Some new numbers reinforce the growing influence of independent expenditure committees, those political entities that can raise and spend money in unlimited amounts because they're not controlled by candidates for office.
Data compiled by the state's Fair Political Practices Commission on yesterday's legislative races in open seats (no incumbent) concludes that just under $10 million was spent by IE committees either for or against various challengers for the Assembly and Senate.
Most of that money, about $5.9 million, was spent on the 19 open Assembly races. And tops on that list appears to be the Democratic primary in Assembly District 8, where Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada knocked off West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon. That race alone attracted more than $1.15 million in IE spending, with big money funneled into IE committees by both the educational non-profit EdVoice (pro-Cabaldon) and the California Teachers Association (pro-Yamada).
Big IE bucks were also spent the Democratic primary in the Bay Area's Assembly District 19 ($787,310) and in the Democratic primary for Los Angeles County's Assembly District 40 ($705,408).
On the state Senate side, IE campaigns spent a combined $3.77 million on six open seats. Tops here was the Democratic primary for Los Angeles County's Senate District 25. Here, former Assemblymember Rod Wright beat three challengers, including incumbent Assemblymember Mervyn Dymally. More than $950,000 of the IE money in this race came from one committee funded largely by business, real estate, and energy interests.
The second largest draw for IE cash on the Senate side was the GOP primary in Riverside County's Senate District 37, where Assemblymember John Benoit defeated former Assemblymember Russ Bogh.
The FPPC recently released a detailed report on independent expenditure committees, whose appeal can be found in that they are exempt from any of the donation limits under existing state campaign finance laws.