Next week, you can join U.S. Congressman Bob Filner at a suite in Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. for a baseball game between the hometown Nationals and Seattle Mariners.
The event is called “Bob and Baseball” and your minimum $1,000 contribution will go toward the Democrat’s congressional campaign, according to an invitation posted on a congressional transparency website. It’s all standard D.C. fare.
Except that Filner’s not running for Congress.
Instead, Filner is giving up his south San Diego congressional seat to run for mayor, a race that could cost each campaign up to $1 million by next June’s primary.
So why is Filner raising money for a campaign that doesn’t exist? Filner was a tad cryptic when asked about it last week.
“A sitting congressman has certain political responsibilities and obligations,” Filner said. “You have to keep some of that going.”
Filner added that he’s cancelling most of his further congressional fundraisers. His campaign didn’t respond to further requests for comment and didn’t confirm the baseball fundraiser was still happening.
Collecting donations for a campaign other than the mayor’s race would tangle Filner in the thicket of the city’s elections laws. They prohibit him from using money from his congressional bank account for the mayor’s race without a complex series of steps that conform to San Diego’s contribution limits. Federal law limits individuals to $2,500 contributions per election, and city limits are $500 per person for each election.
The key will be where Filner spends his congressional campaign funds, said Bob Stern, president of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies, a watchdog group. Paying off existing debts and donating to other congressional campaigns and the party is legitimate, Stern said. Paying for polling or campaign staff is less so.
“It’s such an unfair advantage for him if he uses the money for anything close to San Diego,” Stern said.
The four other major candidates who have announced or are officially considering a mayoral run also have additional campaign accounts.
City Councilman Carl DeMaio has closed his City Council account and isn’t giving money from his city political action committee to his mayoral account. District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis isn’t raising money into her county campaign account, but is leaving it open. Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher closed his state campaign account, but just opened a separate account to pay office expenses. State Sen. Christine Kehoe plans to continue raising money for her state legislative accounts, but would stop if she decides to run for mayor.
Local GOP leaders have been critical of Filner’s open congressional campaign account, with one calling it a “slush fund.”
Filner’s account had a $33,212 balance with no debt as of the latest campaign filings.