Money Politics Comes to City Council Campaign

In an Oakland election season where candidates have attacked mayoral frontrunner Don Perata about the influence of money in city politics, campaign finance debates are now trickling down to the City Council level.

The latest salvos come from three of the seven candidates vying to replace District 4’s Jean Quan, who has represented the Montclair, Laurel and Dimond neighborhoods on City Council since 2003. Quan, who is running for mayor, has made the sharpest criticisms of Perata’s campaign spending. Now, it’s the candidates looking to replace Quan on City Council that are crying foul in the days leading up to the Nov. 2 election.

On Oct. 27, Libby Schaaf’s District 4 campaign sent out a press release singling out approximately $44,000 worth of campaign mailings that the Rental Housing Association of Northern Alameda County PAC sent on behalf of her opponent, Jill Broadhurst. Schaaf described these mailers as an attempt by Joe O’Donohue, a San Francisco developer who wants to build a condominium near Oakland’s Lake Merritt, to sway the election.

“It’s unfortunate that outside interests, and in particular a single San Francisco developer, are trying to influence our elections in Oakland,” Schaaf said.

O’Donohue’s $44,000 independent expenditure endorsing Broadhurst means that District 4 Council candidates no longer have to abide by campaign spending limits set by the Oakland Campaign Reform Law (OCRA). Schaaf, who criticized the mailers, said she intends to abide by the pledge that candidates made to spend less than $116,000 in the campaign. She has raised $102,000 from donors, and will receive $14,000 in matching funding from the city for abiding by OCRA spending limits.

“I look forward to continuing to run a positive, issue-based campaign that focuses on Oaklanders, and the issues that matter to them,” added Schaaf.

Broadhurst will not receive $20,000 in public financing since she has already spent more than $20,000 of her own money in the campaign. But she criticized Schaaf and other candidates for accepting public campaign money at a time when Oakland faces serious budget shortfalls. She characterized her decision to bypass matching city funding and to finance her campaign through private donations, including her own, as a sign of fiscal responsibility.

“I cannot in good conscience take taxpayer-funded money to pay for my campaign while police officers are being laid off, roads are crumbling, and we are reducing hours at our libraries,” Broadhurst explained.

Schaaf disputed Broadhurst’s characterization of public funding, describing it instead as a “clean elections practice” that organizations like the League of Women Voters have supported. Schaaf pointed out that all 440 of her campaign donors have contributed less than $700 each.

Meanwhile, another candidate has criticized Schaaf as the beneficiary of financial support from an outside source. District 4 candidate Ralph Kanz, a former chair of the Oakland Public Ethics Commission, criticized the mailer Alameda County Central Democratic Committee (ACCDC) sent to voters featuring former Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown endorsing Schaaf. According to Kanz, the mailer did not include a notice providing certain information about who has paid for it, a requirement under Oakland law.

“I believe it is imperative for everyone to follow campaign laws,” Kanz declared. “Without this required information, the voters are denied a transparent and ethical election process.”

Kanz said it’s possible that the ACCDC mailer violated state election laws as well. The California Secretary of State has not received a “late filing” from the ACCDC regarding the campaign mailer supporting Schaaf. Kanz said that it’s possible that the ACCDC sent its filings to Oakland’s City Clerk and Secretary of State by fax on Oct. 29, but if not, it would represent another campaign violation.

“It’s ironic that two days after Ms. Schaaf condemned an opponent [Broadhurst] who received the benefit of a legally reported independent expenditure, she has benefited from a mailer that violates OCRA and possibly state law as well,” said Kanz. “I will be filing complaints concerning any and all violations surrounding this mailer.”

Schaaf responded that she had not seen the mailer, but that she was expecting the Democratic Party to communicate its endorsement of her to its members—registered Democrats—something that she says is allowed under campaign finance laws.

“Organizations are allowed to make communications to their members, which are not counted as an independent expenditure,” she said. “ If an organization like the California Nurses Association—which also endorsed me—wanted to communicate that to their union members, they would be allowed to do that.”

City Council elections have an additional wrinkle this year, as Oakland votes for the first time under the ranked-choice voting system. Voters in District 4 will be able to rank their top three choices among the seven candidates, and it’s almost certain no candidate will receive a majority in the first tally of votes. It will likely come down to counting voters’ second or third choices for the District 4 seat, and it could take several days to determine the winner.

11 thoughts on “Money Politics Comes to City Council Campaign

  1. October 28, 2010

    CONTACT: Steve Edrington, Executive Director of Rental Housing Association of Northern Alameda County, RHANAC, 510-893-9873 x103 or 510-749-4880

    Schaaf, Council Candidate /City Hall Insider, Goes Negative, Fails to Check Facts – Schaaf’s campaign, panicking over continued erosion of support, slanders philanthropist supporter

    (Oakland)— In what can only be described as a last-minute act of desperation resulting from an erosion of support in her race for the Oakland City Council, Libby Schaaf has gone on the attack against a supporter of fellow candidate and frontrunner, Jill Broadhurst, assailing her supporter for being a “San Francisco developer” even though Schaaf herself has received the support from the “Who’s Who” of Bay Area developers, receiving contributions from over forty such developers.

    However, in what can be seen as a sign of how she’ll legislate, Schaaf and her campaign failed to check their facts, and have slandered a philanthropist who has made financial contributions throughout the Bay Area, and in Ireland, for a myriad of progressive causes.

