A race fu­eled by out­side donors

Two can­di­dates’ fund­ing comes from very dif­fer­ent sources. More than three-quar­ters of it is from out­side the dis­trict.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Chris­tine Mai-Duc, Maloy Moore and Ryan Menezes

In the race to be­come Los An­ge­les’ next con­gress­man, two Democrats are fu­ri­ously rais­ing money from very dif­fer­ent cor­ners. State As­sem­bly­man Jimmy Gomez and at­tor­ney Robert Lee Ahn will face each other in Tues­day’s runoff for the 34th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict.

A look at the lat­est fundrais­ing fig­ures re­veals where they’re draw­ing sup­port from and the ad­van­tages each has go­ing into elec­tion day.

Ahn sur­prised many when he re­ported strong fundrais­ing to­tals ahead of the crowded April pri­mary elec­tion. Since mak­ing the runoff, Ahn has kept his fundrais­ing num­bers up and has more or less evened the fi­nan­cial play­ing field be­tween him and Gomez. That’s no­table, con­sid­er­ing Gomez is a three-term leg­is­la­tor with plenty of po­lit­i­cal con­nec­tions and had more than a month’s head start in cam­paign­ing.

Be­tween April 1 and May 17, Ahn re­ported rais­ing about $350,100 from donors. Dur­ing the same pe­riod, Gomez took in about $326,690. Over­all, Ahn has raised roughly $874,000 since en­ter­ing the race in mid-Jan­uary, not in­clud­ing money he’s given him­self, while Gomez has re­ceived about $961,000.

While Ahn, a rel­a­tively un­known can­di­date be­fore this race, has lagged some­what in fundrais­ing, he’s more than made up for it with his own money.

Ahn loaned him­self $295,000 in the pri­mary cam­paign and added $195,000 ahead of the runoff. This has given Ahn a ma­jor cash ad­van­tage,

and he seems to be spend­ing nearly all of it.

As of May 17, Ahn has spent more than $1.26 mil­lion, com­pared with Gomez’s $743,380.

Ahn has spent most of his money on print­ing, en­velopes and other costs associated with his con­tro­ver­sial mail­ers and has also spent sig­nif­i­cant amounts on con­sul­tants and pro­mo­tional items such as notepads, Mardi Gras beads and pothold­ers.

Gomez has spent nearly half his money on print­ing and mailer costs, and other big chunks on po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tants and work­ers walk­ing the dis­trict to talk to vot­ers.

Nei­ther can­di­date has spent much on ads, with Ahn run­ning them mainly on Korean TV and ra­dio sta­tions and in Korean-lan­guage news­pa­pers. Gomez spent a mod­est amount on ads in the Los An­ge­les Times and on text mes­sage ad­ver­tis­ing.

With dozens of en­dorse­ments from mem­bers of the Demo­cratic Party es­tab­lish­ment, Gomez has raised sig­nif­i­cant sums from ma­jor donors, in­clud­ing from po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tees run by la­bor unions and trade or­ga­ni­za­tions. All told, about 40% of Gomez’s to­tal con­tri­bu­tions are from po­lit­i­cal com­mit­tees, can­di­date cam­paigns and other or­ga­ni­za­tions, ac­cord­ing to a Times anal­y­sis.

Some of Gomez’s big­gest donors in­clude the po­lit­i­cal ad­vo­cacy wings of large na­tional unions, in­clud­ing the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of State, County and Mu­nic­i­pal Em­ploy­ees and the Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees In­ter­na­tional Union. Com­mit­tees con­trolled by busi­ness groups such as fi­nan­cial ser­vices firm Ernst & Young and the Na­tional Assn. of Real­tors have also given big to Gomez.

Ahn has fre­quently crit­i­cized Gomez for tak­ing money for his Assem­bly cam­paigns from pri­vate prison firms, pay­day lenders and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies, claim­ing that it will be “pay­back time” for Gomez’s sup­port­ers if he is elected. Ahn has told vot­ers his donor list is filled with “in­di­vid­u­als just like you.” Ahn has re­ceived just 1% of his to­tal from po­lit­i­cal com­mit­tees and other or­ga­ni­za­tions. But about 80% of the money he has raised comes from con­tri­bu­tions of $1,000 or more.

