Commission won’t review veracity of campaign literature

Members of the Fair Campaign Practices Commission review material before their Oct. 25 meeting. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Berkeley’s Fair Campaign Practices Commission declined Thursday night to take up the question of whether the Yes on Measure T campaign had fraudulently stated on mailers that SEIU Local 1021 endorsed the measure when in fact it had not.

The commission voted unanimously not to consider the matter because it fell outside of its legal jurisdiction, which is monitoring campaign spending, not the veracity of campaign ads.

“Although there have been many issues raised today on this whole process, this is a not an election committee,” said Commissioner Patrick O’Donnell. “It has no jurisdiction over process. It can only bring to light and make public how finances are used.”

Zelda Bronstein addressing the Fair Campaign Practices Commission. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Zelda Bronstein, a former planning commissioner who is active in the No on Measure T campaign, said even though the commission could not take up the substance of the complaints she filed on Oct. 17, she was glad she had brought the issue to the public’s attention.

“There’s a lot of value in exposure, “ said Bronstein after the meeting.

The commission’s decision came after it listened to about a half hour of testimony from various sides.

In early October, the Coalition for a Sustainable West Berkeley (the Yes on T campaign) sent out two mailers stating that SEIU Local 1021 had endorsed the measure. After looking at the union’s website, which stated its opposition to Measure T, Bronstein filed a complaint with the FCPC. She also objected to the fact that the mailer said it had the approval of the Telegraph Avenue Business Improvement District. As a city entity, the BID is prohibited from endorsing in campaigns, Bronstein contended.

Roland Peterson, the executive director of the BID told the commission that it was another entity, the Telegraph Avenue Property and Business Management Corporation, a non-profit, that actually endorsed Measure T. That group is legally allowed to make endorsements, he said. The people putting together the Measure T mailer used the wrong name by mistake, he said.

Darrel De Tienne, the treasurer of the Yes on T campaign, provided the commission with a long chronology of how his group had meet with Berkeley members of SEIU and thought it had gotten the union’s endorsement, which is why the union logo appeared on the mailers. He only later learned that the Berkeley chapter could not make its own endorsements, but had to abide by endorsement decisions made out of the Oakland office.

Peter Albert, the co-chair of SEIU’s political committee, said he had actually met with Berkeley locals in early September and they had recommended opposition to T. He said it was clear that some other members of the Berkeley chapter, those who met with de Tienne and offered support for Measure T, did not understand the decision-making process for union endorsements.

Some of the commissioners were critical that de Tienne’s group mailed out another flyer with the union logo on it even after they found out that endorsement was a mistake. De Tienne said it was too late to pull back the mailer.

“What’s going to prevent something like this from happening in the future,” said Commissioner Al Murray. “I can see this happening again and what can we do? What can the public do?”

The chair of the commission, Steve Wollmer, said perhaps the group should approach city council about expanding the Berkeley Election Reform Act to make it possible for the commission to look at subjects broader than just campaign finance.

Bronstein has filed a third complaint against the Yes on T campaign, charging that they did not submit a copy of their mailers in a timely fashion to the city clerk’s office, as required by the Berkeley Election Reform Act. The commission will take up that matter next week.

Related:
Measure T supporters mail false flyer, critics contend [10.19.12]

Visit Berkeleyside’s Voter’s Edge Berkeley for complete coverage and tracking of the city’s 10 ballot measures. Visit Berkeleyside’s Election 2012 section to see all our coverage in the run-up to Nov. 6.

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  • The Sharkey

    I agree. I can’t think of the last time the City Council steamrolled ahead with anything that wasn’t almost universally approved by the public. They seem to prefer putting off difficult decisions until they can put them on the ballot.

  • The Sharkey

    I agree in this case, simply because she knew full well that the commission wouldn’t be able to do anything about it and was filing a complaint as a political stunt.

    Bringing the issue to the attention of outlets like Berkeleyside was important, but filing a complaint with a commission she knew wouldn’t be able to do anything about it seems like it was a waste of everyone’s time.

  • Zelda Bronstein

    Again, this is about Measure T, not you or me.

  • EBGuy

     PK, Thanks for the info.  I was curious about the council’s power regarding zoning changes.  This vote allows them to CYA and show that the West Berkeley zoning changes express a ‘will of the people’ (which hopefully prevents future lawsuits).  The point about adding restrictions is interesting (and compelling).  Any rebuttal from the No side?

  • Biker 94703

    Aw honey, there are other places to cruise!  We should talk offline.

  • The Sharkey
  • http://www.BerkeleyWaterfront.org/ Paul Kamen

    In that sense, Measure T doesn’t really “do” anything. It’s an expression of public sentiment that will offer guidance to the Council. If it passes, it will reflect public approval for reviving economic development in West Berkeley via limited higher-density mixed use development, and also for instituting new protections for the Aquatic Park parcels.  

    Save Aquatic Park — Vote YES on T. 

  • Gus

    So you’ve been vigorously campaigning against Measure T for about four months, and until last week, when Bob Gammon pointed it out to you, you were wholly unaware that the issue of development adjacent to Aquatic Park is specifically addressed in the language of Measure T? Have you not read the measure, or you have you been deliberately misstating its contents?

    Paul Kamen correctly points out that Measure T INCREASES setbacks and mitigations over those that current exist. If Measure T passes, it will, in fact, be MORE difficult to develop next to Aquatic Park than it is now.