An influential political committee launched a campaign blitz for Encinitas congressional candidate Sara Jacobs after her grandfather gave it one of the largest contributions it has received this election cycle.
The Women Vote! super-PAC launched a television campaign, digital ads, a website and a series of mailers this week following a $250,000 contribution by Jacobs' grandfather, Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs.
Jacobs, 29, is running for the seat held by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, who is not seeking re-election. Her candidacy has made national news, including a profile in the magazine Cosmopolitan.
Federal Election Commission records show the Feb. 7 contribution was Irwin Jacobs' first to the super-PAC, connected with the EMILY'S List organization, which derives its name from the phrase Early Money Is Like Yeast.
The organization only backs Democratic women who support abortion rights, and Jacobs is the only candidate of the 16 who are running for Issa's seat who meets each of those three requirements.
Irwin Jacobs' contribution is the second largest the group has received since Jan 1. 2017, and amounts to nearly an eighth of the money it has raised in that time.
Other documents filed earlier this week show that the super-PAC has so far spent $184,027 supporting Jacobs, including $116,864 to air television commercials. This is the first super-PAC to support a candidate in the race, aside from a $15 expense listed by a different super-PAC for attorney Mike Levin of San Juan Capistrano, another Democrat running to replace Issa.
"We're proud to have the support of EMILY's List, an organization committed to getting pro-choice Democratic women elected to Congress," Jacobs campaign said in a statement.
Super-PACs like Women Vote! do not have contribution caps and can accept money from unions, corporations and individuals. They can't coordindate with — or contribute directly to — a candidate or political party. Traditional PACs like EMILY's List have contribution caps and can give, within limits, to candidates and parties. Traditional PACs often work with super-PACs to avoid funding limits.
EMILY's List said Irwin Jacobs' contribution wasn't a factor in their involvement.
"We welcome the financial support of any individuals — no matter their last name — who support our organization's work to help women like Sara run and win," EMILY's List spokeswoman Julie McClain Downey said in an email.
The Jacobs campaign did not respond to multiple questions about the Irwin Jacobs contribution.
Jacobs, a former non-profit executive, is running to represent the 49th District, which runs from La Jolla to Dana Point.
In a March 21 news release EMILY's List said it would send four mailers across the district to 62,563 Democratic and independent women voters in the district. Two more mailers will be sent to Orange County voters. Additionally, it would also place targeted ads on Facebook and YouTube.
While campaigns often closely guard their media strategies, super-PACs sometimes very publicly share details in order to signal intentions to a candidate without violating regulations that prohibit super-PACs from coordinating directly with the other campaigns.
Lawyers for one of Jacobs' opponents, Democratic businessman Paul Kerr, have demanded that television stations cease to air EMILY's List commercials supporting Jacobs because of allegedly false statements.
The ad says that Jacobs worked for the State Department under then-President Barack Obama. Jacobs worked for a State Department contractor, not as a government employee.
"We're hopeful that all stations will do the right thing and pull this incredibly false and misleading ad," Kerr's campaign manager Andrew Grunwald said in a news release. "We also call on the Jacobs campaign to join us in our belief that outside super-PACs have no business in this election."
EMILY's List said that the contents of the advertisement are true.
"This is a distinction without a difference," McClain Downey said. "Sara went to work every day at the State Department. Her work supported the mission of President Obama's administration. We are glad that television stations agree with us that these are the facts of Sara's impressive work experience."
Jacobs' campaign said it opposes corporate PACS, which are tied to the business interests of a single incorporated entity.
"For Sara, the key is getting corporate money out of our politics, and that's why she's pledged not to take any corporate PAC money to her campaign," her campaign said in a statement.
Jacobs has put at least $1 million of her own money into her campaign.
Besides Jacobs and Kerr, the Democratic candidates include lawyers Levin and Doug Applegate of Oceanside. The Republican candidates are Assemblyman Rocky Chavez of Oceanside, Board of Equalization Member Diane Harkey of Dana Point, San Diego County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar of Encinitas, San Juan Capistrano City Councilman Brian Maryott and Joshua Schoonover, a patent attorney from San Marcos.