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You Tell Us: Campaign finance reform needed in Oakland

on September 29, 2010

The Oakland Campaign Reform Act of 2008 was devised to promote good government and to protect Oakland’s electorate from the undue influence of money in the choice of our elected leaders.

Former Senator Don Perata has shown by his actions that he will not abide by those laws, even while he is running for the office of Mayor of Oakland, the position sacredly charged with guarding both the letter and the spirit of those laws.

Months before his TV ads were aired he had almost topped out on the spending limits he had agreed to stand by. Now his friends and employers (organizations that he consults for on an ongoing basis) have overshot the “independent expenditures” limits that were also established by the voters, thereby providing Mr. Perata with the excuse to spend even more money.

Out of the 9 other candidates for mayor, eight of them have pledged to continue following the law as Oaklanders intended it. Only Don Perata has thumbed his nose at his promise and at Oakland voters.

That’s why the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club joins with other Democratic Clubs and good government organizations to demand that: 1) the City Council, along with the City Attorney’s office, immediately enact legislation that corrects the loophole which is now being used to break the spending limits agreed to by all candidates, and 2) demand that the Public Ethics Commission move quickly to enforce all applicable laws.

The Wellstone Club has watched with horror while services in our federal, state, and local governments have decreased while ever more obscene amounts of money are poured into federal, state, and even local campaigns.

The effect of those dollars is the opposite of democracy. As more and more voters perceive that elections are just auctions to the highest bidder, fewer and fewer people choose to vote.

Oaklanders made a statement with this legislation that they did not want their city put on the auction block, and they do not deserve to have their desires ignored and their choices thwarted even by Don Perata.

Pamela Drake is the local politics chair of the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club.


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  1. Pamela Drake on September 29, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Please attend the Council Rules Committee tomorrow, Oct 1st at 10:45 AM, to demand that the City Council immediately move to close the loophole Perata and his supporters are using to violate our campaign reforms.

  2. Karen on September 29, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Pamela, tomorrow is not October 1st, rather September 30th. So is the meeting on Thursday the 30th or Friday the 1st?

  3. Karen on September 29, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    I would like to know why the Wellstone Club is voting yes on Measure BB and Measure X.

  4. Ian P. on September 30, 2010 at 1:27 pm


    If Don overspent before the IE cap was broken, then he broke the law (and this appears to not have been the case.) But if Don overspent after the agreement was ruled null and void, that means that he has the legal authority to spend.

    Pamela, Don doesn’t need your permission to run a campaign, and if you dont like the rules, then change them. But how dare you sit here on your high horse and accuse Perata of breaking rules that no longer apply. You should be sued for Libel and Slander.

  5. Tim Anderson on September 30, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    For me this is a distraction from the real issues in the campaign. I support Don Perata, not because he has or wants to spend more money than other candidates (I don’t even know if either are true) but because he has demonstrated strong and effective executive leadership. Believe in Oakland!

  6. F.W. Lee on October 15, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Let’s be honest, the campaign finance rules locally, state and federal is a joke. With so many loopholes, lapses in oversight and special interests, how can anyone believe that the “right” candidate will be elected and serve the people. If individuals were that concerned about blotted campaign fundings, there would be hardcap on the amount of money raised and spent during elections. In addition, there would stronger rules and enforcement regarding who can/cannot donate money to candidates. Also, the constant complaining by less funded candidates about the funding practices of their “well-oiled” candidates (e.g. Perata) is typical political pandering (e.g. anti-special interests). Either these candidates need to market themselves better and work on their fundraising skills (which includes getting the right marketing/fundraising personnel) or pass a meaningful and well-defined proposition with some teeth that reins (READ LOOPHOLE PROOF) in the out of control campaign fundraising/spending. Now that would send a very strong message from the voters to the special interests and somewhat level the playing field.

    • Karen on October 25, 2010 at 8:02 am

      In my opinion you are very naive. Don Perata signed a pledge not to exceed the spending cap. No one else has even come close to the spending cap so there was no need for him to go back on his word. Why did he do it? He thinks spending close to $1MM is going to win him the election. He is buying the votes, plain and simple. Just like Meg Whitman is trying to do with her $163,000,000 spending.

      You state that if the citizens are so concerned we would have a loophole proof law. There is no such thing as a loophole proof law. And if there was, don’t you think that people who had money and opposed the reform would fight it tooth and nail?

      You also state that the other candidates should market themselves better. Again your comments show a level of naivete that begs for you to take some political science classes. While yes the candidates who are better than others will generate interest and start raising towards the top. There are other situations happening at the same time, people who have held incredible power trying to buy their way into local politics.

      If you really want to understand the instruments of power, I highly suggest you go to the Secretary of States website, find Don Perata’s Hope2010 Cancer Research Ballot Initiative, and learn how he spent the money. In short, Hope2010 has raised over $12,000,000 since 2006. Over $2MM has been spent on other statewide ballots (transportation, disaster preparedness for example) that had nothing to do with cancer research. To date only $500,000 on large non profits somewhat connected to cancer research. And then if you continue to read you will find $110,000 was spent to recall a Central Valley U.S. Congressman, money contributed to all kinds of charities but nothing to do with cancer research.

      Right now it is imperative we vote for people who have the highest ethics, integrity and sense of civic responsibility — not someone who uses money and power to influence all kinds of special interests throughout the state.

  7. Karen on October 23, 2010 at 9:01 am

    For anyone who is supporting Don Perata or is thinking about it, you should really look at all the articles that question Don’s ethics. So many people (journalists, bloggers, ordinary citizens) have found too many questionable finance activities by Don Perata.

    Here is one I’m hoping everyone will read. In the interest of full disclosure, I am supporting Joe Tuman. But no matter who you support, please read as well as share with your Oakland friends.

  8. Karen on October 23, 2010 at 9:02 am

    Here is another article, posted by another media source about the ethics of Don Perata:

  9. Karen on October 23, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Don Perata signed a pledge not to exceed this year’s spending limits. Here is what the Contra Costa TImes reported on September 14th:

    “All 10 candidates in the Oakland mayoral race signed a pledge to hold their spending to the $379,000 limit set by Public Ethics Commission. ”

    Why did Don go back on his word?

  10. OakGirl on October 25, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Honestly, Oakland’s campaign finance laws are a joke. The other candidates can sign the pledge and not worry because no one cares enough about them to give them the kind of money Don has raised. Individuals like Don because he gets stuff done.

    • Karen on October 25, 2010 at 2:31 pm

      Oakgirl, sounds like you enjoy repeating things others have said. Don gets things done? Yes he does, he spends money from his Hope2010 cancer research ballot initiative and these are things not at all connected to cancer research. He spends the money on trying to influence outcomes of other elections, ballot initiatives and the like. He appeases people by spending a little money on worthy causes so people will look the other way while he spends a ton of money to influence outcomes.

      If he planned on spending about $1MM he never had to sign the pledge. But he did that, most likely, so people will think positive about him. He has the wool pulled over your eyes.

      People do care about the other candidates and here is hoping Joe Tuman is one of them that gets serious consideration.

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