Money Honey

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It's been a lousy day to talk money for ordinary folks, but a busy day on the money trail for political reporters in California... as the latest pre-election campaign finance reports give a quick glimpse at cash raised, spent, and left for just about everyone involved in the November 4 election.

What's noteworthy out of the hundreds of documents being posted online by the Secretary of State depends on your own political preferences; after all, there are 53 congressional seats, 80 Assembly seats, and 20 state Senate seats to be filled by voters. There are also 12 ballot measures to consider, and dozens upon dozens of independent expenditure committees raising money.

Statewide campaigns, in particular, cost big bucks; most campaign pros say it now costs at least $2 million for a week of statewide TV ads, sometimes even more.

The data is enough to cause brain freeze. And so below is a snapshot of a few campaigns and VIPs on the money trail. A reminder that the figures below generally reflect campaign cash through September 30.

Tough Times for Tough on Crime? The campaign in support of Proposition 6 seems woefully short in the cash department, with much more debt than cash on hand. The campaign reported only $16,500 raised in the last three months, while spending some $1.6 million so far in 2008. Debts totaled more than $361,000 and the campaign has been loaned money from the political accounts of major backer Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster) and his wife, Assemblymember Sharon Runner (R-Lancaster). Of course, the man with the real money... technology millionaire Henry Nicholas... seems to have faded away, in light of this summer's drug and conspiracy charges against him.

The Big Bucks: The leader in California political campaign fundraising this time around clearly seems to be the efforts for and against Proposition 8, the proposed ban on same sex marriage. Prop 8 supporters had not filed reports as of this posting, but unofficial calculations for the period put their totals (two committees) at $17.1 million. Opponents had a tally that hovers near $18 million. The money is coming from all parts of the country, though campaign backers on both sides say most dollars are still from California... and that the identity of contributors is, at best, a minor story.

Meager Millions for Modified Maps: The battle over the redistricting measure, Proposition 11, would be drawing very little campaign cash if it weren't for Governor Schwarzenegger. The campaign accounted linked to Schwarzenegger reports about $3.25 million in contributions for the year, though was left with some $695,000 in cash as of September 30. Another pro-11 campaign reported about $3.25 million in contributions. And the No on 11 campaign? It raised only about $370,000... spent some $675,000... and reported about $322,000 in debt.

Legal Tender: Speaking of debt, the legal defense fund of Senate President pro Tem Don Perata seemed especially short on cash as of last week's reporting deadline. The fund, created to help defray legal expenses while Perata remains the subject of a federal investigation, has raised $310,000 in 2008 while spending much more -- some $565,000. The campaign reported debt of approximately $251,000. And sitting in the bank as of last week: $347.47 in cash.

Party On: The two major parties have also been busy raising cash, especially given that state campaign finance laws allow them to spend much more on individual candidate contests than the candidates themselves. The California Democratic Party reports 2008 contributions of about $11.6 million while the California Republican Party outpaced them by raising $17.8 million. But the tables are turned when it comes to cash left on hand -- the Dems reported $6.3 million in the bank, the GOP about $2.25 million.

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new multimedia California Politics & Government Desk.  He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades -- serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and, most recently, as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. He moderated the only gubernatorial debate of 2014, and was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

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