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Alameda hires Don Perata as a lobbyist

Former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata has a new lobbying client: his native city of Alameda.

Don PerataCity Council members voted 5-0 Tuesday night to award Perata a $90,000 lobbying contract, according to Michele Ellson, editor of The Alamedan (a great source for the island city’s news). In an earlier piece, Ellson laid out the city’s rationale: It believes it needs a higher profile in Sacramento as it pursues state and federal money for projects such as development of Alameda Point, construction of bike and walking trails and equipment of the city’s public safety departments.

State records show Alameda had hired Perata in a more limited capacity in June. Ellson reports Assistant City Manager Alex Nguyen said the city hired him to help defeat a bill that would have eliminated Alameda’s seat on the new ferry board.

Perata’s other lobbying clients include the California Infill Builders Federation, Hawkins Development, Intelligent Sign Network LLC (an Oakland business run by longtime Perata ally and donor John Foster), Mallard Farms (an Alameda-based company owned by financial advisor and mortgage broker Randy Wong), the Oakland Raiders, Ramsell Corp. and SSA Marine.

Perata, 68, now of Orinda, led the state Senate from 2004 to 2008, and unsuccessfully sought the Oakland mayor’s office in 2010. A years-long federal corruption investigation of Perata and his associates ended in 2009 with no charges filed against anyone.

Earlier, he was a state senator from 1998 to 2004; an assemblyman from 1996 to 1998; a 1994 primary candidate for state controller; and an Alameda County Supervisor from 1986 to 1994. But he was born in Alameda, and began his political career with an unsuccessful bid to be its mayor in 1975.

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Don Perata’s daughter-in-law dead at 38

The death of former state Senate President Don Perata’s daughter-in-law, found in her swimming pool Saturday morning, is under investigation by Napa Police.

Family members found Catherine Perata, 38, dead shortly before 9 a.m. Saturday.

Catherine Perata and her husband, Nick, 40, in 2009 founded a wine country tour company, Perata Luxury Tours & Car Services. The couple has two daughters.

Nick Perata is the son of Don Perata, 67, of Orinda, who was the California State Senate’s president pro tem from 2004 to 2008, and unsuccessfully sought the Oakland mayor’s office in 2010.

Earlier, Don Perata was a state Senator from 1998 to 2004; an Assemblyman from 1996 to 1998; a 1994 primary candidate for state controller; and an Alameda County Supervisor from 1986 to 1994.

Don Perata didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment Monday.

The family endured tough times as the FBI probed the financial and political relationships between Don and Nick Perata and a wide range of associates. The years-long public corruption investigation ended in 2009 with no charges filed against anyone, but not before agents had served search warrants at sites including both Don and Nick Perata’s Oakland homes.

We’ll share more details as we get them…

UPDATE @ 4:55 P.M.: Napa Police Capt. Jeff Troendly said an autopsy was conducted Monday and found Perata had drowned. “Now we’re waiting for toxicology to come back and see how that played into any part of this,” he said, adding those tests might take a few weeks.

Troendly said the Napa Valley Major Crimes Task Force assisted with the investigation not because of any particular suspicion of foul play, but only because Napa Police were already stretched thin by the massive Bottle Rock Napa Valley concert festival that ran through the weekend.

“Right now we’re still in the process of interviewing some people, getting more information and background on Ms. Perata, everything leading up to that evening and to her demise,” Troendly said, noting she was last seen alive Friday night.

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Don Perata endorses Eric Swalwell for Congress

Former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, today announced he’s endorsing Dublin councilman and Alameda County prosecutor Eric Swalwell in his campaign to unseat Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont.

Don Perata“It is time for new energy and true leadership from the next Representative in Congress for the 15th District, and Eric Swalwell is the right person for the job,” Perata said in a news release.

Swalwell, in the same release, said Perata “is known for getting results and I admire that. I respect his willingness to work across the aisle to get things done for his constituents and the State, most notably when he worked with then-Governor Schwarzenegger to place and successfully campaign for five infrastructure bond measures on the ballot in 2006 to improve roads and mass transit, build more affordable housing, repair levees, and upgrade educational facilities.”

