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Opponents Say Don Perata Trying To Buy Oakland Mayor's Seat
By Cecily Burt
September 14, 2010
OAKLAND -- Don Perata's opponents gathered outside City Hall on Tuesday and alleged that the former state Senate leader is using his well-heeled friends to buy the Oakland mayoral race ahead of the November election.
Jean Quan, Greg Harland, Arnie Fields, Larry Lionel Young, Jr., Don Macleay and a representative for Rebecca Kaplan said that Perata's close ties to a Sacramento-based independent expenditure committee prove that their opponent is attempting to circumvent the voluntary campaign spending limits set for the November election.
The group made the accusations even though Perata's campaign has not exceeded the voluntary expenditure limit of $379,000 set for the November election.
However, a loophole in Oakland's Campaign Reform Act states that the candidate spending limits may be lifted if an independent expenditure committee exceeds the spending thresholds set for the race.
And in this case, that is exactly what has happened. The Coalition for a Safer California, an independent expenditure committee that has close ties to Perata, distributed a letter Friday stating that it had exceeded the $70,000 threshold set for committee spending for the mayor's race. The coalition has received a $100,000 donation from the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which has paid the former state senator $308,894 as a political consultant, as well as several other donations from other close Perata associates.
The coalition sent out two June mailers to Oakland voters that negatively targeted Quan, Kaplan and other council members up for re-election, but did not mention the Oakland mayor's race. One mailer also erroneously stated that Kaplan voted to lay off 80 police officers.
Paul Kinney, the coalition's co-leader, addressed the letter to the Public Ethics Commission and the city attorney, and copied Quan, Kaplan and Perata. Kinney did not return calls seeking comment, but the East Bay Express reported that he had withdrawn the letter after finding out that the committee would have to spend nearly $90,000 on the mayor's race, not $70,000, to exceed the spending limit.
Either way, Quan said Tuesday, it's clear that some committee that favors Perata will purposely break the limits "so Don Perata can spend as much as he wants."
"We plan to stay within the limits," Quan said. "We don't think Oakland should be for sale."
In a prepared statement, Kaplan said that "any attempt to evade campaign finance law is incredibly disrespectful to the voters."
"We don't need the prison lobby spending huge amounts of money spreading lies about candidates' records. This election cannot be bought and no amount of illegal campaign finance will make up for a lack of connection with the voters," Kaplan said.
Perata has raised more than $380,000 and spent more than $324,000 as of June 30. He put out a statement Tuesday to respond to his opponents' allegations.
"I have and always will abide by campaign finance laws. I'm proud to have over 2,300 contributors to my campaign, which I always disclose in a timely manner," Perata said in the e-mail.
Perata campaign spokesman Rhys Williams said that the rules apply equally to all the candidates, not only Perata. He also said that independent expenditures helped elect Mayor Ron Dellums and Assemblyman Sandre Swanson.
"The smear is an act of desperation by a candidate who is lagging in the polls," Williams said.
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. Oakland City Attorney John Russo and Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente recommended this year that the limits be raised, but the Public Ethics Commission and the City Council disagreed.
Candidates who sign the pledge and then exceed the spending limits are subject to a fine, unless the limits are lifted because a committee has overspent.
Alex Katz, spokesman for the city attorney, said his office never even received the first letter. Dan Purnell, executive director of the Public Ethics Commission, said he has received no further communication from Kinney asking to withdraw his letter. He also said that the commission has scheduled no action on the matter.
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