Machado Campaign Alleges GOP Opponent Accepted Illegal Donations From Pharmaceutical Industry
Incumbent Sen. Mike Machado's (D-Stockton) campaign has said that Republican challenger and Stockton Mayor Gary Podesto is operating a "shell game with election money" by accepting a donation from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America through a county GOP committee, the Modesto Bee reports.
Under state laws, a political action committee is permitted to donate no more than $6,400 to a candidate per election and no more than $26,600 to a state or county political party. Parties are allowed to donate an unlimited amount to candidates.
PhRMA's PAC earlier this month sent a maximum donation to the Placer County Republican Central Committee, which then "quickly" gave the Podesto campaign $26,600, the Bee reports.
The candidates to date have spent a combined $6.2 million in their race for the Senate district seat that includes San Joaquin, Sacramento, Solano and Yolo counties.
Campaign aides for Machado, who was fined earlier this year for accepting excessive campaign contributions, said PhRMA wants to influence the election because of his support for legislation vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) that would have required the state to consider importing prescription drugs from Canada.
Machado spokesperson Andrew Acosta said, "The drug companies have made their choice in the election, and they are moving money in $25,000 increments to the county committees straight into Gary Podesto's campaign," adding, "They're trying to use every loophole to move money to Gary Podesto."
Brian Seitchik -- a spokesperson for Podesto, who has said he is concerned about the safety of reimportation -- said the campaign is not involved in county party fund-raising and that PhRMA's donation was "absolutely not" an attempt to avoid campaign finance laws. "Everything that we've done is legal and reported," Seitchik said.
Merrill Jacobs, deputy vice president of PhRMA, which has not donated to state legislative candidates before, said the group is trying to elect "pro-business, free-market-oriented people in the Legislature." Jacobs said that a $6,400 donation is not enough, adding, "Small donations to individual candidates usually doesn't have the impact."
Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies and a former general counsel of the state Fair Political Practices Commission, said, "The bottom line is they're trying to get around the contribution limits. It's sort of a legal form of money laundering" (Stern, Modesto Bee, 10/23).