Money continues to pour into a few Berkeley campaigns, including some significant independent expenditures filed after the recent Oct. 20 reporting date.
The East Bay Rental Housing PAC contributed $31,000 to support slate mailer organization Berkeley Tenants United for Fairness (TUFF), which promotes both a four-person slate for the rent board and opposes the so-called Sunshine Ordinance, Measure U.
The California Real Estate Independent Expenditure Committee channelled $19,750 to support incumbent Laurie Capitelli in District 5, and $18,350 to support incumbent Darryl Moore in District 2. And Berkeley Firefighters Association Local 1227 PAC gave $7,212 to support District 5 challenger Sophie Hahn.
The amounts raised for TUFF are particularly striking compared to previous races. Four years ago, candidates for the rent board all filed short form expenditure statements, certifying that they had raised under $1,000 and would spend under $1,000. This year, TUFF had raised $32,920 by Oct. 20, including $19,000 from East Bay Rental Housing PAC. It filed a further $12,000 from East Bay Rental Housing PAC on Oct. 25, bringing the TUFF total to at least $45,000.
Planning commissioner Patti Dacey filed a complaint last Thursday with Berkeley’s Fair Political Practices Commission concerning TUFF. There is a $250 limit on individual contributions to candidates in Berkeley. According to the complaint, TUFF is skirting around the limit by tying their individual campaigns to opposition to Measure U. There are no contribution limits on ballot measures. In addition to the funds from East Bay Rental Housing PAC, TUFF has had $5,000 from property management company Diablo Holdings and $1,000 from Premium Property Management and Development.
The commission considered the complaint at its meeting Tuesday. Commission staff will prepare a full investigative report on the complaint and present it at the commission’s Nov. 15 meeting. The Daily Californian quoted TUFF candidate and rent board incumbent Nicole Drake as saying, “We’ll see what the commission finds, but we haven’t done anything illegal.”
TUFF’s formation as a slate mailer organization (SMO) is unusual in Berkeley. Slate mailers are defined by the state as mailers that support or oppose four or more candidates or ballot measures. An SMO is an entity that produces slate mailers and receives contributions for their production. Commission secretary Kristy van Herick said SMOs hadn’t come up in the last 10 years in Berkeley.
The Los Angeles-based California Real Estate Independent Expenditure Committee gave $38,100 to Capitelli and Moore. The committee is the political funding arm of the California Association of Realtors. The Berkeley Association of Realtors recommended the two incumbents to the state association, according to Sally Dunker, BAR’s executive officer. “The candidates are selected on who has been great supporters of realtors and real estate issues,” Dunker said. BAR interviewed all the candidates in Berkeley and “maxed out to everyone” with direct contributions, according to BAR’s government relations advisor Lars Skjerping.
The firefighters’ independent contributions to Hahn’s campaign have attracted vigorous criticism in Berkeleyside comments, suggesting the funds were because Capitelli would advocate a tougher line on the firefighters’ contract negotiations than Hahn. James Geissinger, president of the firefighters’ association, said in a letter to the Berkeley Daily Planet that “there’s simply no hidden agenda.”
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