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Does Denham recall effort still have life?

Although the recall against state Sen. Jeff Denham was publicly spiked, money has kept flowing into the campaign's account, records show.

Leadership California recently donated $110,000 to the We Deserve Better campaign, a filing that showed up on the Secretary of State's Web site late Thursday. The committee supports various ballot measures and is controlled by recall mastermind Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland.

His spokesman said the money was needed to pay the campaign's bills, while the Denham's camp wonders if there may be a last-minute push to oust the Merced Republican from office as the June 3 election nears.

"It's a huge amount of money," Denham spokesman Kevin Spillane said Friday. "There are other activities that we're picking up on that we find mysterious and suspicious."

There have been inquiries into available air time and items purchased, Spillane said. Organizations have also been interacting. He declined to elaborate.

Two days after Perata's announcement stopping the formal recall campaign, two $5,000 contributions from the state Democratic Party were disclosed.

Paul Hefner, a spokesman for the now-defunct recall, said the transfers were made to pay bills racked up before Perata's May 7 action. He stood on the steps of the Capitol and called off the recall in the name of putting politics aside to solve the state's problems.

"We have no ads on the air," Hefner said. "The billboards have been taken down."

He added that the Web site for We Deserve Better only includes a written statement by Perata ending the effort.

Democrats waged a multimillion-dollar battle to oust Denham, and $110,000 only represents a small percentage of the cost, Hefner said. No other money transfers are expected.

Perata launched the recall last summer when Denham refused to vote on the budget, which would have ended a 52-day stalemate. Denham wanted to see more money cut from it to avoid a deficit.

Monterey County Supervisor Simon Salinas stepped up as the sole Denham challenger, and Darlene Dunham, an aide to his campaign, said it's been disbanded in light of Perata's decision.

The question of recalling Denham will still be on the ballot, and the state senator has been walking precincts to reminding citizens to vote against it. After all, the recall isn't truly over until June 4.

Reporter Scott Jason can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or sjason@mercedsun-star.com.

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