Correction: The following article originally stated that candidate Dr. Dave Bearman raised $1,200 during the most recent filing period. In fact, he raised $12,000. The Nexus regrets this error.
While 3rd District Supervisor candidate Doreen Farr still leads the pack in campaign fundraising, in a marked turn around, Steve Pappas raked in the most cash during the last filing period.
Pappas, who raised just $35,000 from Jan. 1 to March 17, received $98,616 in campaign contributions between March 18 and May 17, according to public records. Additionally, the Los Olivos businessman has loaned his campaign $45,500 since March. In the same period, Farr received $88,905, bringing her 2008 campaign contributions up to $186,577.
Former county planning commissioner David Smyser pulled in approximately $67,117 in the same filing period, raising his 2008 total to $147,591. Former Buellton mayor Victoria Pointer received $1,825 in the filing period, and Dr. Dave Bearman – who did not file with the county by the May 22 deadline – said he brought in $1,200.
Pappas’ largest contributions came from veterinary groups, including at least $27,000 from persons affiliated with the Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center in Los Olivios, which is owned by Pappas’ friend, Doug Herthel. The majority of his donations came from individuals in the Santa Ynez area.
Meanwhile, records show that Farr’s largest donations in the most recent filing period came from the Service Employees International Union, which donated $37,000. However, Farr’s filings were also loaded with small donations from individual citizens. Smyser’s largest donors were the oil-extraction firm Santa Maria Pacific, LLC, and the Santa Barbara Rental Property Association.
Pointer, who said she has received only small donations from individuals, questioned whether corporate entities and unions are playing too large a role in local elections.
“When you have endorsements like union locals and large developers, it’s perceived that you have a certain level of commitment to them,” she said. “I don’t think people in office should have those sorts of alliances.”
In particular, Pointer made note of the large contributions to Farr’s campaign from local unions, asserting that such allegiances make campaigns more about raising money than about the issues themselves.
“I have no problem with smaller donations that people give from their heart, but when you start talking about large sums it becomes an absurd situation,” Pointer said. “I hope the voters understand that it’s not an issue of marketing, but of integrity and dedication.”
In response to such criticism, Farr said she is proud of the widespread public support she has received from individuals, unions and organizations throughout Santa Barbara County.
“On my list of contributors, I have 600 supporters, and they represent about 4,000 public employees county-wide. I am very proud to have their support and assistance on the campaign,” Farr said.
Santa Barbara City Councilman and Farr supporter Das Williams said he disagrees with the notion that large contributions from labor unions warrant censure.
“I don’t think Doreen should be at all ashamed that working people are giving large sums of money to her campaign,” Williams said. “Large corporations give money in political campaigns all the time. The only way workers can have an effective impact on the campaign is to pool their money and donate through unions.”
Williams added that such contributions should, if anything, demonstrate Farr’s appeal to regular voters, particularly when compared with the large corporate donations that have largely funded Smyser’s campaign.
“If I’m choosing between [accepting financial] support from working people versus the Bacara Resort – which is the sort of support accepted by people like David Smyser – I’m going to choose the workers,” Williams said. “I think Smyser’s making the wrong decision and that should be the distinction that’s being made here.”
Additionally, Williams said that Farr has received substantial financial support from a broad base of organizations and individuals, while her competitors – particularly Pappas – are supported by a few wealthy contributors making large contributions.
“If you are talking about a politician being beholden to someone, you look at the number of supporters, because the more you have, the less influence each one has,” Williams said. “If you compare [Pappas’ and Farr’s campaigns], you see that Pappas has a lot of money coming from a few people, while Farr has many environmental groups, working people, organized labor, healthcare and neighborhood groups.”
Pappas, however, said his politics would be in no way influenced by the source of his contributions.
“I continue to be beholden to nobody,” Pappas said. “The money [from donations] comes with no strings attached.”