WASHINGTON (AP) – California is home to two of the most expensive congressional races in the country, with outside groups spending millions of dollars on television ads and mailers in the closing weeks of the general election campaign.
In most of the state’s other congressional races, incumbents have a sizable financial advantage that is making it difficult for challengers.
Candidates on Wednesday were submitting their final quarterly campaign fundraising reports to the Federal Election Commission, covering activity that occurred from July 1 through Sept. 30.
The reports, due at midnight, tell only part of the story because the spending by outside groups in the closest races greatly exceeds what the candidates are raising and spending.
Federal Election Commission records reinforce what television viewers in Sacramento and San Diego already know: Special interest groups are funding a wave of mostly negative political ads.
So far, outside groups have spent more than $4 million in the Sacramento-area race between Democratic Rep. Ami Bera and Republican challenger Doug Ose, and that amount is growing each day.
The organizations leading the House efforts for both political parties each have spent more than $1 million on the race since the beginning of September. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also weighed in to boost Ose, while a Democratic group, the House Majority PAC, is working to help Bera.
The Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in politics, currently ranks the race as the 11th most expensive nationally in terms of outside spending. Neither candidate for the 7th Congressional District seat had filed his campaign report by late afternoon Wednesday.
Not far behind is the San Diego-area race featuring Democratic Rep. Scott Peters, who has about $800,000 in the bank, and Republican challenger Carl DeMaio, who has more than $780,000 on hand.
Advocacy groups have spent about $3.7 million in the race, which makes it the 13th most expensive House race in outside spending. The fundraising arms for House Republicans and House Democrats each have bought more than $1.6 million in advertising and polling since Sept. 1.
The number of competitive congressional races is a result of new district boundaries drawn by an independent citizens commission.
In one of those races, Republican Jeff Gorell had watched as Democratic groups spent more than $1 million in recent weeks on highly critical television ads and mailers. The Republican member of the state Assembly was left to answer Democratic attacks with letters to the editor and on his campaign website.
Now, some Republican groups are making a late push. The Congressional Leadership Fund said it will spend $500,000 on a mix of mail and digital advertising, and a group called the American Future Fund says it will spend nearly $1 million on television advertising opposing Rep. Julia Brownley, the Democratic incumbent.
The Center for Responsive Politics said the American Future Fund in the past has received most of its money from two organizations connected to billionaires Charles and David Koch.
On the Republican side, Rep. David Valadao was considered to be in possible trouble in a Central Valley district. But outside groups have largely been staying out of that race, with the exception of the Chamber of Commerce, which spent $250,000 on television and digital ads supporting Valadao earlier this month. Republican and Democratic campaign committees have cancelled reservations for television advertising, suggesting Valadao has momentum.
“They see better opportunities elsewhere in the country,” said Allan Hoffenblum, publisher of the California Target Book, which analyzes state legislative and congressional races.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.