Who’s winning the U.S. Senate money race?

Your guide to California policy and politics
Lynn La BY Lynn La October 17, 2023
Presented by New California Coalition and California Water Service

Who’s winning the U.S. Senate money race?

From CalMatters politics reporter Yue Stella Yu

There is no shortage of political wealth in California — and certainly not in the 2024 U.S. Senate race.

With less than five months until the March 5 primary, the five top Democrats and Republicans have collectively raised roughly $50 million — more than the $40 million the state spent this year to help flooding victims in Planada and Pajaro and the same amount it’s spending on a contract to produce its own insulin.

The fundraising is through Sept. 30; going forward, candidates can accept twice as much from each donor, since there is now a special election to fill the final two months of the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s term happening simultaneously with the election determining who will serve a full six-year term.

As of Sept. 30, Rep. Adam Schiff, a Burbank Democrat, had raised $21.5 million since Jan. 1, according to the latest campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission. He also raised the most in this quarter and entered October with the most cash to spend: $32 million — more than all of his opponents combined. He converted his congressional account, which had $21 million in the bank, for his Senate campaign.

While Democratic Rep. Katie Porter of Irvine reported the highest receipts — $22.1 million since Jan. 1 — there’s a catch: Her campaign had only raised $11 million from donors giving to her Senate bid, but she transferred another $11 million from her congressional campaign account. She had $12 million in the bank.

Rep. Barbara Lee, an Oakland Democrat, has struggled to keep up. She reported raising $3.2 million since January, and as of Oct. 1, she had $1.3 million on hand.

Among Republican candidates, attorney Eric Early has raised the most, totaling more than $540,000. That includes a $67,000 loan from himself. 

Here are some key takeaways from the filings, due Sunday:

  • Porter had the largest share of small-dollar donors: Porter’s campaign received 56% of her haul this quarter from people who each gave $200 or less, as well as just $1,250 from political action committees. While only 47% of Schiff’s total was from small-dollar donors, it was more in actual cash, $2.8 million. He received almost $75,000 from political action committees associated with his congressional colleagues and other groups. Lee raised $342,000 from small donors, which accounts for 33% of all she raised during the three months, and took in $29,000 from PACs.
  • Corporate and labor money: Lee, Schiff and Porter have all sworn off corporate PAC money and have distanced themselves from corporate giving this year. Schiff, endorsed by seven statewide labor unions, received $17,500 in the third quarter from PACs affiliated with the International Association of Fire Fighters, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. Lee and Porter did not receive union PAC contributions.
  • Spending on digital ads: Schiff spent $1.6 million this quarter just on digital ads touting his labor union endorsements and his role in the first impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump. Porter’s campaign shelled out $788,100 advertising on social media platforms her vow to battle corporate interests and her background as a teacher.

For the record: An earlier version of this item gave incomplete information about the contribution from Stewart Resnick, president of The Wonderful Company. While the campaign of Rep. Adam Schiff refunded a $3,300 donation, the same amount was later given to the Schiff Victory Fund political action committee, according to documents provided by the company. The money was from Resnick, not the company.   


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1 Even more time to file taxes

Eric Dean, left, fills out the necessary paperwork to file taxes during a free tax preparation event held at the Nakoak Community Center in Gardena on April 1, 2023.
Eric Dean, left, fills out paperwork during a free tax preparation event at the Nakoak Community Center in Gardena on April 1, 2023. Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters

For most Californians, Monday was the last day to file state income tax returns. 

Or was it?

The state Franchise Tax Board repeatedly promoted Monday as tax filing day — delayed from April for taxpayers in 55 counties due to disaster declarations for the winter storms. 

But the U.S. Internal Revenue Service threw an unexpected curve ball on Monday: It announced it’s extending the filing deadline for federal returns for another month, until Nov. 16.

The IRS said its decision was “based on three different FEMA disaster declarations covering severe winter storms, flooding, landslides, and mudslides over a period of several months.”

And after several hours and repeated inquiries from CalMatters, the tax board announced Monday evening it will align with the new federal deadline.

  • The tax board, in a press release: “With the relief, those who would have had an October 16, 2023, postponed tax filing deadline now have until November 16, 2023, to file and pay. FTB generally conforms to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) postponement periods for presidentially declared disasters.”

State returns for individuals and couples rely on numbers from the federal returns, so it seems highly likely that taxpayers who filed their California taxes in time have already submitted their federal forms.  

Assembly budget advisor Jason Sisney said while some expected tax revenues will now move from October to November, “California’s state cash resources remain ample and can handle any added delay to November.”

