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Two Californians duke it out in the Bay State

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A cross-country infusion of cash in the Massachusetts Senate race threatens to turn the actual candidates in Tuesday's special election -- longtime Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and his Republican rival, first-time candidate Gabriel Gomez -- into the undercard.

The election, to fill the seat that long time Democratic Sen. John Kerry vacated when he became Secretary of State, has turned into a spending contest between two California investors, with long histories as campaign donors. Both are using super PACs, the instruments that sprung up after a series of 2010 court decisions opened the way for unlimited expenditures on elections, to make strategically-timed infusions of cash into an election where neither will be casting ballots.

The two money men are: 

John Jordan: The California vintner, seen above, unmasked himself Friday in a Wall Street Journal interview as the mystery underwriter behind Americans for Progressive Action, a recently-formed super PAC that has plunked down nearly $1.2 millon on Gomez' behalf in the closing stages of the race. As Sunlight earlier reported, the PAC's late registration with the Federal Election Commission allowed it to avoid disclosing donors before Election Day. 

Thomas Steyer: The former hedge fund manager turned environmental activist last week pumped another $1 million into NextGen, a super PAC that has so far spent more than $800,000 to assist Markey.

Neither donor lives anywhere near the voters who will be represented by whichever of the candidates wins on Tuesday. As his official biography on his family winery's website notes, Jordan has spent his life west of the Rocky Mountains.  Steyer retired from the San Francisco-based investment firm he founded to focus on climate-change issues. Both have extensive histories of campaign giving, according to data downloaded from Influence Explorer, but Steyer's contributions are by far the most eyepopping. At one point last year, he wrote a check for $20 million to change the way corporate income taxes are calculated in California. 

Jordan's contributions show maxed out to the Repubican National Committee in the last campaign cycle, with more than $61,000 in contributions over the two-year period. He also has supported centrist Republicans Tim Pawlenty and Linda Lingle, the former governors of Minnesota and Hawaii, respectively. Pawlenty ran unsuccessfully for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012 and Lingle lost a Senate race in her state. But Jordan's largest campaign contributions were to himself, when he ran unsuccessfully in 1998 for a California state Senate seat. 

Two of Jordan's 2012 contributions list him as having an affiliation with Jordan Oil and Gas. California corporate records turns up two entities by that name, both headquartered, like the Jordan winery, in Healdsburg, and both apparently defunct. One is a corporation and the other a limited partnership.  Jordan is also the founder of the John Jordan Foundation. The group's financial records are not yet publicly available, according to Guidestar. 

(Photo credit: Emiliano DeLaurentis/iSante Magazine via Flickr)