If former radio host Kevin James was counting on his super PAC to carry him to victory in the L.A. mayor's race, he may have to think again.
The Better Way L.A. committee, which had announced plans to raise $4 million, disclosed today that it had brought in just $200,000 as of Dec. 31.
Half of that came from Harold Simmons, a billionaire who contributed heavily to Republican super PACs during the presidential election, and once referred to President Obama as “that socialist.”
In an interview last year with the Wall Street Journal, Simmons explained why he was contributing millions to elect a Republican president.
“Any of these Republicans would make a better president than that socialist, Obama,” Simmons said. “Obama is the most dangerous American alive… because he would eliminate free enterprise in this country.”
Fred Davis is the political consultant who organized the Super PAC to support Kevin James. Asked last month whether Simmons' remarks would hurt the effort, Davis said, “That's inside baseball. I can see why you'd follow it. In my brain, what hurts L.A. the most is having three other candidates who are part of the problem who got us into our own fiscal cliff.”
Davis also said that his fundraising effort had been hurt by Mitt Romney's defeat in November. That left conservative donors more wary of contributing to super PACs, he said.
“Some of the big super PAC donors aren't certain their dollars were well spent,” Davis said. “We're having to go to greater lengths than normal to explain exactly what this race is about. A couple of major donors I talked to just threw their arms up, saying 'I'm out of politics.' You got a chunk of them that saw the massive amount of money that went behind Romney and it didn't help.”
Simmons' representative did not respond to the Weekly's inquiry about his contribution to the super PAC.
Kevin James told the Weekly last month that he had met Simmons once, but said he didn't know whether he had donated.
“Harold is somebody I met at a fundraiser,” James said. “I hope he is a supporter. He's not somebody I'm in regular contact with.”
Asked whether his candidacy might be harmed by connection to a major contributor to Republican presidential causes, James said, “I'm clearly a different kind of candidate in a lot of ways. I'm running in a non-partisan race.”
The other $100,000 contribution came from Henry Crown & Co., a Chicago-based investment firm.
Update: Fred Davis, in an interview today, says the super PAC is revising its strategy, but still expects to raise enough money to make a big impact in the race.
“There's an answer for everything. The ideal answer is to have millions of dollars in the bank,” Davis said. “We're not there yet.”
Davis blamed the holidays for the committee's poor showing.
“No one was overly interested in giving a bunch of money over Christmas,” Davis said. “Wealthy guys go on vacations. I'm working them hard now… I'm cracking the whip.”
He was also optimistic about James' chances: “The stars are lined up great for Kevin, except for this.”