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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.

Posted on Wednesday, December 4th, 2013
Under: Don Perata | 4 Comments »

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.

Posted on Monday, May 13th, 2013
Under: California State Senate, Don Perata, Uncategorized | No Comments »

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.”

Posted on Tuesday, August 14th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Don Perata, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 38 Comments »

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

Posted on Thursday, May 17th, 2012
Under: 2012 Assembly election, Assembly, Don Perata | 1 Comment »

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.

Posted on Friday, March 23rd, 2012
Under: ballot measures, campaign finance, Don Perata | 25 Comments »

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.”

Posted on Friday, September 16th, 2011
Under: ballot measures, Don Perata | 5 Comments »

Tobacco tax proponents gird for battle

As the budget battle reaches fever pitch in Sacramento, the fate of a tobacco tax to fund cancer research hangs in the balance.

As of now, the ballot measure shepherded by former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata and backed by the American Heart Association, American Lung Association and American Cancer Society is scheduled for the February 2012 primary. But if Gov. Jerry Brown succeeds in calling a special election this year to ask voters whether they want to extend existing income, sales and car taxes for another five years as part of the budget solution, the tobacco tax measure will be bumped up onto that ballot.

Proponents clearly are preparing for that eventuality.

Last week they rolled out cycling champion and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong’s support, and yesterday, the Washington, D.C.-based Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund put another $25,000 into the ballot measure’s Californians for a Cure committee, doubling its ante thus far; it had given $5,000 last month and $20,000 last July.

The biggest donor to the measure thus far remains Perata’s separate Hope 2010 Cure Cancer committee; it gave Californians for a Cure a total of $485,000 from November 2009 through June 2010. That’s actually a pretty small slice of Hope 2010’s $1,426,119.36 in total spending over the two-year cycle – $627,075.22 in 2009, $799,044.16 in 2010 – although to be fair, Hope 2010 formerly was Perata’s Leadership California committee and wasn’t re-tasked to this tobacco-tax measure until late in 2009.

Hope 2010 ended last year essentially depleted but has pulled down $40,000 in new, big-ticket donations since the start of this year: $25,000 from former Dreyer’s Ice Cream executive and former Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco board chairman T. Gary Rogers of Oakalnd; $10,000 from billionaire Gap Inc. heir and investor John J. Fisher of San Francisco; and $5,000 from retired real estate developer Jon Q. Reynolds of Concord. It has yet to pass any of that money along to Californians for a Cure.

Meanwhile, Californians for a Cure spent a total of about $1.293 million in 2009-10, the lion’s share of which – $480,000 – went to Carlsbad-based Arno Political Consultants for petition circulation; the next biggest beneficiary was Polka Consulting, run by longtime Perata associate Sandra Polka, at $69,791.37.

The tobacco industry and anti-tax groups have not yet formed a committee to oppose the measure, (see update below) but rest assured that when they do, it’ll soon be brimming with tobacco money.

The measure would raise taxes on cigarettes by $1 per pack, with the proceeds – estimated as about $575 million in the first year and then declining as more people quit the habit – placed in a trust fund. It requires that 60 cents of every dollar in that fund be spent to fund research on causes, prevention and treatment of cancer and other smoking-related illnesses; 20 cents be spent to fund smoking cessation and tobacco use prevention programs; 15 cents be spent to fund research facilities and equipment; 3 cents be spent to fund anti-tobacco and anti-smuggling enforcement; and no more than 2 cents per dollar be spent for administrative costs.

UPDATE @ 5:15 P.M.: I stand corrected – the tobacco industry has indeed begun organizing and spending to fight this measure. Philip Morris, through its parent company Altria, in early February created Taxpayers Against Out-of-Control Spending with an initial bankroll of $128,115.99.

Posted on Tuesday, March 8th, 2011
Under: ballot measures, campaign finance, Don Perata | 3 Comments »

Longtime Perata aide to work for Gov. Brown

A longtime aide to former state Senate President Pro Tem and 2010 Oakland mayoral candidate Don Perata has been named to an important post in Gov. Jerry Brown’s office.

Gareth Elliott, 40, of Sacramento, will serve as Brown’s legislative affairs secretary, the governor’s office announced today. The legislative affairs secretary is a lynchpin of the governor’s policy development and legislative strategy – a key role in the coming weeks as Brown tries to rally support for his budget plan.

Elliott has served as policy director for state Sen. Alex Padilla since 2008, but before that was policy director and deputy chief of staff for Perata from 2004 to 2008; earlier, he was a legislative aide and then legislative director for Perata from 1996 to 2004. Elliott’s appointment doesn’t require Senate confirmation; the Democrat will be paid an annual salary of $147,900.

