Money and measures: Oakland’s ballot by the numbers
on November 8, 2016
The ballot in Oakland voters’ hands this Tuesday has more than $20 million behind it in campaign financing, the majority of which surrounds the controversial Measure HH tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
According to data retrieved from the city’s election office and OpenDisclosure.io, a non-profit campaign funding website by California Civic Lab, funding for candidates and measures on Oakland’s ballot surpassed $19.9 million as of Monday.
Overall, local incumbents raised more than their challengers, except for in a few notable races, such as the city council’s District 5 seat.
At-large incumbent Rebecca Kaplan raised more than $168,000, nearly more than her three challengers combined. Challenger Peggy Moore, a political advisor, raised $84,806; retired attorney Bruce Quan raised $82,932; and community organizer Nancy Sidebotham raised $396. At-large candidate Francis Matt Hummel, chair of Oakland’s cannabis regulatory committee, did not file campaign finance information.
District 1’s council race was the second biggest-grossing, with incumbent Dan Kalb raising $110,352 and challenger Kevin Corbett, an Oakland attorney, raising $41,842.
District 5 councilmember Noel Gallo was the only incumbent to be out-fundraised by his challenger. Gallo raised $44,320, while Viola Gonzalez—CEO of AnewAmerica Community Corporation, a non-profit focused on helping immigrants and refugees start small businesses—raised $68,042. Gonzalez’s largest contributions came from herself, Oakland police officers, the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, and a California real estate PAC.
In the same district, fundraising is also close among the top two contenders for the school board seat. Incumbent Rosie Torres raised $15,595 and Huber Trenado, one of her two challengers, has raised $20,845.
City Attorney Barbara Parker raised $67,209, even though she’s running unopposed. This is only fourth election cycle in which the City Attorney has had to run for office. Prior to the 2000 election change, the city attorney was appointed to the position was appointed by the mayor.
Of the six measures on the Oakland city ballot, the most donor money is behind Measure HH, a proposed one-cent-per-ounce tax on distributors of sugar-sweetened beverages. Those for it call it a needed deterrent to reduce preventable diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and others cause by the overconsumption of sugar. Soda is the target because it’s an easily avoided source of excess sugar. But those who make the sodas call it a “grocery tax” and argue store owners will hike the price of other items to compensate for it.
Funding between those who are for or against Measure HH reached nearly $18 million with only a few days left before the election. As of November 7, the Yes on HH side had raised $10.4 million, while opponents of the measure raised more than $7.5 million.
Funding for the HH campaigns dwarfed that of other highly contested ballot measures, including Measure JJ, which would toughen rent controls in Oakland, and Measure KK, which would, among other things, fix potholes across the city.
Proponents of Measure JJ raised $438,092, while opponents filed no relevant documents.
For Measure HH, opponents raised $7.5 million, while proponents raised $10.4 million.
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Donations to the Yes on HH campaign came in small and early, starting in late January with four donations totaling $1,000 from Bay Area dentists, the profession that made the greatest number of donations.
All of the funding for the No on HH campaign—except for $34,671 worth of non-monetary donations from Coca-Cola and a late donation from the Teamsters union—has been funded by beverage makers, including Coke, PepsiCo, and the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, through the American Beverage Association’s California PAC.
In May, when the city council unanimously approved adding the measure to the November 8 ballot, the American Beverage Association had already sunk $50,000 into the campaign. On August 8, the ABA donated $3 million to its campaign. Its latest donation was $570,000 on November 1.
The latest contribution to the No on HH campaign came Monday via a $1,000 donation from the political action committee for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Teamsters Local 70 represent workers at five East Bay soda bottling locations, according to its website.
Efforts by the ABA previously helped defeat sugary drink taxes in Richmond and San Francisco.
But outside funding from philanthropists decreased the financial gap in an otherwise David vs. Goliath fight. The biggest financial supporter of Measure HH is former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg donated a total of $9.2 million, with the most recent contribution of $40,000 arriving on November 4.
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The money from both sides has funded an extensive advertising and mailing blitz. According to the latest spending disclosure forms released October 27, those for and against Measure HH spent more than $7.5 million on advertising alone.
According to an Oakland North analysis of the campaign expenditure forms, the Yes campaign spent nearly $4.4 million on advertising and nearly $619,000 on mailers, while the No campaign spent more than $3.2 million on advertising and nearly $813,000 on mailers.
Some Oakland residents have reported getting mailers nearly every day from the No on HH campaign, which featured grocers of color expressing how the “grocery tax” would affect their businesses.
But the “yes” side printed several as well. On Thursday, many Oakland residents received two mailers, both paid for by the Yes on HH campaign.
“Stand up to Big Soda with your vote,” one urging a vote for Yes on HH began.
“Greetings from California,” stated one from the California Nurses Association urging others to mail in their absentee ballot.
This far outweighed their expenses for other categories like canvassing and acquiring political data, except for the No campaign, which spent more than $1.4 million on lawyers and consultants fees, compared to the Yes campaign, which spent just over $140,000 on them.
Representatives of the Yes and No on HH campaigns did not respond to requests for comment.
Among the millions spent on this year’s ballot, the smallest bill paid in the largest campaign regarding most expensive measures in Oakland’s history was a reimbursed travel expense for a Yes on HH staffer: $0.35. That’s less than a can of soda.
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