Many of Ahn’s donors ap­pear to be from the Korean Amer­i­can com­mu­nity, which has been en­er­gized by the prospect of elect­ing the first Korean Amer­i­can to Congress in nearly 20 years. Ac­cord­ing to a Times anal­y­sis, at least $330,000, or more than 37%, of Ahn’s money came from donors with Korean sur­names.

Nei­ther can­di­date has raised a sig­nif­i­cant amount of money in­side the 34th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, where nearly half of house­holds earn less than $35,000 a year. A Times anal­y­sis shows that more than three­quar­ters of both can­di­dates’ funds have come from ZIP Codes out­side the dis­trict.

While Gomez has tapped into money in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and Sacra­mento, Ahn has reached out to wealth­ier parts of L.A. County and South­ern Cal­i­for­nia to build up his cof­fers.

Of the more than $961,000 Gomez has raised, at least $200,000, or about a fifth, came from ZIP Codes in the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., area.

Ahn, on the other hand, has raised less than 10% of his $874,000 from out­side Cal­i­for­nia. But donors in ZIP Codes from the wealthy en­claves of Bev­erly Hills, La Cañada Flin­tridge and the Pa­los Verdes Penin­sula have helped Ahn make up the dif­fer­ence.

In­side the dis­trict, Gomez’s main foothold is in north­east Los An­ge­les, which is part of the state Assem­bly dis­trict he cur­rently rep­re­sents. Ahn has strong fundrais­ing in Kore­atown, where he’s re­ceived more than $130,000 of his money, ac­cord­ing to a Times anal­y­sis.

While the 34th Dis­trict race hasn’t got­ten nearly as much at­ten­tion or money as more com­pet­i­tive House races in Ge­or­gia and Mon­tana, out­side groups have been drop­ping more money in re­cent days in hopes of sway­ing the out­come.

As of Wed­nes­day, more than two-thirds of the money spent by in­de­pen­dent ex­pen­di­ture com­mit­tees, which by law must re­main sep­a­rate from can­di­dates’ cam­paigns, has gone to sup­port Gomez.

The Latino Vic­tory Fund, which aims to elect Latino of­fi­cials, has spent $239,490 on mail­ers, phone bank­ing, can­vass­ing and on­line ad­ver­tis­ing in sup­port of Gomez. The Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of State, County and Mu­nic­i­pal Em­ploy­ees has also spent $16,530 on phone bank­ing and mail­ers for him, while the Los An­ge­les County Fed­er­a­tion of La­bor re­ported spend­ing $25,180 on mail to its mem­bers to sup­port Gomez.

A group call­ing it­self the Mid­dle Class Val­ues PAC has spent $31,035 on mail­ers for Gomez de­spite not hav­ing re­ported re­ceiv­ing any ma­jor con­tri­bu­tions so far this year. Gomez has also ben­e­fited from $9,230 in ad­ver­tis­ing from bill­board com­pany Out­front Me­dia.

Cit­i­zens for a Bet­ter Govern­ment, funded pri­mar­ily by two Ahn donors, has spent $99,620 on mail­ers, data and can­vass­ing to sup­port him.

Ahn en­ters the home­stretch of the cam­paign with about $103,520 left in the bank, while Gomez has more than dou­ble at $222,270.

Ahn has re­ceived at least $130,000 since May 17. Gomez has got­ten $60,000 in the same time pe­riod.

Pho­to­graphs by Michael Owen Baker For The Times

IN THE 34TH Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, Jimmy Gomez, left, is backed by big donors in­clud­ing PACs run by unions and trade groups; Robert Lee Ahn has strong sup­port from Korean Amer­i­can in­di­vid­u­als.

Michael Owen Baker For The Times

SINCE MAK­ING the runoff, Robert Lee Ahn, left, has more or less evened the fi­nan­cial play­ing field be­tween him and As­sem­bly­man Jimmy Gomez, a three-term leg­is­la­tor with plenty of po­lit­i­cal con­nec­tions.

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