Perata is a longtime East Bay political figure who always has been tight with the organized labor community, and so his endorsement of Swalwell might mark a chink in the union armor Stark has tried to don (pun intended) since June’s primary election – most notably with his hiring of former Alameda Labor Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Sharon Cornu to run his campaign.

Perata’s endorsement of Swalwell comes about a week after that of former Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, who reportedly got quite an earful from Stark about it. Maybe Perata should screen his calls for a while.

And he might not be the only one. Rumor has it another influential and labor-friendly politician from the East Bay – this one still in statewide office – is about to give a dual endorsement in this race. Stand by for more info on that…

UPDATE @ 6:16 P.M.: It’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

“We need a leader in Congress who understands the immediate need to support our education system and to invest in our public school students so they are ready for the jobs of the future. We need to empower educators to teach not to tests, but to individual needs,” Torlakson said in a statement emailed this evening. “I see Eric as a tireless advocate for our children in Congress. I look forward to having him as a partner at the federal level committed to delivering our children a high-quality 21st Century education.”

Torlakson already had endorsed Stark earlier; Stark still has way more endorsements from public officials and unions than Swalwell.

To me, getting a dual endorsement is a little like kissing your sister – a tie nobody wants, about as useful as staying out of it completely and giving no endorsement at all. That said, Torlakson is a longtime East Bay Democratic player who has worked closely with labor unions and won a statewide campaign, and the fact that he’s not standing solely by Stark in this race probably says something.

I managed to get Torlakson on the phone a few minutes ago to clarify why he added this endorsement. He said he’s seen Swalwell’s “depth of knowledge and energy to tackle the issues that will support our schools and children … emerge as the campaign has gone forward.”

Asked whether he would consider helping out with fundraising or campaign appearances for either campaign, he replied, “It remains to be seen, I haven’t been asked.” Pressed on whether he would do so for one campaign over the other, he replied, “We’ll see as it moves along.”

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Ong, like Perata, proves too hot to handle

My household yesterday received the latest of many, many mailers from the campaign of Jennifer Ong, an optometrist from Hayward who’s running for the 20th Assembly District seat. But this one was a little different, a little more… substantial…

Ong letterOng potholder
(click to enlarge)

Thanks, Mrs. Ong. I must say, this gave me a mild case of the warm-and-fuzzies – not because of the charming mother-daughter narrative, and not because I desperately needed a potholder. No, it was nostalgia, as I recalled one of my favorite political keepsakes:

Perata potholder

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Don Perata & friends paid by Prop. 29 campaign

Former state Senate President Pro Tem and 2010 Oakland mayoral candidate Don Perata, who helped conceive, introduce and raise money for the tobacco-tax ballot measure on this June’s ballot, has a lot of friends who are making money from the campaign, new reports show.

Don PerataPerata’s “Hope 2012” ballot-measure committee began raising money for what’s now known as Proposition 29 way back in 2009, and has transferred $488,500 to Californians for a Cure – the primary committee backing the measure, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, American Heart Association and a group of cancer research doctors. Prop. 29 would impose a $1-per-pack tax on cigarettes, and equivalent tax hikes on other tobacco products, to fund cancer research; Perata is a cancer survivor.

Now Perata himself has received $5,792.17 since July from Californians for a Cure, including $2,607.19 for “meetings and appearances” and $2,508.36 for travel expenses.

One of Perata’s current employees also has been paid by Californians for a Cure. Anne Willcoxon, 58, of Moraga, has been paid $27,760 since last May, with the lion’s share of that – $15,000 – paid in the first two months of this year under the designation “campaign consultants.”

Anne Willcoxon’s LinkedIn profile lists her position since January 2011 as “charges d’affaires” at Perata Consulting LLC – that’s a French term for a subordinate diplomat who substitutes for an absent ambassador or minister. She ranked high among Perata’s 2010 Oakland mayoral campaign staffers. And her husband, Michael Willcoxon, is general counsel for Dublin-based DeSilva Gates Construction; founder Ed DeSilva for years has been among Perata’s most generous political contributors.

