25

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.

1

Charges filed against Ed Lee’s contributors

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon today said he’s filing misdemeanor criminal charges against an airport passenger shuttle company that he says illegally funneled contributions to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s campaign last year.

Lorrie’s Travel & Tours Inc., better known as GO Lorrie’s, is among the larger shuttle companies serving San Francisco International Airport. Gascon said the company made $11,500 in illegal contributions to Lee’s campaign by passing the money through its drivers and staff; also charged are company general manager Jason Perez, 40, of San Mateo, and Hanan Qutami, 56, of South San Francisco.

“Campaign finance and disclosure laws help to ensure fairness and transparency in our elections, and my office takes the violation of these laws very seriously,” Gascon said in a news release. “After a thorough investigation, we have found clear evidence to charge Go Lorrie’s and two of its employees with making illegal campaign contributions.”

The situation was highlighted by Lee’s rivals during last year’s campaign, but it wasn’t enough to derail Lee’s candidacy. His campaign returned the contributions soon after questions were first raised.

Perez allegedly solicited 23 GO Lorrie drivers, dispatchers, administrators and their spouses to each write a $500 personal check to the Ed Lee for Mayor campaign, and later kept his promise that the company would reimburse them.

Each of the defendants is charged with 23 counts of violating state Government Code section 84301 (making a campaign contribution in a name other than the true name of the contributor). Each also is charged with one count of violating San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code section 1.114(a) (contributing over $500 to a campaign committee in a municipal election) and one count of violating section 1.114(b) (making a campaign contribution by a corporation in a municipal election).

UPDATE @ 5:30 P.M.: “The Mayor appreciates the thorough investigation conducted by the District Attorney, and his campaign assisted and aided this investigation at the time,” says Christine Falvey, Lee’s communications director. “The individuals indicted today were not associated in any way with the campaign and the mayor fully expects anyone who breaks the law to be held fully accountable.”

UPDATE @ 6:43 P.M.: Click here to read the Bay Citizen story that sparked the investigation.

6

San Francisco mayor’s race still up in the air

There’s a lot of “Ed Lee seems to be winning the San Francisco mayor’s race” verbiage out there this morning, but I’m not so sure just yet.

Yes, he’s in the lead after the initial tally, but ranked-choice voting means that’s not always conclusive.

In Oakland’s mayoral race last November, former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata had 33.73 percent of the vote in the first round of counting, with Councilwoman Jean Quan (the leading progressive alternative) in second place at 23.47 percent – a nine-percentage-point gap – in a field of 10 candidates. Perata continued to hold the lead until the third-place finisher – Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, another progressive – was eliminated and an overwhelming percentage of her supporters’ second- and third-choice votes catapulted Quan past him to victory.

Now in San Francisco, appointed incumbent Mayor Ed Lee has 31.38 percent in the first round, with Supervisor John Avalos (the leading progressive alternative) in second place at 18.67 percent – an almost 13-percentage-point gap – in a field of 16 candidates. The next-closest contender is City Attorney Dennis Herrera at 11.27 percent, followed by Board of Supervisors President David Chiu at 8.93 percent and state Sen. Leland Yee at 7.48 percent.

So I’ll be very interested to see how many of those top-of-the-backfield candidates’ supporters included Lee as their second or third choice; given Herrera’s, Chiu’s and Yee’s politics, I think it’s more likely their supporters would’ve picked Avalos over Lee.

Then again, Perata was a rather polarizing candidate – people generally either loved him or hated him, with little gray area between – who ran a campaign that deliberately ignored ranked-choice voting, making no effort whatsoever to solicit second- and third-place votes. Although Lee’s campaign had some difficulties in the final month, it’s hard to see him as another Perata.

We’ll know more this afternoon.

UPDATE @ 4:05 P.M.: Er, never mind, then. First RCV tally shows Lee with a convincing victory.

16

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.”

5

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.

1

Kaplan wins youths’ mock Oakland mayoral vote

My colleague, Katy Murphy, covered an Oakland youth candidate forum and mock election featuring three of the top four Oakland mayoral candidates; she posted this video to her excellent blog, The Education Report, but we thought all you political junkies might enjoy it too: