RANCHO SANTA FE — Individuals in Rancho Santa Fe have given $1.5 million in campaign contributions so far this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which runs opensecrets.org, a nonpartisan and nonprofit website dedicated to tracking money in politics.
Compared to other areas Rancho Santa Fe, as defined by ZIP codes 92067 and 92091, is marked by wealthy residents looking to back candidates in local, state and national elections. For example, Rancho Santa Fe’s 92067, one of the richest ZIP codes in the U.S., has given 34 times more than the average zip code in campaign contributions this year.
The Center for Responsive Politics lists local campaign donations up to July 9, the most recent data available.
Raking in $572,000, the Republican National Committee was the top recipient of campaign contributions from individuals in Rancho Santa Fe. Rounding out the top three, Mitt Romney brought in $384,000 and the National Republican Congressional Committee took in $113,000.
In contrast, President Barack Obama has received $62,000, and the Democratic National Committee gained $52,000. Democrats’ poor fundraising efforts in the area likely reflect Rancho Santa Fe’s history as a Republican stronghold. In 2008, John McCain won nearly two-thirds of the vote in the area.
This year, 89 percent of campaign contributions in Rancho Santa Fe ZIP code 92067 and 98 percent in ZIP code 92091 have gone to Republican-backed candidates and organizations. Further, the five largest campaign contributions in the area went to Republican candidates. Among them, Congressman Brian Bilbray received $99,000.
Rancho Santa Fe residents gave $3.4 million to candidates during the last presidential election. While the current total is only $1.5 million, campaign contributions will likely ramp up in the coming months, said Viveca Novak, the communications director of the Center for Responsive politics.
“Right now is prime time for donations,” Novak said. “There’s more immediacy and it gets greater and greater the closer we get to November.”
Novak said the Center for Responsive Politics is not an advocacy group, noting it “exists to only inform and educate voters.”
It’s likely most campaign contributions are revealed through opensecrets.org, Novak said. But she cautioned that some political donations might not be disclosed due to the rise of Super PACs and their affiliated nonprofits.
The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010 paved the way for the creation of Super PACs, which 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 have established nonprofits, or 501(c) 4s, that act in conjunction with them. Unlike Super PACs, the nonprofit arm of a Super PAC doesn’t have to disclose its donors to the FEC.
“Worrisome to many, Super PACs can have a 501(c) 4 that doesn’t identify donors.”
“501(c) 4s outspent Super PACs in 2010,” she added.
Michael Gelfand, the president of the Rancho Santa Fe Democratic Club, decried Super PAC spending: “They will ruin our democracy,” he said.
Gelfand said Rancho Santa Fe residents have traditionally supported Republicans because “affluent areas lean conservative.” But he argued Rancho Santa Fe, like the rest of San Diego, is slowly becoming more liberal.
“There used to be pressure to hide the fact that you’re a Democrat in this area — not anymore,” Gelfand said.
The Rancho Santa Fe Republican Women Federated club participates in precinct walking and hosts candidate forums, but doesn’t hold fundraising events, according to Brett Dieterich, the club’s president. However, Dieterich said she can see why individuals in Rancho Santa Fe are inclined to donate to Mitt Romney and other Republicans.
“They’re putting their money where their mouth is to get rid of Barack Obama,” Dieterich said.