    In a press release issued yesterday, Libby Schaaf, and her campaign accused Michael J. O’Donoghue of being a “San Francisco developer” “who is planning a large 42-story condo development in Oakland, Emerald Views, near Lake Merritt”. In fact, O’Donoghue, a former Montclair resident, has absolutely no interest, financial or otherwise, in the project.

    O’Donoghue’s only financial interest in Oakland is as an owner of two small rental properties with a total of 12 units. O’Donoghue is not a developer. He is an entrepreneur, with interests as far-ranging as organic farming, rental property, para-transit, and consulting.

    O’Donoghue stated, “I want a retraction from Ms. Schaaf’s campaign. I have always been up-front about my interests and my causes. Had her campaign bothered to contact me, I would have told them that I have no financial interest in Emerald Views, whatsoever. Maybe she’s confusing me with another Irish man. The reason I am supporting Jill Broadhurst for City Council is because of her integrity and honesty, and because she understands how to balance a budget.”

    O’Donoghue, a well-known progressive philanthropist, is known as a generous contributor to many social causes, including:
    • A $15,000 independent contribution, two months ago, to the San Francisco Tenant’s Union in support of tenant’s rights.
    • A major contribution to the University College Cork in Ireland to support literacy
    • A school in Dublin Ireland for Children’s literacy
    • The University of Limerick, in support of literacy.
    • Michael J. O’Donoghue also led the charge in San Francisco years ago to ensure no development would occur within 100 feet of the waterfront, including under-writing the effort.
    • Financed scholarships for children attending college
    • In the 1970’s, O’Donoghue worked with SEIU to organize workers in Oakland

    Steve Edrington, Executive Director of RHANAC, stated, “It’s unfortunate that Schaaf’s campaign has resorted to false allegations. RHANAC-PAC, however, will stay focused on spreading the positive word about Jill.”

    The Rental Housing Association of Northern Alameda County Political Action Committee (RHANAC-PAC) continues its long history of advancing the interests of RHANAC members, almost entirely small, mom-and-pop rental property owners, by presenting election information to the public about candidates and issues.

  2. Libby Schaaf’s campaign expected to own this election. She moved into the district, district 4, two months ahead of filing and thought all her establishment endorsements and City Hall money would make her a shoo-in.

    Things are not quite working out that way. Libby is reading the tea leaves and panicking.

    Schaaf spend her money early and poorly and now she needs to turn to the public and take our money to bail her out. To the tune of $14,111 – Thanks Libby!

    Carpet bagging and taking public funds, great qualities. But as a longtime City Hall’er, she just can’t shake those stripes.

    Answer to the question above: Because the mailer says so. It was a district wide mailer which means it was not sent to just ACDCC members (to address Schaaf’s poor justification). Rules and laws do not apply to the ACDCC, I guess.

    There are a few good and decent Council candidates to choose in D4, Libby Schaaf if not one of them.

  3. Greg M –

    None of those things are true. Libby did not move into the District 2 months before the filing. Libby did not decide to take matching funds at the last minute — she exercised a right that has been long supported by advocates of good and open government. As for this mailer thing — it is very clear from your comment that you have no idea what the Central Committee is. Perhaps the mailer lacked the required disclosure, perhaps it did not. Without seeing it, I can’t say for sure. Jill’s campaign has been less than honest about other things, so I don’t feel like I can take their word on this one. However, even if it did, that has nothing to do with Libby. It’s an independent expenditure, and she is not allowed to coordinate with them about any mailers they might send.

  4. V., Everything stated is true, despite your support for Libby. Public funding is meant to level the playing field among candidates. But Libby, and you, feel Schaaf is entitled to take public funds despite raising over $100,000. Public funding is really designed for candidates like Gillen, who may not have access to raise money. Not for City Hall insiders with all the money and endorsements. But you right, it is legal, and it fits right in with Libby’s entitlement mentality. Libby is part of City Hall. And you are as well, since you hang out there so much allowing officials to fluff self-esteem to get rewards from your site.

    I am not speaking for Broadhursts campaign, but Gammon who wrote the article about the RHANAC mailings says Broadhurst has nothing to do with that. So don’t spread lies. IEs are independent of campaigns.

    Sorry, your favorite candidate is suffering on the trail, you can not stop her poor trending now. Especially since you do not live in district 4, can not vote in district 4 and know nothing about district 4.

    Keep supporting the failures of City Hall – how progressive (for your career).

  5. I would also like to highlight that Ralph Ganz, a candidate as well, has endorsed Broadhurst for D4. Ralph was part of the Public Ethics Commission and researched all the candidates thouroughly, and felt Broadhurst was the most honest and ethical of the candidates. He placed Schaaf at the bottom of the list.

  6. I’ve also heard that Libby didn’t move into our district until just before filing, but I’d like to see concrete documentation. Can someone provide?

  7. Hi Lux, Public records show she sold her home near Piedmont (not in D4) in May 2010. she now rents in D4. Go by her home and you see little to no Libby support on her street. Why, because she just moved there and no one knows her.

  8. Thanks Maurice, the more one learns of Schaaf’s political opportunism, the more the air comes out of her campaign. District 1 has been her district for the last 20 years. As an adult Libby has not lived in District 4. She moved here several months ago just to take a Council seat. Not because she cares about the D4.

    This is why Libby is mailing all those silly ‘roots’ mailings. She is trying to distract from her carpet bagging truth.

    Vote anyone but Libby and you have a Council person who lives in D4 and cares about D4.

  9. Let me see if I get this. Even in the numerous instances where the maximum contributions of $1,300 and $700 were made to the Schaaf campaign, these were somehow all still “less than $700 each.” Hmmmmmmm.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s