If anyone thinks no one in California cared all that much about the little-known statewide race for superintendent of public instruction, think again.

According to the state's Fair Political Practices Commission, special interest groups spent huge sums of independent expenditure money on the superintendent race, hoping their candidates would win the June primary.

In the end, the California Teachers Association and the Association of California School Administrators got the biggest bangs out of their bucks by supporting primary winners Tom Torlakson and Larry Aceves, respectively, who will face each other in a November run-off.

FPPC Chairman Dan Schnur wasn't pleased about the millions of dollars of independent expenditure money flowing during the June primary.

“This level of uncontrolled special interest spending on both sides of the aisle has made the legal limits on contributions to candidates almost completely irrelevant,” said Schnur in a recent press release.

Independent expenditures are monies spent on a political candidate often by a deep-pocketed special interest group but without the direct knowledge or help of that candidate. Usually this money is spent on political advertisements.

To highlight his point of independent expenditures gone wild, Schnur offered a top ten list that named names, with the superintendent race figuring prominently in the mix.

Sitting at number one was the EdVoice Independent Expenditure Committee, which spent $2,048,770 during the June primary. $1,493,782 of that money went to help superintendent candidate Gloria Romero, who finished third in that race.

EdVoice, an education reform group, champions charter schools and is backed by wealthy California philanthropists.

At number three was the California Teachers Association Independent Expenditure Committee, which spent $1,500,000 on Tom Torlakson. The CTA is a powerful teachers' union that's always a major player in the statewide superintendent race.

At number seven was the Association of California School Administrators Political Action Committee, spending $830,000 on Larry Aceves. The association represents various school administrators across the state.

The California Teachers Association and the Association of California School Administrators undoubtedly plan to throw more big bucks at their candidates for the November run-off.

Schnur gave them and other special interest groups a stern warning.

“Independent expenditures are just one way for special interests to evade the limits on direct contributions to state candidates, but there are others as well,” said Schnur in a press release. “It may be time for us to take a much closer look at the rules governing the use of independent committees. Those who are planning on funding these types of activities in the general election should consider this as their advance notice.”

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

LA Weekly