San Diego’s political parties are getting into the thick of the fundraising battle in the mayor’s race, spending tens of thousands of dollars on their favored candidates. But most of that money hasn’t come in the form of cash or in-kind contributions to councilmen David Alvarez and Kevin Faulconer. And none of it has come in the form of independent expenditures disbursed to support the candidates. Instead, the Republican Party of San Diego County is spending tens of thousands of dollars in a push to educate its party members and persuade them to vote. According to reports on file with the California Secretary of State, the county Republican committee has spent more than $61,000 on “member communications expenditures” on Faulconer’s behalf. Those communications can include pamphlets and direct mailers to party members.
The purpose of these expenditures is to allow political parties and other membership-based organizations such as labor unions and certain professional associations to communicate their political priorities to their members.
They are exempt from the $20,000 per-election limit for campaign contributions. But unlike most forms of political expenditures, the parties can coordinate member communications with candidates.
“As long as they’re communicating in some way with their members, it’s allowed,” said Brian Adams, a professor of politics at San Diego State University, in an interview with inewsource.
As such, these expenditures occupy something of a campaign finance “no man’s land”–in some ways adopting the best of both worlds: the lack of limits of independent expenditures and the coordination of campaign contributions.