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On the money: How much Oakland’s mayoral candidates have spent and raised

on November 3, 2014

As of October 18, the 14 candidates for Oakland mayor had spent a combined $1,648,184.38 on their election campaigns. Spending has been high this year—seven candidates have spent over $100,000 so far, and it’s likely that more will be spent in the final days of the campaign. Fundraising has also been high: five candidates have raised over $100,000. However, fundraising does not correlate to spending in this year’s race, as the top spenders do not directly match up with those who have raised the most.

State law requires candidates for city government to disclose the fundraising, loans and expenditures of each campaign on a form called the Recipient Committee Campaign Statement, or the Form 460. All these forms are filed with the City Clerk’s Office and then published online on the Public Portal for Campaign Finance Disclosure. Oakland North analyzed all the available campaign finance statements from this year’s mayoral candidates made during the most recent filing period, which cover the calendar year to date.

Mayoral hopeful and current District 4 City Councilmember Libby Schaaf is the biggest spender of the campaign so far. As of October 18, she’d spent $336,821, followed by Bryan Parker, who’d spent $303,384, Dan Siegel, who’d spent $235,501, incumbent Jean Quan, who has spent $232,112 and at-large Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, who’s spent $226,615. At the other end of the spectrum, Pat McCullough has spent just $100, while Saied Karramooz has spent $2,610 and Charles Williams has spent $16,302. No one candidate has reached the spending heights of the 2010 election, when former state senate president Don Perata spent over half a million dollars in his failed campaign to be mayor.

On January 24 of this year, contribution and expenditure limits were set to reflect inflation and the increased cost of living since the last general election. Candidates do not have to agree on an expenditure ceiling, but if they do not, they cannot raise as much money from individuals or political committees as they could if they agreed to a limit. For instance, a candidate who does not agree to the expenditure ceiling can receive $400 from a political committee, but a candidate who does agree to the limit can receive $1,400 from a committee. The total expenditure ceiling for a mayoral campaign in Oakland is $405,000. None of the candidates this year have yet reached that benchmark.

When it comes to fundraising, the filings require candidates to break down “total contributions received” into monetary contributions, which are donated by individuals, businesses and committees; loans received, which are typically self-financing loans made by the candidates to their own campaigns; and nonmonetary contributions, which are “in kind” contributions to a campaign. These include donations such as food, supplies or space rentals, and must still be assigned a cash value and counted in campaign spending.

The five candidates who have raised the most funds this calendar year differ from the top five spenders. Schaaf still leads the pack, having raised $296,493, but Kaplan comes in second—she’s raised $280,825. Quan is still third, having raised $143,385, and she’s followed by City Auditor Courtney Ruby, who’s raised $131,627, and then by Joe Tuman, who has raised $101,755. Despite the fact that Siegel and Parker are big spenders in this race, neither of them have raised more than $100,000 from outside sources this year, but Parker raised a significant amount in 2013.

Kaplan’s fundraising includes $80,000, which she has contributed to her own campaign. Jason Overman, Kaplan’s spokeperson, said that there was no limit on the amount a candidate is allowed to loan or contribute to their own campaign. When asked why she is contributing such a large amount to her campaign, he said “The answer is that she’s in it to win it.” Kaplan’s last contribution of $20,000 (part of the larger sum of $80,000) was made on September 29.

In addition to the repayable loans of $80,000 that Quan has made to her own campaign, in October alone she has contributed $82,000 that will not need to be repaid. This breaks down into $50,000, which she contributed on October 7; $12,000 contributed on October 29; and $20,000 on October 31.

The only candidate to have accumulated a sum close to the expenditure limit is entrepreneur Saied Karamooz. Karamooz’s online manifesto stated that he would keep his campaign expenses low enough that he wouldn’t have to ask for donations; he wrote that he believes that taking contributions undermines a mayor’s ability to serve their constituents when in office. Karamooz has in fact loaned himself over $400,000, and spent just $2,609 on his campaign. Karamooz is a businessman who has lived in Oakland for ten years; According to Forbes, he was a partner at Accenture, a management consulting and technology company, from 2003 to 2008, and a senior vice-president at Callidus Software, a California-based software company, from 2010 to 2013.

When Quan ran in 2010, she raised $176,250.26, and won after a tense few days in which the city’s new ranked choice voting system crunched its way through a 10-candidate mayoral ballot. Her fundraising this year is down 18 percent from four years ago, but her spending has actually increased by 24 percent.

Several of the 2014 candidates began to fundraise for their campaigns last year. Scott Law, Tuman’s spokesperson, said that Tuman’s official campaign began in July 2013. He said that in the early period of the campaign, the campaign received more donations that it had expenses, meaning that at the beginning of 2014 Tuman had $131,100 in his warchest. Parker received $184,723.77 in contributions from external sources in 2013, and Schaaf’s campaign received $124,210.60 in 2013, according to the amended 460 her team filed on February 24 2014. The funds gathered last year account for candidates who have spent more this year than they have raised this year—for example, Schaaf has spent $336,821 in 2014 to date, but received monetary contributions of $297,543.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission will require all the candidates to file 460s at least once more, long after the race has been decided. Due by February 2, 2015, this last filing will cover contributions and spending from October 19 to December 31. The final filings will also reveal if this year’s election spending exceeded that of the 2010 candidates, whose combined campaigns spent $1,506,894.94.

Text by Molly Pierce. Data visualization by Nigel Manuel.


  1. […] candidates spent to earn your first-choice vote, Oakland North analyzed two sets of figures: how much they spent, and how many votes they got. On October 18, candidates for Oakland offices had to turn in their […]

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