COLAB Corner – Contributions and local politicians


Over the next several months, The Coalition of Labor, Agricultural, and Business (COLAB) will provide a series of articles on issues its membership believes important to the economic viability of Imperial Valley.  We thank the Desert Review for its support and interest in publishing these articles.  Please note that our articles do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Desert Review, its owners, or staff.  The opinions expressed are that of the COLAB board.

by Kay Day Pricola

This article will cover two related topics.  The first topic deals with the recent Special Election for the Imperial Irrigation District, Division One race. Local news agencies have aired brief stories on contributions made in support of the candidates, however, large and significant donations were not revealed until after June 6th.  This delay denied the public a true picture of campaign contributions.

In California, as well as other states, a candidate who receives more than $2,000 per year for political purposes must report those funds based on set schedules for each election cycle.  The form the candidate is required to complete is called Form 460.  This form details monies received by the candidates and their expenditures.  The final filing for the IID Special Election of June 6th was on July 31, 2017.  Chart A lists the reported income and expenditures of all four candidates for Division One.

Another type of donation, that many are unaware of, including it appears some of the local media, is the Independent Expenditure donations from a Political Action Committee, or other group, of $1,000 or more per year.  This expenditure is legal and does not have to be reported by the candidate who is the beneficiary of the investment, if the investment is NOT made in consultation, cooperation, or coordination with the candidate, such as providing a campaign manager who is in direct contact with the candidate.

This filing is done with Forms 496 and 497.   The amount reported on forms 496 and 497 for the special election increased one candidate funding by $74,615.83.  Only one candidate, as noted in the Chart B, received the benefit of this Independent Expenditure donation.  The total funding for that candidate was actually $80,865.83, 20 percent greater than the total raised by the other three candidates.

The second topic is donations to Imperial County political campaigns over the last three elections cycles.  In researching these Independent Expenditure forms we found that during the 2015, 2016 and 2017 election cycles, financial commitments for local donations have totalled $454,631.31.  These investments range from school boards, the I.I.D. and the Imperial County Board of Supervisors. These donations, the only ones reported as required to the Imperial County Election Department are noted in Chart B.  Unless otherwise noted all the donation are reported by the “Imperial Valley Works Sponsored by San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council-AFL-CIO”. Only one Form 497 was filed by a businessman from Beverly Hills involved with the development of Gran Plaza in Calexico.    The specific organizations for the Imperial Valley Works Sponsored by San Diego & Imperial Labor Council -AFL-CIO is noted in the last column.

Again, these donations—as independent expenditures—are legal as long as reported in the prescribed time frame and not done in consultation, cooperation, or coordination with the candidate. At the local, state and federal levels, most of us are aware of contributions made to candidates’ campaigns, and those are reported by the candidates’ committee. These independent expenditures from Form 496 and Form 497 are also reported, but often fly under the radar.  Now that we know that these additional expenditures in support of candidates have been occurring here for several years, we ask that the responsible media also report these donations to the voting public in each election cycle.

Chart B:


  1. Mr. Reyes’ explanations and sopolote’s rebuttals, all obviously biased. Best to stick to informative and fact based article at hand. And always follow the “dark money” regardless of origin.

  2. Not the issue but so be it that you do not want to engage civilly or by name but I stand by the explanation of the I.E. by the unions.

  3. Some union should again attempt to employ Mr. Reyes to tell the good story or IID local entity should again fund his past failed Institute. Until that time Mr. Reyes is “All Hat and No Horse”

  4. Also, each Union that contributes to the campaigns have a presence here and dues paying members here so I don’t understand the statement of it being not being Local money. It is their duty to do the best by those members here. Think of the Teamsters and the members who work for the county of Imperial, City of Brawley, Republic Waste and others. Think of the IBE W and the thousand or so electricians in the Imperial County, The United Domestic Workers and the 5,000 workers in the Imperial Valley. Think of the other unions, Laborers, pipe fitters, carpenters, cement masons,
    Operators and others working on the new jail for the county, solar and geothermal projects before and soon coming again who employ locals and explain how it is outside interests.

