Outside money flows into 24th Congressional District race

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (left) is defending his seat in the 24th Congressional District against Goleta Republican Justin Fareed (center) and Morro Bay Republican Michael Erin Woody.
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (left) is defending his seat in the 24th Congressional District against Goleta Republican Justin Fareed (center) and Morro Bay Republican Michael Erin Woody.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, fighting to keep his 24th Congressional District seat, far out-raised his Republican opponents in the final quarter of last year, though one challenger is calling him out on his acceptance of money from outside the district.

But for Carbajal and his SLO County Republican Party-endorsed opponent, Justin Fareed, outside donations from individuals and political committees made up a sizable chunk of both their campaigns’ six-figure incomes last quarter — 62 percent for Carbajal and 47 percent for Fareed.

Though Morro Bay engineer and Republican challenger Michael Erin Woody also accepted outside money from a few people, his fundraising pales in comparison.

Campaign disclosure forms submitted to the Federal Elections Commission Wednesday covering financial activity from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2017, show that Carbajal entered the new year with more than $1.2 million in his campaign committee fund. Fareed, who had raised more than $215,000 before officially entering the race, ended the quarter with nearly $300,000, far ahead of Woody, who has almost $100,000 after loaning his own campaign $90,000.

According to his disclosures, Carbajal began the period with roughly $1.1 million and raised $230,043. He spent $82,843 last period, leaving him with $1,270,827 as of Jan. 1. He’s raised a total of $1,556,237 and spent a total $591,148 this entire election cycle.

Notable donors last period include Santa Barbara County Supervisor Janet Wolf, former San Luis Obispo County Counsel Warren Jensen and executives of several D.C.-area lobbying firms.

According to calculations by The Tribune based on what was reported, Carbajal raised money from 188 individuals last quarter, including 43 from outside the district who donated more than $51,000, or 22 percent of all money he took in that period. He received $92,000 from political committees outside the district, and $700 from one inside the district.

All told, Carbajal took in $143,686 from outside sources, or close to two-thirds of his total haul last quarter.

Fareed reported beginning last quarter with $258,528, raising $158,994, and spending $118,862; he entered 2018 with $298,660 in campaign funds. Fareed has raised a total of $373,718 and spent a total of $209,489 this election cycle.

Notable donors last period include Central Coast Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, San Luis Obispo County Supervisor John Peschong, a lobbyist for Pfizer, and the political committee of controversial California Congressman Devin Nunes.

He reported 94 individual donors, 21 of whom live outside the district; those donors contributed $62,400, or 39 percent of Fareed’s total donations last period. He also accepted $12,500 from political committees outside the area, and $1,000 from an in-district committee.

In total, a bit less than half of Fareed’s campaign contributions came from outside the 24th District.

Woody reported beginning last quarter with $2,173. He raised $7,850 ($11,345 total during the election cycle) and spent $2,418 ($11,415 this election). With his self-loan, Woody entered 2018 with $99,454 on hand.

In a news release Wednesday, Fareed’s campaign manager Austin Stukins wrote that more than 60 percent of Fareed’s contributions come from within the district a figure that, he said, includes people that contributed under the reportable $200 limit — and blasted Carbajal for his acceptance of outside donations.

Stukins also wrote that Carbajal accepted $7,500 in “oil and gas money” last quarter.

The Tribune confirmed that figure includes personal donations from people who work as lobbyists, consultants and other positions for companies with varying degrees of proximity to the oil industry.

One of the donors, for example, is a lobbyist with a company that worked on behalf of nearly 60 companies last year, including an oil company, according to Center for Responsive Politics. Another is a lobbyist for an electricity and gas distribution company, similar to Pacific Gas & Electric.

Carbajal’s spokeswoman Tess Whittlesey said the donors listed by Stukins work for firms that represent scores of companies in various industries, and that none of the donors listed by Stukins do any work for the oil industry. She noted that Carbajal introduced legislation last year to permanently ban offshore oil drilling off the California coast, a bill that was defeated by a Republican House.

Fareed, who has also received money linked to the oil industry in the past, accepted $5,000 last period from the committee of U.S. Rep Greg Walden, chair of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, who receives his funding partly from the oil industry.

The 24th Congressional District race leading up to the 2016 election became one of the most expensive in the country, with both Carbajal and Fareed raising millions, largely from cash infusions from political action committees.

The next round of financial disclosures for the 2018 election is scheduled to be released April 15.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune