Politics & Government

For central California lawmakers, fundraising never stops

WASHINGTON — The dollar chase never stops for California incumbents and challengers alike, who keep busy raising campaign funds for themselves and for others.

In the last week alone, three of the San Joaquin Valley's House members held Capitol Hill fundraisers. The events conducted a year before the next election raised thousands of dollars for the already flush treasuries maintained Reps. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, and Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield.

"It's by far the worst part of the job, and I hate it," Nunes said Friday, "but you have to constantly do it."

Nunes allowed that he enjoys events in his own congressional district, like a reception scheduled for Saturday in Visalia, while the D.C. events are strictly business. Wherever the money comes from, he often redistributes it among his colleagues.

"My goal is to get the Republicans back into the majority," Nunes said, adding that "we are always running a campaign operation, 365 days a year."

Cardoza and McCarthy, too, steer some of the money raised toward other candidates. For every incumbent, raising lots of money is a way to fend off challengers, while giving some of it to others is a way to make friends and influence policy.

Nunes reported having $1,068,393 available in his campaign treasury as of Sept. 30. To this, he added roughly $15,000 raised from an hour-long lunch held Nov. 17 at the GOP-run Capital Hill Club. In addition, he hosted two smaller fundraising events over the past week.

Political action committees paid $1,000 each, and individuals $500 each, for the chance to meet with Nunes and the senior Republican on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan. Camp helped set up the fundraising lunch, whose co-hosts included a political action committee representing U.S. resorts.

The night before the Nunes event, Cardoza hosted a $1,000-a-person fundraiser at D.C.'s Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar. The event, two blocks from the Capitol, raised money for Cardoza's Moderate Victory Fund.

The Moderate Victory Fund is a leadership PAC. It is separate from Cardoza's campaign committee, which had $453,347 available as of Sept. 30, and it is another way for the incumbent to assist colleagues with contributions. So far this year, the Moderate Victory Fund has spent more money on fundraising than it has contributed to other candidates.

For both leadership PACs and standard campaign committees, special interests prove a reliable source of funds.

On Oct. 27, for instance, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and the American Gas Association helped host a $2,000-a-head "energy industry luncheon honoring" Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno. The night before, it was Rep. George Radanovich's turn, as energy industry officials hosted a $1,000-a-head dinner and cocktail fundraiser for Radanovich at a Brazilian steakhouse called Fogo de Chao.

"Our gaucho chefs still expertly grill each of our 15 cuts of meat and offer you continuous tableside service," the restaurant's Web site promises.

Several hours after Nunes' Nov. 17 lunch concluded, his fellow Republicans could pay up to $5,000 for a chance to mingle with would-be GOP Senate candidate Carly Fiorina. Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard executive who hopes to challenge Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, was the beneficiary of a fundraising cocktail party held at a French restaurant on Capitol Hill called Bistro Bis.