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Tim Myers: Fundraising as a proxy for support and effort

Posted: February 13, 2010 4:40 p.m.
Updated: February 14, 2010 4:55 a.m.
Many complain that my numerical prognostications concerning the local City Council election hide some hidden agenda.

In other words, by pretending to "know" the outcome I suppress and discourage those who might seek to cause a different outcome; conspiring with others to fulfill my own prophecy.

I must disagree. Since I work with cold numbers, I evaluate cold numbers from the past against cold numbers from the present. These constitute verifiable facts.

I then draw inferences from these facts, and fairly those inferences represent opinions, though I might argue that opinions based on facts provide more meaning than opinions based on feelings.

One finds predictions concerning Santa Clarita council elections imprecise by nature.

Despite complaints concerning the "big money" nature of the campaigns, no candidate raises enough funds to conduct scientific tracking polls, made less useful and much more difficult due to our city's incredibly low participation in the election process.

But nature abhors a vacuum, so I insert other information to act in the position of proxy for support, effort and progress of a campaign.

The first week of February provided the best opportunity to date with the filing of campaign finance disclosure forms with the City Clerk's office that covered activities through Dec. 31.

In short, TimBen Boydston raised just short of $12,000 while the other major non-incumbents raised basically nothing. What could this tell us?

Many cynics think special-interest money runs everything in local campaigns so the balance of funds in the coffers represents the extent of the officials' corruption.

They forget that outside of political action committees (where I admit strange things and large dollops of money may flow for the benefit of a particular candidate at strategic times) the personal campaign fund limits are relatively low ($360 per family unit).

This means for someone to raise a relatively modest sum of $12,000 they must convince at least 33 families or businesses to make that donation.

Anyone involved in local campaigns will tell you how difficult one finds that task. A more modest contribution of $100 requires convincing 120 people.

In other words, the more money raised at any particular point in time, the harder the effort of the candidate and the broader their support.

So I made comparisons of the challengers this time, with three challengers from the last city election, namely Laurie Ender (successful) and Diane Trautman and Maria Gutzeit (unsuccessful). Sadly, what I found did not speak well of the effort or support this time around.

At the Dec. 31 reporting date in 2007, these three candidates raised three to four times the gross amount of Boydston, amounting to $30,000 to $45,000 each.

Additionally they had placed $15,000 to $20,000 of their personal cash to their campaigns, a lunatic and deluded but committed act. No challenger this time stands even close to where they were, and two of them lost.

When I pointed this out to several partisans of the various challengers I received two responses, one old and one new.

The first is that phrase that in business, politics, sports or affairs of the heart always portends catastrophe: "It's different this time."

Why is it "different this time?" A poor economy deflates the contribution base, and would certainly discourage anyone from putting their own money in.

Unfortunately, while one could demonstrate that campaign funds are harder to come by, we have not seen a commensurate deflation in the cost of running an effective campaign that would overcome the built-in power of incumbency.

But what about the new but not unexpected response? The victory of Scott Brown in Massachusetts makes everyone think they will become the next Scott Brown, throwing out the incumbents and/or the beneficiaries of machine politics.

In this mindset, incumbency becomes a hindrance instead of an advantage, and the campaigns of the challengers take on a messianic tint.

One challenger even believes he can resolve the problem of immigration policy from a seat on Valencia Boulevard.

Will he next turn water into wine and feed everyone with five loaves and fishes?

I always admit my predictions are exactly worth what people paid for them, which is nothing.

How it will turn out no one knows, but I know that no matter how it turns out I will measure what occurred to the best of my ability and attempt to provide meaningful comparisons to the past, for what that is worth.

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident. His column represents his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal. "Myers' Musings" appears Sundays in The Signal.


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