Osborn leads in campaign contributions

August 6th, 2011

Posted on SMDP.com, by Ashley Archibald

The election for newly-drawn state assembly districts may be over a year away, but money is already streaming into candidates’ coffers.

Leading the field in what will likely be the 50th district — which includes Santa Monica — is political activist Torie Osborn with $255,830.40 in her war chest.

She’s raised that total since she announced her candidacy late last year, and over two-thirds of that amount rolled in between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2011.

“My goal was $200,000, so I’ve surpassed my goal,” she said.

Osborn’s money comes from over 900 individual contributions, mostly falling between $100 and $500.

Her success stems from the over 20 house parties she has thrown, or that friends have thrown for her all across the United States.

Contributions come from as far afield as New York and Peru.

“If you only raise money from lobbyists, big business or institutional players, there’s a limit to what you can raise, because there are only so many developers in Santa Monica,” she said.

Her strategy is to treat fundraising like an organizer would, and reach out directly to people all over the new district.

“I treat fundraising like I treat every political challenge of my long life of advocacy: as an organizing challenge,” Osborn said.

Not all of Osborn’s donations have been random individuals. Many contributions came from politicians or employees of other public agencies, including several deputy mayors of the City of Los Angeles.

Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom, who formally kicked off his candidacy in June, is about $100,000 behind Osborn, with $133,415 available for his campaign.

Bloom has raised his total since the first of the year, exceeding his own goal by $50,000.

“I feel like I’m on track to get where I need to be to get the word out on my candidacy,” Bloom said.

Bloom hasn’t gotten as many contributors yet as Osborn, with 176 donations made and some of those by the same people, according to records filed with the Secretary of State.

So far, many are known quantities in Santa Monica like city notables historian Louise Gabriel, former Planning Commissioner Gwynne Pugh and Planning Commissioner Jason Parry.

He also accepted corporate donations from various hotels, Equity Office Properties (which owns the Yahoo! Center) and the Armbruster Goldsmith and Delvac law firm, which represents land use issues before the council, among others.

It will be easier to reach outside of the familiar funders now that the districts are set, he said.

“More people are learning about the race and the lines are known, so it’s easier to go to someone and say, ‘Hey, you’re in this district, let’s sit down and talk,'” Bloom said.

Both candidates are going to need to keep their momentum going if they intend to mount successful campaigns in what could be a very competitive race.

At present, it’s unclear exactly who will be running in the district, as some of the new contenders, including Andrew Lachman and West Hollywood City Council member Jeffery Prang are on the fence now that incumbent from the former 53rd district, Betsy Butler, has expressed interest in joining the race.

Brian C. Johnson, head of charter schools in the area, has also begun raising money, but hasn’t made a definitive statement about which district he wants to run in.

In any case, candidates may find themselves needing to spend extra money introducing themselves to new populations of voters in the wake of redistricting.

“Any time redistricting impacts an area, a politician wants to spend more money,” said Michael Beckel, spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks federal campaign contributions.

The impact might be even greater in a place like L.A., where media markets are more expensive, he said.

The last time this seat was up for grabs in 2006, the successful candidate, Julia Brownley, spent almost $750,000 on her campaign.

It’s too early to tell whether this playing field will be more or less costly.

Both Bloom and Osborn feel that they can sustain the momentum they’ve built in these early months.

“I’m only about 60 percent through our own list,” Osborn said, confidently.