Follow me after the jump for other appointments announced today by Brown’s office…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, January 24th, 2011
Under: California State Senate, Don Perata, Jerry Brown | 2 Comments »

Inside Don Perata’s mayoral election defeat

So former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata – who entered Oakland’s mayoral race with big-time name recognition and fundraising prowess, and who outspent all his rivals enormously – lost the race to City Councilmember Jean Quan. He conceded this morning.

This was Oakland’s first foray into ranked-choice voting, and there were 10 candidates in the field. Perata held the lead in every elimination round until the last, when City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan was cut and her supporters’ second and third choices broke almost three-to-one in Quan’s favor, catapulting her past Perata to win.

In the end, Perata’s somewhat polarizing personality and past may have proved to be his undoing, as many had predicted could happen. People tend to either love him or hate him, with not many in between; those who love him were quick to name him their top choice, and the rest were much less likely to write him in somewhere below.

John Whitehurst, a longtime Perata consultant who was one of three paid by the mayoral campaign, was still shaking his head later Thursday, and basically said his only mistake was not attacking Quan and Kaplan more.

“It’s still hard for me to swallow the fact that we won by 11,000 votes, 10 percent of the vote, and the person that won the election lost in 80 percent of the precincts,” he said.

But Perata didn’t “win” by 11,000 votes – he finished that far ahead in the first round, putting him nowhere close to the 50 percent mark he’d have had to exceed to win outright.

“The purpose of the ranked-choice voting was to make the campaigns shorter, less expensive and less negative and all three turned out to be completely false,” Whitehurst complained, saying that all the new method accomplished was to turn the election into an episode of the reality television show “Survivor,” in which candidates had to build alliances to outlast their rivals.

“Hindsight is always 20-20, and if I were to run the election again, I would’ve gone negative on Jean and negative on Rebecca the way that they went negative on Don,” he continued, noting none of Perata’s campaign literature attacked his rivals.

He acknowledged there were direct mail pieces sent out by independent expenditure committees that attacked Quan, but he said that of a dozen mailings that Quan sent out, 10 attacked Perata in some way.

“We invested a ton of money in field operations,” Whitehurst said. “Jean pretty hypocritically today said hers was a grassroots campaign, but she didn’t have a grassroots campaign, she put out 12 pieces of mail of which 10 were negative.”

Some might find it hard to see how Perata – who outspent Quan by far – was more “grassroots” than Quan, who had a smaller bankroll but still had a substantial number of volunteers pounding the pavement for her. Asked why Perata was paying three different consultants for the same campaign, Whitehurst replied he was only paid about $1,000 per month.

“I was cheaper for that campaign than a basic field organizer was, so don’t go there,” he said. “A campaign that does not have organizers is not a serious grassroots campaign.”

Whitehurst said he believes this outcome will sour Oakland’s electorate on ranked-choice voting. “This is the first time that instant-runoff voting has produced this result. It happened in San Francisco too, and I think you might see people taking another look at the system now that, in three elections, the first place winner didn’t win the race.”

“I think less than 5 percent of the people understand ranked-choice voting; walk outside the office and ask somebody how it works, I don’t think they’ll know,” he charged. “Choosing a leader is not about a game of ‘Survivor’ on TV, y’know? It’s just not.”

Posted on Thursday, November 11th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Don Perata, Jean Quan, Oakland, Rebecca Kaplan | 16 Comments »

FPPC: No problem with Perata’s campaign loan

There’s no evidence that Don Perata violated the state’s campaign finance laws when he loaned money from his company to his Oakland mayoral campaign, the state’s political watchdog agency says.

Don PerataCalifornia’s Fair Political Practices Commission notified the former state Senate President Pro Tem in an Oct. 14 letter that it had “initiated an investigation of allegations that you may have violated the Political Reform Act when you made a loan of funds from Perata Consulting LLC to finance your mayoral campaign.”

But 12 days later, it sent him another letter saying that based on the FPPC’s review of his campaign finance reports, “we are closing this case with no further action.”

Because no sworn complaint was ever received, the FPPC won’t disclose the source of the allegations that sparked its investigation.

Perata Consulting – run by Perata and his son, Nick Perata – loaned Perata’s mayoral campaign $50,000 on June 30 of this year. The consulting firm’s major client over the past two years has been the California Correctional Peace Officers Association; the prison guards’ union’s committees have paid Perata Consulting a total of at least $468,893.81. CCPOA committees also have paid at least $57,548.75 to Liquid Logistics, a company run by Nick Perata.

Despite Perata’s record spending in this campaign, the Oakland mayoral race remains too close to call as the Alameda County voter registrar continues counting last-minute vote-by-mail and provisional ballots. This was Oakland’s first outing with ranked-choice voting, and although Perata led his competitors in a preliminary first-choice count, a subsequent, unofficial tally of second- and third-choice votes showed City Councilwoman Jean Quan in the lead.

Posted on Tuesday, November 9th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, campaign finance, Don Perata, Oakland | 5 Comments »