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A political advocacy group funded largely by wealthy Stanford physicist Charles T. Munger Jr. has poured $83,000 this week into an independent push to re-elect Republican Assemblywoman Beth Gaines.

Gaines, of Rocklin, is running against attorney and fellow Republican Andy Pugno in the 6th Assembly District, a newly drawn district based in Placer County but extending into Sacramento and El Dorado counties. Democrat Reginald Bronner of Lincoln rounds out the field.

A radio advertisement and campaign literature supporting Gaines was funded by Spirit of Democracy, whose coffers consist of $727,000 from Munger and $150,000 from the California Dental Association, records show.

Of the money spent to benefit Gaines, $54,000 was for radio airtime and production costs, $15,000 for campaign consultants, and $14,170 for printing and mailing campaign literature.

Spirit of Democracy was created for the purpose of supporting and opposing candidates for state office. The group also is backing Republican Leslie Daigle against incumbent GOP Assemblyman Allan Mansoor of Costa Mesa in the 74th Assembly District race.

Munger is a major GOP donor and was a key financial backer of redistricting reform. He has pushed to moderate the Republican Party by downplaying divisive issues such as abortion, gun rights and same-sex marriage.

By supporting Gaines, Munger is taking aim at Pugno, the author of and chief counsel for Proposition 8, the initiative passed by voters in 2008 to limit marriage to a man and woman.

Munger's sister, civil rights attorney and Democrat Molly Munger, is pushing a measure for the November ballot that would generate about $10 billion annually by raising income taxes on a sliding scale for all but the poorest California workers for 12 years.


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