The rest of Californians for a Cure’s expenditure list reads like a who’s-who of former Perata aides and consultants:

    The Sacramento consulting business of former Perata staffer Sandi Polka has been paid $53,887.03 since the beginning of 2011.
    Chris Lehman, a former Perata staffer, has been paid $47,196.04 in the past year, mostly for campaign consulting, including more than $19,000 so far in 2012.
    Maurice Williams, another of Perata’s state Senate aides, has been paid $32,000 by Californians for a Cure since last June, including $7,000 in this year’s first two months, for campaign consulting and fundraising.
    Rhys Williams, who was Perata’s mayoral campaign press secretary, is now the ballot measure’s online campaign director; he has been paid $60,250 since last June, including $18,250 so far in 2012.
    Stephenie DeHerrera, who worked on Perata’s mayoral campaign while a fellow at The Organizing and Leadership Academy in Oakland, has been paid $13,073.34 since November for campaign consulting and fundraising.
    TOLA is run by veteran political consultant Larry Tramutola, who helped run Perata’s 2010 mayoral campaign. Californians for a Cure has paid Tramutola $86,546.00 since last June, mostly for campaign consulting.

Polka, Lehman, Williams and other former Perata aides also were paid generously by Perata’s Hope 2012 committee as he got the initiative off the ground in 2009 and 2010.

Questions and eyebrows arose in 2010 when Perata’s Hope 2012 committee gave money to two nonprofits – neither of which had anything to do with cancer – led by his former campaign treasurer, a close confidante whom some said had been romantically involved with Perata. Earlier, Hope 2012 in 2009 had paid $25,000 for campaign consulting by Oakland Councilman Ignacio de la Fuente, a longtime Perata ally and political lieutenant.

And there were also questions in 2010 of whether Perata was thought to be leveraging the nascent tobacco-tax campaign to widen his name recognition as he also campaigned for mayor.

Perata and some of his political associates were the subjects of a five-year-long FBI corruption probe, which ended in 2009 without anyone ever charges ever filed.

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UC Regents endorse Perata’s tobacco tax measure

The Regents of the University of California have endorsed the tobacco-tax-for-cancer-research ballot measure co-chaired by former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, perhaps seeing a windfall of research dollars in their future.

In a public hearing Wednesday, Perata – a 2010 Oakland mayoral candidate who now lives in Orinda – had told the Regents’ Committee on Educational Policy how the idea for the California Cancer Research Act was born at the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences based at UC San Francisco’s Mission Bay Campus.

Perata said that with adequate investment, groundbreaking advances in the battle against cancer would be discovered and patented in Californian laboratories like QB3, placing California at the forefront of bioscience globally while benefiting from economic production stimulated by biomedical research.

The ballot measure will appear on the June 5 presidential primary ballot. The Legislative Analysts’ Office calculates it could save more than 100,000 Californians’ lives from smoking-related deaths as well as generating over $855 million annually for medical research into cancers and heart disease, smoking education programs, and tobacco law enforcement through a $1 excise on tobacco sales, a tax that hasn’t been adjusted in California since 1998. A separate study by the University of California projects that the CCRA could save California up to $28.2 billion in healthcare costs between 2012 and 2016.

The tobacco industry is ponying up big bucks to oppose the measure.

“We know that Big Tobacco will spend gobs of cash opposing this campaign because they want to keep California cigarettes cheap in order to recruit new smokers,” Perata said in a news release today. “But as this endorsement proves, Californians understand this initiative will make our state stronger, save lives, save billions of dollars in avoidable healthcare costs, and keep California as THE place for groundbreaking medical research.”

The ballot measure’s campaign committee noted UC’s five academic medical centers and 16 health professional schools generate about 117,000 jobs in the state, $12.5 billion in contribution to gross state product and $16.7 billion in economic activity.

“With 10 National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers, California is well positioned to accelerate the state’s legacy of innovative cancer research with the infusion of new biomedical research investments,” serial Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, Perata’s fellow campaign chairman, said in the release. “According to Families USA, each National Institutes of Health biomedical research dollar invested in California generates $2.40 in new state business activity.”