Hopefuls race for funds as reporting period ends

WASHINGTON — California congressional candidates scrambled Wednesday to fluff up their fund-raising scorecards, on the last day of a closely watched reporting period.

Running for the Senate, Republican candidate Tom Campbell electronically urged supporters to contribute prior to midnight. With the primary election about two months away, Campbell and other candidates deploy fund-raising numbers as a proxy for political muscle.

"In less than 24 hours, my campaign reaches a critical deadline, the end of the first fund-raising quarter," Campbell advised supporters in a mass e-mail.

The three-month fund- raising reports covering the period through March 31 are most crucial in closely contested races, such as the Senate campaign and the race for the GOP nomination in the 19th Congressional District, which stretches from Modesto to Fresno.

Political professionals pore over these reports, which will be made public April 15.

The biggest numbers to watch are how much a candidate raises and how much cash remains available. Consequently, candidates boost their showing through everything from phone calls and e-mail to Facebook appeals.

The last-minute appeals are not confined to the ultra- expensive statewide Senate race.

Republican Mike Berryhill, who is challenging Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, blasted out a last-minute e-mail appeal Wednesday afternoon with the slugline "midnight deadline," while others took their appeals to Facebook.

"We only have a few hours ... until we reach our goal," state Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater, declared on his House campaign Facebook page midafternoon Wednesday, one day after declaring that "this is a critical time ... any amount helps!" Denham's stated goal was to collect $10,000 in online contributions by the close of business Wednesday.

On March 22, following a more traditional fund-raising route, Denham was the beneficiary of a $2,500-a-head Capitol Hill reception sponsored by six GOP House members.

Former Republican Rep. Richard Pombo of Tracy, one of three other Republicans in the 19th Congressional District race, was scooping up funds at a Madera fund- raising event Tuesday night, a day before the reporting deadline.

A vocal Pombo supporter, Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of Visalia likened the April 15 fund-raising reports to "the first poll" in a race. In particular, Nunes said, "local money is always the most important," because it reflects support from people who can also vote for a candidate and engage in grass-roots campaigning.

Nor does the fund raising ever really stop in an election year, even after one reporting period ends.

Denham, for instance, lists three upcoming events in April, including a reception tonight at Fresno's The Elbow Room with former Fresno Mayor Alan Autry, and a wine-tasting April 10 at the Turlock Ballroom.

More ambitiously, Nunes has a three-day, $5,000-a-head fund-raising event planned for his own political action committee.

Nunes, who is unopposed, organized what he is calling the "Sideways Tour" offering "great weather, wine-tasting and more" along the California coast.

Nunes will be able to use the money collected during the June 4-6 event to contribute to other Republican candidates, in time for the next quarterly report.

Bee Washington Bureau reporter Michael Doyle can be reached at or 202-383-0006.