Lines Increasingly Shaky Between SuperPAC, Congressional Bid, Mayoral Efforts
As a recent mayoral candidate, current congressional candidate, and likely future mayoral candidate, Carl DeMaio has been revealing an old habit: trying to have it both ways.
Just months after he decided to convert his fundraising network into a bid for Congress, he’s now tiptoeing around campaign laws to advance his second attempt in one year to be Mayor of San Diego. Call it the "DeMaio Dance.” He keeps on going … but San Diegans might ask: What does he really want?
Talk Leadership / Keep a Finger in the Wind
♦ DeMaio has raised nearly $500,000 from supporters this year on the promise that he will “Fix Congress First.” But in recent weeks his congressional campaign website has quietly shifted to a much more local focus, with its “Issues” page titled “Carl’s Bold Plans for Fixing Our City.” For more details, the site points to the same “Pathway to Prosperity” crafted for his first mayoral campaign, apparently not updated since then.
♦ “Reform San Diego” – a DeMaio-controlled City political committee that he describes as a “grassroots SuperPAC” – has raised more than $30,000 this year and spent most of it on consulting and polling. The former chair of San Diego’s Ethics Commission has filed a complaint against DeMaio and the PAC, suggesting he is using it illegally to circumvent federal campaign restrictions.
♦ In July, the County Republican Party’s treasurer inquired into whether Reform San Diego funds could be used to conduct polling in a potential mayoral race. Unlike candidate committees, DeMaio’s PAC can accept unlimited and corporate contributions, but it cannot contribute funds or services to a specific candidate.
Public Resources / Private Gain
♦ For someone who has made a career out of attacking public workers and services, DeMaio has a knack for benefitting personally from taxpayer-subsidized spending. Even the “Pathway to Prosperity” plan now showcased in his congressional campaign was developed for and promoted by him as a sitting City Councilmember using public staff and resources.
♦ DeMaio’s own substantial personal fortune came from a business he owned, the Performance Institute, which raked in millions from government agencies for training and consulting services.
“New Generation” Label / Old Ideas
♦ The National Republican Congressional Committee commissioned a recent poll suggesting that DeMaio should present himself as a “new generation Republican,” and his campaign messages have included that language. But his actual record puts him squarely in line with the Tea Party base of the GOP.
♦ DeMaio has avoided taking a position as a congressional candidate on many controversial subjects. On key issues such as immigration, though, his past statements and actions come right from the old Republican playbook. He has opposed the DREAM Act, wants local law enforcement involved in policing immigration status, and was the lone councilmember to vote against a resolution denouncing Arizona’s extremist anti-immigrant law.
♦ Even as an openly gay public figure, DeMaio has been largely silent on equality issues and has embraced the support of anti-gay activists. He refused to comment on Proposition 8 as a councilmember, accepted money and endorsements in 2012 from some of the biggest funders of the anti-gay-marriage measure, and just last month touted the financial backing of the same Republican House leaders who spent taxpayer money to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.