ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. — U.S. Rep. Katie Porter wants people to know that government can work. With nearly $13.5 million in campaign funds, she’ll have plenty of money to convince them.
It’s a message she’s been selling through a phone bank blitz to constituents as the powers that be grapple over the next round of economic relief. Job losses have mounted across the country, with The New York Times reporting that eight million people have fallen into poverty since May.
“I think the real negotiation here is between the White House and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)," said Porter. "They’re not on the same page. Until the White House and the Senate gets on the same page, we can’t have a deal.”
Porter has emphasized her “government works” campaign angle, going so far as to suggest structural changes in the Executive Branch. In a recent appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, she said presidents should be more limited in the use of unilateral executive orders.
In the absence of legislative deal-making, executive orders have sometimes replaced inter-party cooperation. Lately, the government has been stalled by bitter budget debates that have seen near total government shutdowns.
Talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have failed to reach advanced stages even as economic fears heighten. But the divisiveness in politics has inspired record political spending.
Even against a backdrop of lost jobs and a growing, invisible base of people who have stopped looking, Porter earned big dollars. Many candidates have. Money has flowed into campaigns of both parties with total campaign spending projected to eclipse $11 billion, a roughly 50 percent jump over 2016.
Porter, in the third quarter alone, has earned more than a third of her total funds, crushing her opponent’s total earnings of nearly $1.2 million.
Greg Raths, the former mayor of Mission Viejo, is what Orange County has been used to: a Reaganite Republican keen on small government wrapped in social conservatism. He’s bearish on coronavirus spending, looking at the inefficiencies of the last bill. He advocates that the government finish spending the money it earmarked in the Cares Act, a package totaling more than $2 trillion signed March 27.
Porter sees families in need of relief now. She advocates the money from the next package should go directly to families for food and housing, while other money for schools going straight to county and city coffers.
She has called the Paycheck Protection Program, designed to help small businesses, “inefficient.”
She expects a smoother rollout of the next bill, whenever it comes, as agencies and local governments learn how to better distribute relief dollars.
“We all have a responsibility to keep each other safe,” she said. “That’s one of the fundamental obligations of community.”
Porter still has a formidable campaign fund. Campaign filing records show she has nearly $9 million in cash at the ready. Porter has begun to throw her weight around, putting money into 28 candidates she has endorsed through her PAC, Truth to Power.
She has put her influence around in local races, too, endorsing Irvine mayoral candidate Farrah Khan. Democrats in Orange County have dug into local races with greater organizational power and money than past elections.
“The problems caused by COVID won’t be changed, and we’re not going to be able to address them if we don’t have county and local support,” said Porter.