Bears, Merchandising and Consultants: How Newsom’s Recall Candidates Spend Campaign Money


With six weeks before Californians decided to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom, the top GOP donor favorite is still Kevin Faulconer. The former mayor of San Diego has raised more than $ 4 million in contributions. While most of his earnings came from big spenders, the median contribution was $ 5,000, according to campaign finance reports filed Monday.

Remind the details of the election

  • This recall election – the second in the history of the state – will take place on September 14.

  • Voters will receive ballots in the mail as of August 16. You can return your ballot by mail or vote in person.

  • Voters will be asked two questions: do they want to recall Newsom, yes or no? And who should replace him if more than 50% of voters say “yes” to his impeachment.

  • Check if you are registered to vote on the California Secretary of State’s website.

Conservative talk show host Larry Elder’s campaign has raised nearly $ 4.5 million, according to his financial records, and he has also surpassed the rest of the field of replacement candidates among donors who give less than 100 $ and are therefore not named.

Despite being related to the Kardashians and owning a private plane, Caitlyn Jenner came in second in the small dollar department. With the help of aggressive digital fundraising techniques and massive name identification, she raised nearly $ 200,000 in these unspecified contributions. This is the good news. The bad news: her campaign spent hundreds of thousands more than it took.

John Cox, the Rancho Sante Fe millionaire who has not shied away from investing huge sums of his own money into his campaigns, has already invested $ 9.1 million in the recall. Unlike typical campaign donations, which are capped at $ 32,400, candidates can give as much as they can. Former U.S. Rep Doug Ose, YouTube real estate agent Kevin Paffrath, business consultant Jenny Rae Le Roux are also funding their own campaigns, but at orders of magnitude smaller than Cox.

Rob Stutzman, a Republican consultant who worked on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s successful recall campaign in 2003, said this latest round of financial reports indicates Faulconer and Elder appear as the most viable replacement candidates on the ballot. .

“These are the two who have the money” and who are well placed if one the majority of voters choose to dismiss the governor, said Stutzman. “And lightning could strike. Newsom is walking around with a three-meter tin pole in the air, and he could get zapped.

In total, candidates who hope to replace the governor have raised more than $ 20 million. Not bad for an unexpected election year out, but still a lot less than the over $ 40 million Newsom allies raised.

Based on the new records, here are four takeaways about how recall candidates are using their campaign money:

Jenner moves to Trumpland

When Jenner’s campaign started looking for dealers to produce her “Wake Up The Woke” flat-brimmed cap – still available on the campaign’s website for $ 32 – she knew who to contact: Ace Specialties.

The Louisiana-based company promotes itself as a “one-stop-shop for goods made in the United States,” but it is best known for one product: former President Trump’s signature red. Hat “Make America Great Again”.

For months it has been clear that Jenner turned to agents and fundraisers who make up Trump World to bolster his gubernatorial bid. The new expense reports show how the former Wheaties spokesperson built her campaign on the infrastructure left by the former president.

In addition to the $ 56,331 that went to the makers of MAGA hats, the campaign sent more than $ 100,000 to Jamestown Associates, the company responsible for some of Trump’s most prominent TV commercials in the two 2016 and 2020 campaigns. Over $ 80,000 went to the former president’s investigator, Fabrizio, Lee and Associates, and an additional $ 66,000 went to Trump’s Company former campaign manager Brad Parscale.

Another notable item: $ 25,000 to the public relations firm of former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, a regular Fox News commentator who broke up with Trump after hundreds of MAGA supporters stormed the United States Capitol on January 6.

Jenner has deceived her support for Trump. She supported him in 2016, to denounce him two years later after his Administration banned transgender people from military service. This year, she claimed not to have participated in the 2020 elections (despite records showing she voted) and recently stated that she wouldn’t appreciate his approval in the abseil race, even if pledging to support a future Trump presidential election.

Cost of Cox’s Bear, a mystery

If you know two things about Cox, it’s that 1) he ran for governor in 2018 and 2) he spent much of the spring having fun with a bear named Tag.

