Ashby camp attacks Steinberg over funding lead, transfer rumors

Mayor money, mayor problems

It was bound to come down to this: Sacramento’s top two mayoral prospects are clashing over rumors of money.

On Tuesday, two supporters of Councilwoman Angelique Ashby objected to the idea that former state Sen. Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg could move more than $1.4 million from a separate campaign fund into his mayoral campaign fund.

In a letter to City Clerk Shirley Concolino and City Attorney James Sanchez, the individuals—Sacramento Police Officers Association Vice President Paul Brown and Jesus Arredondo, a small-business owner—contend that the minutiae of the city’s campaign-finance ordinance restrict the candidate from transferring more than $165,000 from the outside fund.

At issue is the war chest Steinberg accumulated through fundraising for a lieutenant governor run in 2018, an account valued at north of $1.4 million.

“We have not reported any transfers yet,” said Steinberg campaign spokesman Jason Kinney. He also characterized the letter as a ginned-up controversy that shows the Ashby campaign going negative a little more than two months before the primary vote.

Ashby campaign manager Josh Pulliam argued a different interpretation. “It really is more about the bigger picture—and this race is a microcosm of the bigger picture. Everyone needs to play by the same set of rules,” he told SN&R. “Steinberg should be perfectly happy that he’s raised more money than anyone else.”

It’s true. Ashby was already falling behind in the money race, with her campaign having spent $14,000 to Steinberg’s $92,000 during the 2015 calendar year. For that same time period, Ashby reported $168,000 in contributions, a third less than Steinberg, whose camp reported $250,000.

While new quarterly statements covering this year haven’t been filed, both candidates have been reporting individual contributions of $1,000 or more, and those individual filings show that Steinberg continues to widen his lead.

The city ordinance doesn’t necessarily prohibit large transfers like the one Ashby’s supporters are objecting to, as long as the individual donations making up the transfer amount are itemized and stay within contribution limits for persons and large political committees.

The one thing that Kinney and Pulliam did agree to was Ashby’s uphill battle against Steinberg. “In Darrell’s case, he’s already got pretty much every advantage in the book,” Pulliam said, referring to Steinberg’s broader name recognition, money and experience.

He also framed the complaint letter as a bit of a trap. If Steinberg transfers the money, he’s violating their disputed interpretation of the city ordinance. And if he doesn’t, well, Pulliam said, “I guess he’s running for lieutenant governor.”