2 Monitoring a problem police department

Oakland police investigate a Vallejo police officer-involved shooting in Oakland on Nov. 1, 2018.
Oakland police investigate a Vallejo police officer-involved shooting on Nov. 1, 2018. Photo by Jane Tyska, Bay Area News Group

From CalMatters justice reporter Nigel Duara:

Vallejo’s troubled police department must address the unreasonable use of force by its officers under a new memorandum of understanding between the department and the state’s top justice official. 

That’s one of nearly a dozen recommendations the Vallejo Police Department has pledged to put in practice under the memorandum, which was announced Monday and which resolved a state Justice Department lawsuit alleging that the police department engaged in a pattern and practice of unconstitutional conduct. 

It also comes days after the police department was back in the news for a viral video shared on TikTok showing an officer punching a woman after a chase. The incident will be reviewed under the department’s use of force policy 

  • Attorney General Rob Bonta, in a statement: “The reforms laid out in the agreement are needed and necessary to continue healing the relationship between law enforcement and the community. It’s past time the people of Vallejo have a police department that listens and guarantees that their civil rights are protected.”

In May 2020, the Vallejo Police Department agreed to 45 reforms of its policing practices. It failed to meet 25 of those. The May 2020 memorandum expired in June. Under the new agreement, the reforms will be overseen by a so-called oversight and reform evaluator. 

The memorandum has the department once again pledging to complete the reforms it didn’t make last time, along with another 11 reforms, including: 

  • Holding supervisors accountable for failing to identify, investigate or address unreasonable uses of force.
  • Defining how and when officers can make traffic stops.
  • Developing a policy for addressing calls about a person in a mental health crisis.

Vallejo officials, in written statements, characterized the new agreement as a “continuation of the reform process” that the city began three years ago. 

  • Veronica Nebb, Vallejo city attorney: “Our work is not complete and we look forward to continuing our joint efforts with the California Department of Justice for the benefit of the community, the Department and the City.”

3 How good is CA mental health care?

Kaiser Permanente mental health workers strike at the Kaiser Headquarters in Oakland on Oct. 7, 2022.
Kaiser Permanente mental health workers picket Kaiser headquarters in Oakland on Oct. 7, 2022. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters

When Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 855 into law three years ago, mental health advocates described it as “groundbreaking.” But today, advocates say the policy is coming up short for California patients.

As CalMatters’ health reporter Jocelyn Wiener explains, the Senate Select Committee on Mental Health and Addiction is expected to hold a special oversight hearing Wednesday to investigate the effectiveness of the law that expanded treatments that are considered medically necessary for health insurance coverage to include substance use disorder, addiction and others. 

Advocates argue that health plans are failing to ensure that enough mental health providers accept their coverage. They also argue that the Department of Managed Health Care, which oversees health plans in the state, is taking too long to iron out official rules. In May, more than a dozen advocacy groups signed a letter of concern questioning the department’s commitment to enforcing certain aspects of the law.

In response, health plans contend they have been working “in good faith” to comply with these new regulations. And in an email, the department said it is “committed to ensuring enrollees have appropriate access to behavioral health care when they need it,” but declined to make anyone available to speak with CalMatters. Read more in Jocelyn’s story.

One health system that didn’t comply with state regulations, however, is Kaiser Permanente. On Thursday, the company reached a $200 million settlement with the Department of Managed Health Care over its failure to deliver adequate behavioral health care services. (The day after, Kaiser agreed to a new labor contract for its lower-paid employees that includes a $25 minimum wage hike.)

At the center of both the mental health settlement and the new labor agreement are grievances over staffing issues that ultimately led to two strikes within 12 months by Kaiser employees, writes CalMatters’ health reporter Kristen Hwang.

Last August, thousands of Kaiser therapists and other mental health clinicians went on a 10-week strike at Northern California facilities, and more than 75,000 Kaiser workers walked off the job for three days earlier this month in what union leaders said was the largest health care worker strike in U.S. history.

Kaiser officials said the new contract will allow the company to deliver “high quality, affordable and accessible health care” and will not lead to cost increases for patients. Read more in Kristen’s story.


CalMatters Commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: How does California compare to Florida and Texas in regulating content on social media platforms?


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One family’s flight from climate-fueled levee disaster // KQED

Inflation continues to rise in CA. Economists predict 2024 // The Sacramento Bee

Meet the pallid bat, the newest state symbol // The Fresno Bee

Recall drive against Alameda County DA Price intensifies // San Francisco Chronicle

Conservative SoCal school board members face recall over superintendent firing // Politico

LA County courts have eliminated cash bail for most offenses // Los Angeles Daily News

Are YIMBYs winning San Francisco’s housing war? The San Francisco Standard

Historic Big Sur property to get new owners, including tribe // The Mercury News

See you tomorrow


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