RANCHO SANTA FE — Forget red versus blue. This election was defined by green.
Individuals in Rancho Santa Fe gave about $4.1 million in campaign contributions this year, more than any election year since data going back to 1994. That’s according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which runs opensecrets.org, a nonpartisan and nonprofit website dedicated to tracking money in politics.
By way of comparison, campaign contributions in Rancho Santa Fe totaled about $3.4 million in 2008 and $2.5 million in 2004.
Eclipsing previous years’ contributions, Rancho Santa Fe is a microcosm of the nation. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, campaign spending in the U.S. reached an estimated $6 billion in 2012, meaning it was the most expensive election ever.
Why were campaign contributions higher this year?
In regards to Rancho Santa Fe, UC San Diego political science professor Gary Jacobson said the large percentage of high-income individuals in the area likely played a role. President Barack Obama has insisted taxes go up on this bracket, fueling their opposition.
“This election was framed along economic lines,” Jacobson said. “In a wealthy area like Rancho Santa Fe that’s historically voted Republican, there was even more reason to be active.”
Ninety-nine percent of campaign contributions from ZIP code 92091, and 90 percent from 92067 went to Republican-backed candidates and organizations, according to the FEC (Federal Election Commission).
The Republican National Committee was the top recipient of contributions, bringing in more than $1.1 million. Mitt Romney received the second most with $950,000.
“There was a huge effort from a variety of new and old groups to bring in funds from wealthy individuals across the nation,” Jacobson said.
And for the first time, some contributions might remain off the books. As such, contribution totals for communities might not ever be known with certainty, according to Bob Biersack, senior fellow with the Center for Responsive Politics.
“We don’t know who’s footing the bill for some of these groups,” Biersack said.
That’s due to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling that paved the way for Super PACs and their affiliated 501 (c) 4s.
Super PACs can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations and unions, among other organizations. While Super PACs are forbidden from working directly with the candidates they support, they’re allowed to advocate for or against candidates by purchasing television, radio and print advertisements.
Many Super PACs established nonprofits, or 501(c) 4s, that acted in conjunction with them. Unlike Super PACs, the nonprofit arm of a Super PAC currently doesn’t have to disclose its donors to the FEC.
Biersack said there are some statewide efforts, including in California, to release the identity of donors backing 501 (c) 4 groups that spent on state elections. But for the time being, the donors to these nonprofits, whether they were active in state or federal elections, will remain in the dark, Biersack said.
Of those contributions accounted for, campaign contributions were two and a half times greater than July’s total, when the number stood at $1.5 million. Biersack said another round of disclosures will be released in upcoming weeks that reflect last-minute campaign contributions. But that’s unlikely to significantly add to Rancho Santa Fe’s $4.1 million total, he said.