The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

November 1, 2010
Incumbent Dan Lungren is showing signs of nervousness

Rep. Dan Lungren is a rarity, a Republican incumbent who is nervous in a year when Republicans nationally seem to be on a roll.

In a reflection of that concern, Lungren sent out a misleading attack targeting his Democratic opponent, Ami Bera, a physician who in his first run ever for public office has out-raised Lungren, $2.5 million to the incumbent's $1.8 million.

Lungren is turning Bera's fund-raising success against him, claiming in the mailer that Bera has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars "most of it from far, far away." The attack features a map with arrows pointing to states where Bera has received donations, and ponders "why all these people care so much about elections in the Sacramento Valley."

"Our campaign has been outspent by a well funded candidate," Lungren spokesman Rob Stutzman said. "It is fair to ask where that money comes from."

As it happens, Lungren could have posed the very same question for himself.


Of the $1.15 million that Lungren raised from 2009 through the end of June, $595,000 came from California donors, or 51 percent. The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics offers this analysis of Lungren and Bera's money.

Of the almost $1.56 million that Bera raised during that same period, $841,000 came from California or 53 percent. In other words, Bera raised a greater share of his money from within the state money than Lungren.

Most of Lungren's out-of-state money has come from the Washington D.C. vicinity--$233,000 from Washington itself, and $128,000 from nearby Virginia.

Virtually of the money from the D.C. area has come from Capital Hill lobbyists, such as this firm, and political action committees, including ones that represent oil, insurance, real estate, tobacco, defense and banking interests.

Lungren collected $7,500 from Koch Industries, of Kansas, described in this piece, and $1,000 from Valero of Texas. Valero is the largest funder of Proposition 23, the initiative that would roll back California's law to limit greenhouse gas. Koch has donated $1 million to the Yes-on-23 measure.

Bera's has collected his share of money from organized labor and other regular sources of Democratic money.

But Bera, who parents emigrated from India, also has tapped hundreds of individuals whose families moved her from India. Many of those donors are part of Bera's extended family.

In the most misleading aspect of Lungren's mailer, the incumbent charges that Bera returned "money tainted by links to a terrorist group."

As The Bee's Capitol Bureau wrote in this posting in August, Bera returned $250 to Basim Elkarra.

Elkarra is executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations of Sacramento Valley.

Well-known among Sacramento Democrats, Elkarra is a California Democratic Party delegate. He won endorsements in 2009 when he ran for the post from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assemblyman Dave Jones of Sacramento, Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada of Davis, and Democratic Party Chairman John Burton in 2008 when he ran to become a California Democratic Party delegate.

Elkarra said Lungren himself once spoke at a CAIR candidates' forum in 2006 and that the congressman and organization used to have good relations. Elkarra issued this statement:

"These are last minute, desperate, and despicable smears. I gave this contribution in my personal capacity as an Executive Board Member of the California Democratic Party. It is unfortunate how candidates will attack American Muslims to win votes."

The Bee endorsed Lungren, as this editorial notes, largely because of his work in helping his district with flood control, transportation projects and other infrastructure. Yet he also has been the subject of criticism. Many of Lungren's biggest boosters come from far, far away, as this column notes.

About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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