ELECTION ’12//CONGRESS 15 | Campaign finance reports released this week continue to show a revealing trend in the contested intra-party race in the 15th Congressional District where large political action committees are funding the incumbent Rep. Pete Stark while high-dollar contributors with real estate interests are bankrolling the challenger Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell.

Finance reports released Tuesday by the Federal Election Commission show the upstart Swalwell edged Stark in total fundraising during the latest period, from May 17 to June 30. However, the 40-year incumbent Stark still holds a sizable advantage in cash in hand heading into the final three months of the campaign.

Swalwell raised $115,917 in fundraising, while spending $87,625 with $79,474 in cash remaining. Meanwhile, Stark received $89,490 in campaign contributions, while listing $177,900 in expenditures and leaving a balance of $379,334.

In addition, two potential challengers for the seat in 2014 showed continued strength. Ro Khanna, the former assistant deputy secretary at the Commerce Department from Fremont continues to hover over the future of the seat. The latest fundraising reports lists Khanna with a sizable war chest of over $1.08 million.

Khanna’s prodigious fundraising streak earlier this year along with his desire to move to the front of the pack in 2014 has some East Bay Democrats wondering when and if Khanna will transfer some of those assets to Stark’s campaign this fall–should his chances for re-election be threatened. Many believe whether Stark wins or lose, this is his campaign swan song. State Sen. Ellen Corbett, another candidate eyeing 2014, also reported $105,871 in available cash ending June 30, according to campaign finance reports. 

When it comes to 2012, it is becoming clear special interests on both side are financing the race in the 15th Congressional District. A continuing suspicion among Democrat over Swalwell’s true ideology became more blurry as the number fundraising dollars from Tri Valley land developers continues to grow. In addition, top executives from the Houston-based energy firm Calpine contributed $8,500 in fundraising to Swalwell’s campaign in June, according to finance reports. Calpine CEO Jack Fusco donated $1,000 while its executive vice president, W. Thaddeus Miller, contributed $2,500, as did senior vice president Joseph Ronan and his wife; both giving $2,500 apiece.

Some members of the environmental community had already charged Swalwell with being unfriendly to open space in the Tri Valley area surrounding Doolan Canyon near Livermore. The support from Calpine’s top brass will not quell that perception and could potentially cause concern among Hayward voters, many of whom vehemently oppose the current construction of the Russell City Energy Center, a natural gas-fired power plant located on the Hayward shoreline.

Meanwhile, nearly all of Stark’s $89,000 in campaign contributions during this past filing period came from 42 separate political action committees with donations ranging from $1,000 to $2,500. The list of special interests consist of many of the same liberal groups that have long backed Stark’s previous campaigns. They include PACs seeking to preserve social security and Medicare, labor unions and a slew of health care-related organizations and doctors groups. The support of health care and medical groups is not surprising since Stark has long held a seat on the House Ways and Means health sub-committee. A $4,000 contribution was also made by the California Federation of Teachers in June.

The introduction of the super PAC, Campaign for Primary Accountability into the race as an independent expenditure on Swalwell’s behalf is still rumor, according to the latest reports. The group, funded by three Texas oil tycoons, raised the possibility of pouring money into the race to unseat Stark. A source told The Citizen the group’s expenditure, if used in the East Bay, could be in the range of $100,000. However, the backers of the super PAC plead poverty in a story last month in The Washington Post

May 17-June 30
STARK…..$ 89,490..$177,900..$379,334
SWALWELL..$115,917..$ 87,625..$ 79,474