Politics & Government

Oracle executives boosting Calif. congressman's campaign

WASHINGTON -- The high-tech Oracle Corp. is putting its money where its mouth is in supporting Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif.

Several months after praising McNerney for introducing a research-and-development tax credit, the software company's executives are downloading thousands of dollars into McNerney's re-election campaign. The last-minute contributions are helping the first-term Democrat financially outpace Republican Dean Andal.

"The congressman's happy with the support he's received," McNerney campaign spokesman Andy Stone said Friday "After all, he knew from day one this would be a tough race."

McNerney and Andal are now locked in what is probably California's most competitive congressional race. Running to represent the 11th Congressional District, which extends from Ripon and Manteca over the Altamont Pass, the two men have both been beating the bushes for money needed for ads and other campaign necessities.

McNerney had $792,000 in available campaign cash as of Oct. 15, while Andal had $270,000. Since then, although last-minute contributions have continued coming to both candidates, McNerney has extended his fundraising advantage.

Between Monday and Thursday, Federal Election Commission records show, McNerney collected a total of $22,150 from Oracle's political action committee and 11 of the company's employees. This was a big share of the $56,800 McNerney raised overall during the four-day period.

Andal reported raising a total of $17,500 during the same four-day period, from the likes of the House Conservatives Fund and from several Republican lawmakers.

Incumbents with safe districts often spread money around, as a way to build alliances. Since June 1, for instance, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, has shipped $300,000 in surplus campaign funds to the National Republican Congressional Committee and provided additional contributions to individual GOP candidates including Andal.

"We have to have money to run these campaigns," Nunes said, and "I think I have a responsibility to help the team."

McNerney's contributors have likewise included members of Congress, eager to hold on to a district where Republicans enjoy a voter registration advantage. Among political junkies, the 11th Congressional District race is high-profile enough to draw lots of contributions from outside of the area.

The assortment of Oracle engineers and vice presidents who recently contributed to McNerney are based in four different states including California.

"Given the excitement in the race, contributions continue to come in, especially online," Stone said.

An Oracle spokesperson could not be reached to comment Friday afternoon.

Oracle, though based in Silicon Valley, employs a number of workers at its office in McNerney's hometown of Pleasanton. In April, the company's leadership applauded his introduction of a bill to make permanent a tax credit that's currently extended on a temporary basis.

"The McNerney bill would help boost R&D investments in this country, and we hope it will spur Congress to restore and reform the R&D credit this year," Robert Hoffman, Oracle's vice president of government and public affairs, said at the time.

The tax credit is big bucks for Oracle, which says it will spend $3 billion on research and development next year.

The current 20 percent tax credit was established in 1981, and since then it has been reliably extended 13 different times. Politically, though, it could be hard to make the tax credit permanent. It's expensive, for one thing, with a $7 billion annual price tag. Some lawmakers may also find it advantageous to keep high-tech companies on the line, coming back to Congress for help.