Two Democratic Party candidates in the primary race for California’s 33rd congressional district in West Los Angeles have accused local party officials of using an arbitrary fundraising minimum to favor established insiders–then raising that minimum at the last moment to exclude them from a recent candidates’ forum.
Democrats Kristie Holmes and Barbara Mulvaney issued a joint press release earlier this week, accusing the Pacific Palisades Democratic Club (PPDC) of “uninviting” them from a forum on Sunday, April 13 “after first zealously pursuing them.” Only candidates who participated were eligible for the club’s endorsement.
As Breitbart News reported, the club–based in the wealthy Pacific Palisades neighborhood, home to Hollywood A-list celebrities–declared that all participants in the candidate forum had to have raised at least $200,000 in contributions prior to April 8. Only four candidates qualified, and incumbent State Sen. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) was endorsed.
However, Holmes and Mulvaney say that the minimum contribution rule was introduced at the last moment to keep them out. “At the last minute, the PPDC, claimed to have a fund-raising requirement which has ranged from $100,000-$200,000, depending on which candidate you ask,” they said in their joint statement.
Holmes, who holds a doctorate in social work and teaches at the University of Southern California, told Breitbart News that club official Janet Turner “pursued me” and was eager to have her participate. Later, however, Turner told her that she had to raise $100,000 to qualify, and that the invitation was revoked.
On the day of the forum, Holmes posted at her blog:
“I was enthusiastically invited by the organizers after my first time speaking publically as a candidate, and was then contacted for photos for a flyer to be mailed out….There were a few phone conversations and follow up involved where my attendance was confirmed.
“Later, I received an email followed up by a phone call stating that they were very sorry, but that the only candidates who could speak at the candidate forum/ debate would have need to have raised at least 100K by that time.”
Holmes had not raised the requisite $100,000, and had not yet received an FEC ID number.
Human rights lawyer Mulvaney, who had raised over $100,000, was told by the club that the threshold was in fact $200,000. Abigail Anderson, her campaign manager, told Breitbart News that she suspects the number would have remained at $100,000 had she not told the club that Mulvaney had raised $100,000.
“All of this was done orally. We had no written criteria,” Anderson said.
Holmes charged that the Pacific Palisades Democratic Club had protected “establishment” candidates–unlike a forum by the Santa Monica club, which had been open to all.
Anderson agreed: “I don’t see how you can come to any other conclusion.” she said.
Turner, reached by Breitbart News on Friday afternoon, confirmed that Holmes was “uninvited,” but disputed her an Mulvaney’s version of events: “No one was ever told there was one number and then another number.”
“This is what happened,” Turner said. “We like to invite all candidates to our forum. For a while, it looked like maybe there was four or five. So we reached out to other [Democrats]. Suddenly, we were deluged by all of the other candidates who were coming.
“To be fair to our members who were coming to hear the leading candidates, we looked for a rule that had been in place–similar to a rule at the West L.A. Democratic Club–to pick the most viable candidates. West L.A. had chosen $200,000 for this particular race, and we agreed that was reasonable.”
She said that the club relied on candidates’ public statements and their word as to how much they had raised.
“As a club, we support clean money, and campaign finance reform,” she told Breitbart News. “But until that happens, we need to find a way to be fair to our members, who want to be able to hear the leading candidates.”
Ten Democrats, and eighteen candidates overall, are vying to replace retiring Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA).
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