An independent expenditure campaign financed by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians has been spending big on behalf of Barbara Alby, a Republican candidate for the Board of Equalization (BOE). Some of that money is paying a robocall recorded by Alby’s former boss at the BOE, Bill Leonard.
The tribe put $1 million into the IE, titled People for a Better Government, on April 10. The only other backer for the group is the Santa Ynez Band of Mission Indians, also known as the Chumash Tribe, who $10,000 on March 26.
The IE spent has spent $180,000 between mid-April and the end of May a trio of mailers to support Alby. They’ve also recorded $5,296.60 for the recorded Leonard calls.
The calls, which voters have been receiving as recently as Tuesday, feature Leonard saying that he asked Alby to take over because she is the “conservative” candidate who will help hold the line on new taxes.
“The California Board of Equalization is responsible for making public policy decisions as they relate to tax administration — an especially complex issue as it relates to Indian Tribes who are sovereign governments,” said Jacob Coin, executive director of public affairs for the San Manuel Tribe.
Coin cited Leonard’s support for Alby and his work standardizing how tribes collect state sales taxes from tribal businesses. Leonard and Alby both worked extensively on Publication 146, the BOE’s guidelines for applying tax policy to tribes.
Alby is locked in a tough three-way race for the GOP nomination in the 2nd BOE district. The leading candidate is probably Senator George Runner, R-Antelope Valley, while former Assemblyman Alan Nakanishi is also a contender. The seat is considered safe Republican.
She does have the advantage of being the “acting” incumbent in the race. She has been with the BOE since 2002, and was chief deputy to Leonard from 2007 until he stepped down in March to become Secretary for State and Consumer Services agency. Leonard, a former Assembly Republican leader who held the 2nd BOE district job since 2002, tapped Alby as his acting successor, giving her an advantage on the ballot title.
The IE may help fill in a fundraising effort that has been anemic compared to those of her main rivals. Alby has raised about $170,000, compared to $290,000 for Nakanishi and a whopping $690,000 for Runner.
Nakanishi, who termed out the Assembly in 2008, also works at the BOE. He’s a “Jobs and Economy Specialist” for BOE member Michelle Steel, who represents the 3rd district as a Republican.
In March, Nakanishi was embarrassed when his campaign printed several hundred flyers on paper containing a BOE watermark, in violation of rules against using a public office in a political campaign.
It can be particularly hard to get the word out in a BOE race, said political consultant Max Rexroad of Meridian Pacific, which is working for the Runner campaign. With only four districts across the state, each contains 20 times the voters of an Assembly district. But campaigns have traditionally been small money affairs, he said.
“Most of the budgets can’t even afford to do even one piece of mail,” Rexroad said. “You end up doing slates. There’s very little give and take, point-counterpoint.”
Alby isn’t the only beneficiary of People for a Better Government. In May, the campaign spent $42,848 on behalf of Das Williams, who is running as a Democrat in the 35th Assembly District in Santa Barbara. It has also used $51,900 to support Ricardo Lara in the AD 50. Lara is communications director for Assemblyman Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, and has the backing all Speaker John Perez and his two predecessors Karen Bass and Fabian Nunez; all are Los Angeles Democrats.
The San Manuel Band was not immediately available for comment.