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.


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.


Oakland developer named to state medical board

A prominent Oakland developer and political mover and shaker was appointed to the embattled California Medical Board on Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Phil Tagami in the Rotunda Building Nov. 2011 (Photo by Susan Tripp Pollard)Phil Tagami, 47, of Oakland, has served in various positions at the California Capital and Investment Group since 1992, including president and CEO. He’s been responsible for leading the redevelopments of the Rotunda Building in Frank Ogawa Plaza, the Fox Theater on Telegraph Avenue in the Uptown district, and the West Oakland train station.

He also has worked in public service for more than 20 years with various municipal and state appointments, including chair of the California Lottery Commission from 2012 to 2013 (another appointment by Brown), commissioner of the California Transportation Commission from 2008 to 2009, commissioner of the California State Park and Recreation Commission from 2003 to 2006 and commissioner of the California State World Trade Commission from 2002 to 2003.

Tagami was commissioner of the Oakland Landmarks Preservation Review Board from 1994 to 1996 and commissioner of the Oakland Environmental Affairs Commission from 1992 to 1994. As Oakland’s mayor, Brown had named Tagami to Port of Oakland’s Board of Commissioners, on which he served from 2000 to 2003.

Tagami has been a significant Democratic campaign benefactor, co-hosting fundraisers for the likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2007 and Brown in 2009. Tagami also has had a close relationship with former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, formerly of Oakland; it was Perata who named Tagami to the California Transportation Commission.

This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem.

The California Medical Board has been under attack lately, accused of failing to properly discipline doctors accused of having harmed patients; there’s particular concern that the board has turned a blind eye to reckless prescriptions.

Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Los Altos, and state Sen. Curren Price, D-Los Angeles, have introduced legislation that would strip the board of its investigative powers and give those powers instead to the state Attorney General, leaving the board to deal mainly with licensing. And the Sacramento Business Journal reports today that a similar initiative may be in the works for the November 2014 ballot.


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.”


Who bankrolled campaigns for, against Prop. 29?

Those wonderful folks at Berkeley-based MapLight.org have crunched numbers on who bankrolled the campaigns for and against Proposition 29, the measure on tomorrow’s ballot that would impose a $1-per-pack tobacco tax to fund cancer research. The data is as of this afternoon:

SUPPORT: $12.3 million raised in total
1. American Cancer Society – $8,467,937
2. Lance Armstrong Foundation – $1,500,000
3. American Heart Association – $563,594
4. Michael R. Bloomberg – $500,000
5. American Lung Association – $421,986
6. Voters Organized for Community Empowerment (VOICE) – $152,188
7. ACS Cancer Action Network – $80,000
8. Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund – $65,000
9. University of California, San Francisco Foundation – $50,000
10. Irwin Mark Jacobs – $30,000

OPPOSITION: $46.8 million raised in total
1. Philip Morris (Altria) – $27,531,416
2. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (Reynolds American Inc.) – $11,168,698
3. U.S. Smokeless Tobacco (Altria) – $3,039,818
4. American Snuff Co. (Reynolds American Inc.) – $1,750,000
5. Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co. (Reynolds American Inc.) – $1,148,000
6. California Republican Party – $1,140,909
7. John Middleton Co. (Altria) – $737,201
8. Core-Mark – $75,032
9. McLane Company Inc. – $50,000
10. Californians Against Unaccountable Taxes – $47,744

Breakdown by State

For Prop. 29:

Against Prop. 29:


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