Kamala Harris: Raising Money—and Spending It

Kamala Harris (AP)
Associated Press

In the last three months, California Attorney General Kamala Harris has pulled out all the stops in her campaign for the U.S. Senate, spending $1.4 million of the $1.8 million she raised while amassing another $400,000 in debts.

According to campaign data published by the Sacramento Bee, Harris spent $258,000 for direct mail services, $223,000 on staff salaries, $148,000 for consulting, $143,000 for fundraising consulting, $137,000 for payroll taxes and about $90,000 for printing. Yet while Harris lavishly spends money, the post of finance director has become a revolving door; she has had three since January.

Political consultants pointed out that Harris’ spending could portend political danger, though she is far ahead in the polls.. Jim Jonas, a political strategist, told the Bee, “she could get herself into trouble,” while Tim Clark, another consultant, told the Bee, “You just can’t get into these races expecting to have a burn rate like that when a large part of your voter-contact dollars have to be spent at the end…Kamala Harris is going to learn, maybe the hard way, that she can’t spend enough in 2015 to win the race but she can spend enough in 2015 to lose the race.”

The Harris campaign, unsurprisingly, disputed those grim predictions.

Other contenders for the Senate seat have raised a total of roughly $1.5 million, including $1 million for Harris’ chief rival, U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez.

$1.3 million of the funds Harris has raised cannot be spent until the general election; she presently has $1.6 million for the primary election.

Meanwhile, Sanchez, attempting to survive in the state’s top-two primary, has her own problems. With Harris receiving plentiful support from establishment Democrats and prominent Latinos, Sanchez needs to find a constituency large enough to support her candidacy.

Oddly, the woman who ousted Orange County GOP conservative Robert Dornan from office in 1996 by less than 1% of the vote may need the help of GOP voters. Republican consultant Mike Madrid told the Los Angeles Times, “For the past 20 years, she, along with other Latino politicians, have been beating on Republicans like a piñata. Now she needs their votes. It will be fascinating to watch.”

Harris presently leads Sanchez in polls by double digits, according to an October Field poll. UCLA political scientist Matt A. Barreto, a co-founder of the research and polling firm Latino Decisions, told the Times that Donald Trump’s presence on the ballot could drive Latinos to the polls, helping Sanchez.

Bill Carrick, a strategist for Sanchez, speculated that that GOP voters, aware of the slim chance for GOP candidates, might vote for Sanchez. He said her record on the House Committee on Homeland Security and the House Armed Services Committee might make her palatable

Carrick had ripped Harris’ lack of public appearances last February, telling CBS Los Angeles, “It’s an old-school sort of approach to a campaign, which is limit your exposure to the public and the media and roll out endorsements from politicians and try to position yourself as a front-runner. I don’t think it’s a good long-term strategy. You might avoid mistakes in the early part, but sooner or later you have to get out there and get engaged. I don’t think you can keep it up very long.”


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