  5. Mr. Reyes

    Stats Guy below clearly states the necessity as desperation by Super PAC to not see Mendoza or Menvielle re-elected. As you stated it is inspiring and humbling to see unaccounted for non local Union big money of a broad sweeping and perennial use dismiss one time used and accounted for socialized local ag and community focused money.

    Careful in any comparison you write of yourself in Cesar’s shadow or spirit of “Si Se Puede”, as the eyes and ears of Imperial Valley and Brawley are on you.

    • Wow and you believe stats guy who like yourself won’t identify themselves for the public. Desperation does not come in $250,000 I.E. again of old power brokers here. The unions are new power brokers legally using allowed election practices to help elect candidates who understand the working families needs here locally. As a veteran of those very campaigns from the UFW to the Labor Coalition currently in action I proudly support their work on behalf of improving working families lives here in the Imperial Valley.

      • I wasn’t taking a side on union expenditures (and honestly, I find that unions do a tremendous amount of good for the people they represent). If the unions were of the opinion that a particular candidate was going to do better by the workers the union represents then I would say they are obligated to contribute to the campaign and help get them into office.

        I was only commenting that the 2012 campaign was divisive and that the Super PAC wasn’t formed so much to get challengers elected as much as it was formed and run to get the incumbents (Menvielle/Mendoza) voted out. That kind of set up would tend to make the benefiting candidates less beholden to the PAC since the PAC already got what they wanted out of the deal (disfavored candidates voted out).

  6. Last line should state not leaving their fate to old money power brokers. Also
    I don’t understand Sopolotes statement of the super PAC being born out of necessity or ignoring the massive amount spent.

  7. Si Se Puede is a direct phrase from a union movement that included political campaigns to elect politicians who would best represent, understand and act on, the needs and desires of the farmworkers. Having worked for the UNited Farm Workers, the San Diego/Imperial Counties Labor Council and the IBEW San Diego/ Imperial Counties Local 569 and the labor coalition on various political campaign I can personally attest that the goal is to attain the best possible representation for the working families they represent locally. It is the epitome of Si Se Puede in the sense of participating and making change in favor of the very people from whom the funds used come from their hard work. It is inspiring and humbling to see the work and passion the respective union members have when they engage in shaping their own fate and leaving it to the old money power brokers.

  8. Labor Unions Independent Expenditures (I. E.) that Mr. Reyes refers to here are much different than any 1 time Super Pac born out of necessity. Union is much more organized with far more money spent and to be spent in future.

    $30,000 or more union money for 1 candidate in a school board or city council race should be of interest to all.

    Union dues at creative work with no accounting and in a few hands to be administered adds to the sinister term “dark money” label of these activities.

    And it sure is not local money nor is it in the spirit of “Si Se Puede”

  9. My reflection is that these contributions have been known for years, and remembering the election for IID in 2012, there was an Independent Expenditure of $250,000 for challengers To incumbents Stella Mendoza and John Pierre Menvielle by a local Super PAC that was completely legal. The amount raised was an eye opener for many as it was (and is) the single largest Independent Expenditure in the history of elections in Imperial County. The media knows about the IEs and its value to campaigns and reports as it sees fit to. The recent furor over the labor union’s I.E. on behalf of A candidate for IID seems overblown when considering the I.E. of 2012. It may stem from the candidate who benefitted and was elected is not predisposed to be at the behest of those who contributed to the Super PAC in 2012. The next election for that same position will tell us if the will of the people or special interests are being heard or are they both the same?

    • The big difference in 2012 was that the Super PAC that was formed wasn’t actively trying to get Kuhn or Benson elected specifically, they just desperately didn’t want Mendoza of Menvielle to be re-elected. The folks running against them wouldn’t have made a difference to the I.E.’s for that cycle.

Comments are closed.