Campaigns attempting to elect Don Perata mayor of Oakland have spent a record $965,000, newly filed campaign finance reports show. Perata’s own mayoral campaign had spent at least $669,000 through October 16, and two other committees backing his candidacy spent at least $296,000 trying to put him in the mayor’s office. The totals easily shatter previous Oakland mayoral campaign spending records.
The two other committees spending large sums on Perata’s behalf are a Sacramento group with close ties to him, Coalition for a Safer California, and an Oakland committee, Oakland Jobs PAC, that also has links to the ex-senator. Coalition for a Safer California has spent $141,000 in support of Perata, while Oakland Jobs PAC reported spending $155,000 so far.
Both groups eclipsed Oakland’s $95,000 threshold for spending by independent committees. And Perata has nearly doubled the city’s spending cap of $379,000. Perata found a loophole in Oakland law that allows him to exceed the cap once other groups have done so — even if they're spending money on his behalf. The city's cap rule was designed to help candidates who are attacked by outside groups who spend lots of money — but the loophole also allows candidates like Perata to benefit from groups overspending in support of him.
The Perata totals also dwarf those of his three major competitors in the race. Councilwoman Jean Quan reported spending a total of $275,000, while Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan has spent $157,000. College professor/news analyst Joe Tuman has raised a total of $74,000 so far. One group, Oakland Rising Committee, reported spending a total of $5,404 on behalf of Quan and Kaplan — $2,752 each. No committees reported spending on behalf of Tuman’s campaign other than his own.
Coalition for a Safer California, the Perata-linked Sacramento committee, also has been working to defeat San Francisco’s public-employee pension reform measure, Proposition B. That measure is fiercely opposed by public-employee unions throughout the state. Coalition for a Safer California is financed by some of Perata’s best donors, along with police and firefighter unions, and the state prison guard’s union — Perata’s primary employer. It’s also run by his longtime friend, Paul Kinney.
Oakland Jobs PAC is headed by another friend of Perata, Gregory McConnell, and is financed by several of the ex-senator’s longtime contributors. The group also spent $50,000 backing the 2008 city council bid of Perata’s former chief of staff, Kerry Hamill, who lost to Kaplan. Oakland Jobs PAC also recently paid $10,000 to the same fund-raiser used by Coalition for Safer California, Stephanie Shakofsky. She is the ex-wife of Oakland City Attorney John Russo, and according to two knowledgeable sources, was once romantically involved with Perata.
Finally, it should be noted that mayoral candidate Marcie Hodge has yet to file a campaign finance report as required by law during the election. Hodge has spent significant sums on billboards, mailers, radio spots, and now TV ads. Several black leaders in Oakland believe that Perata supporters are bankrolling her campaign in an effort to siphon votes from Kaplan and Quan. Hodge has denied getting help from the ex-senator and said she loaned herself a large donation, but it’s unclear where she got the money, because she reported having no job, no income, and no investments on her official financial disclosures in August.
Records show that Hodge also has a history of not filing campaign finance reports disclosing her donors until several months after the election is over — a blatant violation of state and local law.