Updated Oct. 26, 10:06 a.m.–
Sentinel staff report– Latest campaign finance reports filed Thursday show unusually large amounts of money are being contributed to campaigns for the proposed Measure M sales tax in Citrus Heights.
Political campaigns in Citrus Heights, usually City Council races, typically see $10-20,000 in total contributions and expenditures for winning campaigns. But the fight over Measure M, a 1-cent-per-dollar sales tax increase that would raise an estimated $12 million annually and bring the sales tax rate up from 7.75% to 8.75%, is resulting in record amounts of contributions and spending.
Proponents say the tax is a small price to pay to cover services like escalating road repair costs and to fill vacant positions in public safety, while opponents claim the city has mismanaged its current funds and say the wording of the tax measure allows funds to be spent on anything, including pay raises.
Legally required campaign finance disclosures for the period of Jan. 1 through Oct. 17 show the Yes on Measure M committee brought in a total of $47,427 in contributions, with one additional contribution over $1,000 on Oct. 20. The top donation for October is from Le Gaming Inc. for $5,000, which lists an Anaheim address and has ties to Stones Gambling Hall. Additional donations of $2,500 apiece came from Sacramento-based MMS Strategies and the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council Issues PAC.
A separate committee formed to support Measure M was also created under the name Citrus Heights Residents for a Better Community. The committee has separately raised $17,000 from two large donors who each gave $8,500.
The committee’s donations came from “The Sanctuary” cannabis dispensary in Sacramento and a company with a New Hampshire address listed as Ajala, Inc. The committee’s only reported expenditure is an $8,500 contribution to Councilwoman Porsche Middleton’s 2022 campaign committee.
*Editor’s note: This article originally listed an $8,500 contribution involving Middleton’s campaign as being “from” her campaign committee instead of “to” her committee. We apologize for this unintentional error.
Opponents of Measure M have also bumped up their fundraising activity since the last reporting period that ended Sept. 19, which was previously reported on by The Sentinel. The “No on CH Measure M” committee reported a total of $6,553 in contributions through Oct. 17.
The opposition campaign’s top donor is the Sacramento Taxpayers Association, which gave $2,000. The Sacramento-based organization’s president, Bruce Lee, has been spearheading the campaign against Measure M and also gave $450 of his personal funds to the campaign.
The campaign’s other large donors are Pastor Auto Care, Inc., and El Tapatio Mexican restaurant. Both businesses gave $1,000 each and have been vocal opponents of Measure M.
Lee criticized the Yes on M campaign in an email statement Saturday saying “the VAST amount of money has come from non-Citrus Heights businesses who are not impacted by sales taxes and who sell their services to the city.” He called it a “a blatant ‘pay to play’ program.”
Out-of-town involvement on both sides has come up as an issue during the campaign, with Lee being prevented from speaking at a Citrus Heights Chamber of Commerce forum due to him not being a resident of the city. Lee has responded that the taxpayers association he heads has members in Citrus Heights, whom he represents.
The Sentinel in an email on Saturday offered both campaigns an opportunity to comment on the latest financial filings. Each acknowledged receipt, but only the “No on M” campaign submitted a statement by publication deadline.
The Yes on Measure M campaign previously issued a brief statement regarding its contributions last month, calling the level of support “very encouraging” and stating that contributions “have been made by local community members, local businesses and organizations that genuinely care about Citrus Heights.”
Stones Gambling Hall, whose parent company gave a $10,000 contribution to support Measure M last month, also previously issued a statement, saying: “we have always supported initiatives that are for the betterment of the community we serve, our support of Measure M is consistent with that objective.”
The Sentinel also sought to contact the second committee formed in support of Measure M, known as Citrus Heights Residents for a Better Community. The committee’s treasurer, Courtney Shinn, was reached briefly by phone at her home on Saturday, but said she was not available to give an immediate comment on Measure M and offered to give a statement early next week.
The Sanctuary, which gave $8,500 to Shinn’s committee, was contacted by The Sentinel on Friday evening where a man who identified himself as the manager on duty said he was not familiar with Measure M and had no knowledge of any campaign contributions by the store. When asked about the owners of the business, the man abruptly ended the phone conversation.
The Sentinel also reached out to Councilwoman Porsche Middleton and Ajala Inc. regarding contributions relating to the Residents for a Better Community committee but did not receive responses by press time Saturday night.
Expenses for both campaigns have also racked up quickly, with voters seeing at least one billboard pop up on Greenback Lane and multiple mailers being sent out.
The Yes on M campaign has reported close to $42,000 in expenditures through Oct. 17, with top expenses being for consulting services. The campaign has accrued a bill of $10,000 for consulting services from Townsend Calkin Tapio, Inc., and paid another $5,000 to KMP Strategies, LLC.
The next top expenses were $4,400 to the US Postal Service for postage, and $2,800 to Citrus Heights-based All Star Printing for campaign literature and mailings.
The No on Measure M committee has reported total expenditures of around $4,300, including several accrued expenses. Top expenses were $1,151 to the US Postal Service for postage, $630 for online ads on The Sentinel, and just over $600 to Orangevale Copy for literature and mailings.
The next campaign finance disclosure reports are required to be submitted by Feb. 1, 2021, with the exception of donations over $1,000 which must be reported individually within 24 hours of receipt.
To view current filings for all campaigns, click here.
Undecided about Measure M? See guest columns written from each side below:
Latest campaign finance reports filed Thursday show unusually large amounts of money are being contributed to campaigns for the Measure M sales tax proposed in Citrus Heights.
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