We’ve got an article up about former state Senate President Pro Tem and 2010 Oakland mayoral candidate Don Perata’s ballot-measure committee paying Oakland City Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente $25,000 for campaign consulting work, but that’s not the only tidbit we found in Perata’s recent filings.
Perata in late 2008 had transferred $1.9 million from his Leadership California committee – now called Hope 2010, supporting a cigarette-tax-for-cancer-research ballot measure – into the legal defense fund shielding him from a years-long FBI corruption probe; the California Democratic Party also had anted up $450,000 for the legal defense fund. Both were to the chagrin of some progressive activists who thought that money should’ve been spent instead on some of 2008’s hard-fought legislative campaigns.
Federal prosecutors in May 2009 announced no charges would be filed in the Perata probe, and Perata struck the tent on his legal defense fund in July and – after having spent millions on his defense over the years – had some left over to refund to contributors: $534,850 to his Leadership California/Hope 2010; $156,401.43 to his Taxpayers for Perata Committee; $126,675 to the California Democratic Party; and $204,266.32 back to dozens of individual donors.
One of those refunds then followed a strange path.
The Taxpayers for Perata Committee, ostensibly formed for Perata’s never-materialized 2010 Board of Equalization campaign – had shut down in December 2008 but reopened briefly this summer to accept the legal defense refund. It then promptly gave $155,830.07 on July 21 to “Voters Organized for Community Empowerment – VOICE” in Los Angeles. That committee, in turn, gave $152,188 in November to Hope 2010.
So: from Perata, to Perata, to someone else, to Perata. What’s that all about?
Records from the Secretary of State’s office show Voters Organized for Community Empowerment-VOICE was formed last June, just weeks before receiving the money from Taxpayers for Perata, listing Jone Anderson Canaday of Jackson, in Amador County, as its board president. It initially filed as a city committee aimed at increasing voter participation in 2010, but filed an amendment reclassifying itself as a state committee with the same purpose in October – three months after receiving the money from Taxpayers for Perata, and one month before giving it to Hope 2010.
Canaday, reached briefly on her cell phone at midday, said she was driving and would call back later; she didn’t.
Perata told my colleague Kelly Rayburn earlier today that he’d given the money to VOICE to support a friend’s community organizing efforts, primarily in the Latino community.
“What I said was, ‘If that’s not going to used for the purposes it was intended for, I want it back for the cancer measure,’” he said, adding he had been unaware that the money was actually returned to Hope 2010.
Yep, sorta lost track of that $150,000 for a while. One of my fellow reporters was rubbing his head while listening to all this today; I told him now he knows how all those FBI agents and federal prosecutors felt as they tried to follow the money through Perata’s finance labyrinth.