Campaign spending in the Anaheim City Council race has reached nearly $1 million, reflecting a sharp increase over the 2010 election in expenditures by both the business establishment and unions, according to a Voice of OC analysis of campaign finance disclosure forms.

The vast majority of new spending are independent expenditures (IEs) by political action committees not controlled by the candidates. The total of these expenditures is more than $730,000, which, with several days to go before the election, is $230,000 more than all of the IE money spent in 2010, according to the analysis.

Political action committees (PACs) controlled by the Orange County Employees Association as well as public safety unions have spend more than $320,000 promoting candidates, while PACs funded by business interests have spent more than $400,000.

Meanwhile, the campaigns of the candidates themselves have spent more than $240,000, bringing the total spent so far on the council race to more than $950,000.

Seven candidates are vying for the two seats held by termed-out council members Harry Sidhu and Lorri Galloway. The leading candidates backed by former Mayor Curt Pringle and business interests are Jordan Brandman, a trustee for the Anaheim Union High School District, and Steve Chavez Lodge, director of public affairs for Hill International.

Police unions are also backing Brandman and Chavez Lodge, while other local unions are backing former OCEA board member John Leos. Mayor Tom Tait has endorsed Leos and former Councilwoman Lucille Kring.

The spending reflects a high-stakes battle over control of the city that has been raging all year.

For the first time in recent memory there is a significant split on the council, with Tait and Galloway aligning on several key issues against the business-friendly council majority — Kris Murray, Gail Eastman and Harry Sidhu.

The rift began early in the year when Tait and Galloway opposed a $158-million subsidy deal for hoteliers William O’Connell and Ajesh Patel. The controversy was the impetus for the “Let the People Vote” initiative, which would require voter approval of future hotel subsidies.

Beyond the hotel subsidy controversy, there have been significant differences on the council regarding how the city should respond to the recent increase in police shootings, which in July led to rioting outside City Hall. Tait, Leos and Kring support the formation of a citizens’ police oversight committee.

Perhaps most important is a movement, spawned by an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit, to change Anaheim from a system in which council members are elected at large to one in which they are elected district by district.

Supporters have argued that if the council districts system was implemented, it would reduce the influence of the business community, most notably Disney and the tourism industry. It would also likely benefit public employee unions, which would be able to use their get-out-the-vote operations on behalf of candidates they support from Anaheim’s neighborhoods.

In a telling sign of how threatening a council districts system is to the business establishment, conservative blogger Matt Cunningham, who has written many posts against the Tait slate, wrote that council districts “would be drawn to guarantee at least a third of Anaheim’s council seats are held by liberal Democrats.”

The situation has made some interesting bedfellows. Leos is a Republican, but being heavily supported by the OCEA. Brandman meanwhile, is a Democrat but has long been supported by the business establishment.

If Leos and Kring win seats, the council districts plan would like have majority support on council. Brandman has also said he is in favor of the transition but could face significant pressure from his friends in business to change his mind once elected. Chavez Lodge has consistently said he is against the plan.

Here is a rundown of the spending race in the final stretch:

  • A campaign committee supporting Leos received $300,000 in contributions from OCEA.
  • Disney has funneled more than $360,000 to several PACs supporting Chavez Lodge and Brandman. Those committees — the Orange County Taxpayers Association’s OCTAXPAC, the Support Our Anaheim Resort PAC, the Orange County Business Council’s BIZ PAC, the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce PAC and the Orange County Victory Fund — have spent more than $250,000 on mailers promoting Chavez Lodge and Brandman.
  • Disney’s contributions this year have nearly tripled the $130,000 distributed to PACs during the 2010 race.
  • Another PAC, Citizens For Anaheim’s Future, is sending attack mailers against Leos and Kring. The PAC, which is financed by other PACs funded by Disney and is controlled by Pringle, has spent $35,271.81 on mailers.
  • All of the business interest-funded PACs have increased their spending over the 2010 election. For example, the OCTAXPAC, which only spent $7,924 promoting Anaheim council candidates in the 2010 election, has spent more than $91,000 promoting candidates this election.
  • The Committee to Support John Leos for Anaheim City Council 2013 Sponsored By The Orange County Employees Association has received $438,000 from public employee unions.
  • Chavez Lodge and Brandman also have generous support from public employee unions.
  • The city’s police and firefighters unions are supporting Brandman and Chavez Lodge. Police have spent $154,000 promoting the candidates with mailers. More than $100,000 of that total has gone to promoting Chavez Lodge. The Anaheim Police Officers Association has so far spent more nearly $56,000 more this year promoting candidates than in 2010.

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