Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ignacio De La Fuente and Don Perata Engage in More Questionable Dealings

By Robert Gammon
Thu, Mar 29, 2012 at 2:00 PM

Even in private life, ex-state Senator Don Perata spurs questions about potentially corrupt dealings. The San Francisco Chronicle recently noted that Oakland Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente had been on Perata's payroll and now Perata is lobbying on behalf of a company that's trying to win a lucrative public contract that De La Fuente plans to vote on. In addition, Bay Area News Group reporter Josh Richman recently noted that a campaign committee that Perata controls continues to pay cash to several of his longtime cronies - supposedly for working on Prop 29, a statewide measure on the June ballot.

Don Perata
  • Don Perata
Perata and De La Fuente, who have been close political friends and allies for two decades, maintain that there's nothing wrong with these financial moves. But they've repeatedly said the same thing about other questionable deals they've been involved in the past. Indeed, no East Bay politician has been taken part in as many shady deals as Perata in the past half-century. And De La Fuente has had troubles of his own.

Both of the latest news reports concern Perata's Hope 2012 Committee, which is supposed to support Prop 29 - a ballot measure that would add a $1 tax to cigarettes to fund cancer research. As the Express has previously reported, Perata's use of this committee in 2010 raised a host of questions about whether he was using it to help him win the Oakland mayor's race in violation of state law. Many of the same "consultants" that he hired for the Hope 2012 Committee also worked on his mayoral campaign at a time when the Hope 2012 Committee appeared not to be doing much work. Perata's actions raised questions as to whether he was paying the consultants from the Hope 2012 account to work on his mayoral campaign. Records also showed that the Hope 2012 campaign had paid him for fancy meals and stays at plush hotels.

Ignacio De La Fuente
  • Ignacio De La Fuente
Perata also had hired De La Fuente to work on the Hope 2012 Committee and paid him at least $37,500 for what Perata said was to help win union support for the ballot measure. But the move was curious because De La Fuente in recent years has earned a reputation for being perhaps the most anti-union elected official in Oakland, particularly when it comes to public employee unions. Although De La Fuente is himself a union rep, public-employee unions in Oakland view him as their primary foe. It's also unclear whether De La Fuente ever delivered any actual union support for the tobacco-tax initiative in exchange for the $37,500.

Now, the Chron reports that Perata has been lobbying for SMG, a large corporation that's bidding for the concession's contract at the Oakland Coliseum. At the same time, De La Fuente not only sits on the board that runs the Coliseum and will vote on the contract, he's also on the committee that's reviewing the bid made by SMG and the bids of its rivals. In addition, De La Fuente failed to report his $37,500 income from Perata's committee on his official statements of economic interests in violation of state law. De La Fuente, who plans to run for mayor again this year if there's a recall election, is calling his failure to report $37,500 in income an "oversight."

Meanwhile, Richman reported that the Hope 2012 committee has paid out more than $200,000 since last June to several of Perata's longtime "consultants." Among them is Anne Willcoxon, who also lists herself as "charges d'affaires" at Perata Consulting LLC - Perata's consulting and lobbying firm. Willcoxon's status as a staffer for Perata's lobbying business while also being paid by his campaign committee raises questions as to whether the campaign committee is also helping fund his lobbying work - an arrangement that would also violate state law.

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