As election nears, contributions and complaints mount

SEIU Local 1021 has donated $24,000 this election cycle to help candidates it supports. Its funds went into an independent expenditure committee that paid for this website.
SEIU Local 1021 has donated $24,000 this election cycle to help candidates it supports. Its funds went into an independent expenditure committee that paid for this website

An independent expenditure group backed by one of Berkeley’s largest unions has poured $8,112 into Jesse Arreguín’s mayoral campaign, spending the funds on a website and literature that promote his views.

The independent expenditure group is named the “Berkeley Working Families Supporting Arreguín and Worthington for Mayor, Moore and Bartlett for City Council, Tregub, Soto-Vigil, Murphy, and Simon-Weisberg for Rent Board 2016.”

SEIU Local 1021, which represents Berkeley’s library workers, clerical workers, maintenance staff, recreational staff and health workers has put in $24,000, according to campaign finance reports.

The group has also spent about $163 each on a number of candidates, including Kriss Worthington, who is running for mayor, Darryl Moore and Ben Bartlett, who are running for City Council, and Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Christina Murphy, Igor Tregub, and Leah Simon-Weisberg, who are running for rent board.


Thursday at midnight is another campaign finance deadline that might show where the rest of the funds have been spent.

SEIU Local 1021 was part of a coalition that helped to place a citizen’s measure on the ballot that raised the minimum wage to $15 by 2017. Arreguín and Worthington supported that time frame but Laurie Capitellim who is also running for mayor, favored raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2019.

In August, the City Council adopted a compromise measure to raise the minimum wage to $15 by October 2018. Now all sides are urging voters to vote no on Measure BB and Measure CC so the compromise can take effect.

The Berkeley Coalition for Working Families has set up a website called East Bay Working Families that promotes candidates in Berkeley, Richmond, and Oakland.

Election 2016 campaign lawn signs. Photo: Kelly Owen
Election 2016 campaign lawn signs. Photo: Kelly Owen

In other election news, UC Berkeley’s Progressive Student Alliance has filed a number of complaints with the Fair Political Practices Commission. The group contends that the “Committee for Real Affordable Housing – Yes on Measure DD, No on Measure U1, Sponsored by Berkeley Property Owners Association,” violated campaign finance laws. The group will also be filing a complaint with Berkeley’s Fair Campaign Practices Commission, said Matthew Lewis, the group’s vice-president.


PSA contends that the Berkeley Property Owners’ Association listed donations for the Yes on Measure DD and no on Measure U1 campaigns as coming from various LLCs and properties rather than individuals.

For example, the largest donor to the Yes on Measure DD efforts comes from Vero Properties, which is listed as having donated $60,625. Vero Properties is owned by Jay Lakireddy, but his name is not on the campaign disclosure form, said Lewis.

Dozens of other LLCs with addresses as names also donated to the campaigns but very few individuals are listed. The major donors include Durant Berkeley Partners (Oakland, $28,697), KASA Properties (Berkeley, $25,000), and KLS Associates (Berkeley, $21,567).

Real-estate groups have spent more than $786,000 in the last few months to defeat the measures, according to campaign finance reports.

“It’s hiding the fact that the donations are much bigger than they are,” said Lewis. “Big donations mean big special interests who don’t have the interests of the little guy in mind.”


Election 2016 campaign lawn signs. Photo: Kelly Owen
Election 2016 campaign lawn signs. Photo: Kelly Owen

The PSA also filed complaints alleging that the “Committee for Real Affordable Housing – Yes on Measure DD, No on Measure U1, Sponsored by Berkeley Property Owners Association,” did not disclose that it paid for mailers that were sent out or online ads posted to the Daily Californian website.

In the weeks leading up to an election, various groups file numerous complaints with the FPPC but that does not mean the complaints are necessarily valid, said Jay Wierenga, the communications director for the FPPC. He was checking on the status of the PSA complaint on Wednesday but said:  “It’s a busy time here… there are hundreds that pour in during the run-up to an election.”

Krista Gulbransen, the executive director of the Berkeley Rental Housing Coalition, which is the political branch of the property owners, said Tuesday that no one had heard from the FPPC.

“Pretty much anyone can file a complaint,’ said Gulbransen. “It’s only something when the FPPC says ‘yes, there is something here and we are going to conduct an investigation’” that it matters.

“We have done everything on the up and up and have no worries,” said Gulbransen.

The city of Berkeley and the Berkeley Property Owners’ Association have placed (one by voting, one by collecting signatures) competing measures on the Nov. 8 ballot. Both Measure U1 and Measure DD would raise the business tax rate on rents but at different rates: The city measure, U1, would raise the tax rate from 1.081 percent to 2.88 percent. The landlord-backed measure, Measure DD, would raise the tax rate from 1.081 percent to 1.5 percent.

Related:
Real estate interests spend $92K to help elect Berkeley candidates (10.17.16)
Real estate interests spend big to defend rental tax hike (10.12.16)
With 28 days until the election, fundraising gap widens between mayoral candidates (10.11.16)
Berkeley mayoral candidates square off about budget, homelessness (10.05.16)
With Bernie Sanders, Robert Reich endorsements, mayor’s race goes national (09.15.16)
The mayor’s race is off and running: Where do campaign coffers stand? (08.04.16)

Get the latest Berkeley news in your inbox with Berkeleyside’s free Daily Briefing. And make sure to bookmark Berkeleyside’s pages on Facebook and Twitter. You don’t need an account on those sites to view important information.