Johnson & Johnson.

  • This year, 10 Democratic campaigns accepted $53,500 in donations from Fox Corp. This despite Fox supporting Trump’s Big Lie and airing little of the Jan. 6 House Select Committee hearings. This adds to the $225,000 we reported at the start of the year that Democrats accepted over the previous three years from Fox Corp. Recipients this year have included the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Montana Senator John Tester, Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, and California Rep. Dr. Raul Ruiz.

  • In the important Ohio U.S. Senate race, the Trump-endorsed candidate J.D. Vance raised just $1 million in the last quarter with only $628,000 on hand for running in the U.S.’s seventh largest state. By comparison, Democrat Tim Ryan raised $8 million last quarter with $3.6 million on hand at the end of June.


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