This famous – perhaps infamous – rebranding effort was said to have been the result of eye-catching media consultant Fred Davis. Before joining Cox, Davis was best known for the Carly Fiorina movie ad “demon sheep” in his failed race for the US Senate in 2010 – a memorable political spot only for being so confusing and unsettling.

Davis’ firm, Strategic Perspectives, has done well with Cox this year, pulling in $ 343,307 for his services.

Cox’s brief did not detail the cost of renting the bear, and Cox campaign spokesman Anthony Ramirez said Monday night he did not know the exact price. The only animal-related item in the campaign expense report: $ 1,872.60 for veterinary services, obviously the City of San Diego’s pre-requisite for Cox and Tag’s joint appearance there.

A big part of that Home Depot spending was buying various equipment to make sure the trash didn’t blow away. Throwing in trash while trying to take stock of the trash wouldn’t have looked very good.

– Anthony Ramirez, spokesperson for the John Cox campaign on spending

Ramirez also did not provide information on the cost of the ball of garbage props lover Cox carried around in the state – a commentary on roaming. One possibility: Cox documents show an expense of $ 20,523 with Vision Scenery, a San Fernando Valley props store. The campaign also spent just under $ 300 at two Home Depots in the San Diego area. Maybe that was it?

Good guess, but no, Ramirez said.

“A lot of that Home Depot spending was buying various equipment to make sure the trash didn’t blow up” while hauling it around the state, he said. “Throwing in trash while trying to take stock of the trash wouldn’t have been a very good look. “

YouTuber campaigns in video

Paffrath raised the most money among all the candidates who will have a “D” next to their name on the ballot. Newsom is not a candidate for recall, and although it was, the partisan affiliation will not appear on the ballot because he lost a lawsuit involving his own appointed Secretary of State.

The youngest of three Kevins in the race, Paffrath drew more than all but five contestants and raised almost $ 70,000 in contributions under $ 100, the second most.

That’s not to say that he gets most of his money from small donations online; the real estate investor loaned $ 90,000 to his campaign.

Paffrath, who has no political experience, claims nearly 1.7 million subscribers to his YouTube channel “Meet Kevin”, where he posts videos on real estate and financial investing. It’s a lucrative business; him and his wife were on track to win $ 6 million last year, according to one account, and they reported over $ 468,000 in income in 2019.

Its fundraising, however, appears to be more robust than its public support. In a recent poll 14% of likely voters were considering Paffrath, but only 3% chose it as their top preference.

Paffrath brings his business approach to his campaign. Its new record shows $ 57,800 in video production costs, plus $ 6,475 for translations for TikTok. His official 53-minute campaign announcement video, featuring his 20-part plan as governor, has 166,000 views on YouTube.

Faulconer saves for the stretch race
The last weeks of a campaign are often when candidates decide to spend their war treasures. Some candidates have larger stocks than others.

Elder has brought in $ 2.3 million in the bank, available for use in advertisements, exit-voting efforts and other commodities. Faulconer declared $ 1.4 million in cash.

Cox, on the other hand, has already spent most of the nearly $ 7 million he raised between January and August, most with his own money. He still has nearly $ 600,000 to spend and can possibly get even more out of his own bank account.

These are all slim choices compared to the governor’s defense fund. The main committee seeking to keep Newsom in power still has $ 26 million in the bank – and continues to raise funds at a rapid rate.

Then there are the candidates who find themselves in the red. Ose has $ 151,826 on hand, but that’s less than the $ 158,354 in debts owed to campaign consultants, lawyers and printing companies.

For Jenner, the numbers are even worse. At the end of July, his campaign brought in $ 21,568 in the bank and $ 156,417 in debt.

Caitlyn has widespread name recognition, up to 99%, while other applicants have to spend large sums of money to increase their name recognition.

– Steven Cheung, campaign spokesperson Caitlyn Jenner

In a statement, spokesman Steven Cheung played down concerns about the candidate’s financial situation, noting that the campaign “has invested heavily in prospecting for potential donors and supporters.”

“Caitlyn has a wide name recognition, up to 99%, while other applicants have to spend large sums of money to increase their name recognition,” he said. “She doesn’t have this problem.”

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