Political Notebook

Independent groups weigh in for Fresno mayoral candidates

Fresno mayor candidate H. Spees, who has struggled to raise money, has received a boost from multi-millionaire Howard Ahmanson Jr. Ahmanson has spent $40,000 on an independent campaign on Spees’ behalf. Independent groups have also chipped in to help mayoral candidate Henry R. Perea.
Fresno mayor candidate H. Spees, who has struggled to raise money, has received a boost from multi-millionaire Howard Ahmanson Jr. Ahmanson has spent $40,000 on an independent campaign on Spees’ behalf. Independent groups have also chipped in to help mayoral candidate Henry R. Perea.

Even by his own admission, Fresno mayor candidate H. Spees is running his campaign on a shoestring budget.

Of the three major mayoral candidates – Spees, Lee Brand and Henry R. Perea – he’s raised the least amount of money. As of April 23, he had less than $58,000 in his campaign account.

But Spees is getting some help from the outside.

City records show Howard Ahmanson Jr./Fieldstead and Company has put more than $40,000 into an independent campaign for Spees.

$40,000Independent expenditure by Howard Ahmanson Jr. supporting H. Spees

Ahmanson is a multi-millionaire and supporter of Christian conservative causes. For instance, Fieldstead and Company in 2008 contributed $1,395,000 to California’s Proposition 8 campaign, which sought to prohibit gay marriage. Fieldstead is a private company that manages the Ahmanson family assets.

According to campaign finance reports, Ahmanson/Fieldstead spent much of the money supporting Spees on campaign literature, which could give a campaign boost to Spees, even as he struggles financially.

Spees, however, isn’t the only Fresno mayor hopeful to benefit from an independent group.

Fresno police and firefighters – separately and together – have spent $19,000 to help Perea. Of that, a group called “Fresno Police and Firefighters for Good Government” spent $9,000 on a television commercial.

The Central Valley Progressive Political Action Committee has also spent $4,200 on Perea.

Known as “independent expenditures,” these groups can help candidates because they aren’t bound by campaign contribution limits.

The City of Fresno has contribution limits of $4,200 for individuals and most others, though the limit is $8,500 for some so-called “small groups.”

Independent groups have no limit on what they spend on behalf – or against – a candidate. The only hard and fast rule is any independent expenditure must have no coordination with a candidate’s campaign.

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