State superintendent race draws $24 million

October 26, 2014

Candidates for California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Race. From left, incumbent Tom Torlakson and challenger Marshall Tuck.

With less than two weeks to go before Election Day, the race for California state superintendent of public instruction has been fueled by a combined $24 million in total campaign spending for incumbent Tom Torlakson and candidate Marshall Tuck. Outside groups not affiliated with either candidate represent the bulk of that spending – close to $19.4 million on ads and mailers on behalf of the candidates.

For more details about the money behind the race, check out our campaign finance app here.

Torlakson and Tuck have raised nearly the same amount in direct contributions, according to recent campaign filings reported on the Secretary of State website. Torlakson, who started fundraising in 2011, has raised about $2.5 million, while Tuck, who started fundraising in late 2013, has raised about $2.4 million.

By law, donors are limited in how much they can directly contribute to candidates. Individuals are allowed to contribute up to $6,800 for a primary election and another $6,800 for a general election. All other donors, such as political action committees and businesses, are capped at $13,600 per primary election, and the same amount for a general election.

There are no limits on donors to outside groups, identified on campaign disclosure reports as “independent expenditure committees.” These committees have intensified their efforts in the past few weeks. A new committee supporting Tuck, “Parents and Teachers for Tuck for State Superintendent 2014,” formed in early October and has spent about $7.5 million on ads. It is the outside group that has spent the most of any of the committees supporting Tuck. The committee is financed by 30 donors who gave on average $267,000 each, including real estate developer William Bloomfield, Jr., Broad Foundation founder Eli Broad, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Emerson Collective Chair Laurene Powell Jobs.

Another committee, “Great Public Schools Los Angeles PAC” – largely formed to support Los Angeles school board candidate Alex Johnson ­– gave $117,450 to the Tuck committee. The Los Angeles PAC is financed by many of the same individuals funding the Tuck committee.

The majority of Torlakson’s financial support is coming from the California Teachers Association. This week the CTA spent $1.2 million on issue advocacy ads supporting Torlakson but not expressly calling for his election, adding to the $3.9 million it previously spent on issue ads on his behalf. It has also contributed through the “Torlakson for Superintendent: Major Funding by the California Teachers Association” committee. The committee has raised $5.2 million, mainly from unions, including the California Teachers Association, the American Federation of Teachers and the California School Employees Association. It has spent $2.3 million supporting Torlakson and $1.8 million opposing Tuck.

The “American Federation of Teachers – Kids, Families and Teachers Supporting Torlakson for Superintendent of Public Instruction 2014” committee formed earlier this month and has spent $276,205 on ads opposing Tuck. The committee has no large donors; records indicate it has been funded through donations of less than $100 each, which do not require disclosure under campaign finance law. A committee formed by the California Federation of Teachers, a state affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, also spent $190,000 supporting Torlakson.


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