Opinion: Who is trying to buy the California State Assembly?

Buffy Wicks has raised $542,775 for her campaign for the AD15 seat. One major donor, Govern for Ca, has donated $85K. The powerful PAC is a proponent for charter schools

Who is trying to buy the California State Assembly?

The secret is in the post-it notes towards the end of this article.

Eleven candidates are currently running for the state Assembly District 15 seat not being contested by its current occupant, Tony Thurmond, who is running for state superintendent of public instruction. Of the 12 candidates, one stands out far beyond the others for fundraising: Buffy Wicks.

As of the latest reporting period, Wicks’s campaign has raised $542,775, more than twice as much as her closest rival, Berkeley School Board member Judy Appel at $221,873, and three or four times the amounts of locally-based candidates including City Council members Jovanka Beckles (Richmond), Dan Kalb (Oakland), Ben Bartlett (Berkeley) and Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto (El Cerrito).

Who is Buffy Wicks and why are people spending more than half a million dollars to put her in Sacramento?

While all of the other candidates have local ties, Wicks moved into AD 15 less than two years ago, fresh from a stint as Hillary Clinton’s Northern California organizer and, before that, working for Barack Obama’s White House. Half a million dollars up front for a state Assembly seat?

Campaign donations are a statement of what a candidate is made of, and more importantly, to whom they are beholden. We should all appreciate the efforts of the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) and the California Secretary of State’s office. They provide voters with information about a candidate’s fund-raising profile and, most importantly, where the money is coming from. This is done through a variety of forms. My focus here is on two FPPC forms: Form 460 – The Recipient Campaign statement and Form 497 – The Late Contribution report.

At $542,775, Wicks is $42,000 away from the voluntary spending limits on California Assembly races. Of course, if she raised it, she will be motivated to spend it.

The next month will see the 466,000 constituents of Assembly District 15 bombarded. There will be mailers, television spots, text-banking and phone-banking and radio.

I’m sure that if the candidates could fly drones to every precinct with campaign logos on them, they would. That is the local electoral landscape we are confronting. And until the abomination that is Citizen’s United is overturned, we will have to deal with it. For now, money is speech.

Let’s take a look at a few of the contributors who so generously contributed to Buffy Wicks’ campaign. Her donations have national scope. Well over 40% of her contributions came from outside of Assembly District 15, where she’s a new resident.

In fact, the second largest percentage of contributors came from Washington, D.C. Notable contributors to Wicks’ campaign include Obama strategist and administration official David Axelrod and Democratic operative and former Obama Chief of Staff John Podesta. Donors from the Bay Area include Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, and Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn. Very wealthy people!

These high profile contributors are perhaps unsurprising given Wicks’s role in the Obama campaign, administration, and the Hillary fiasco. But what do these people know about the 15th Assembly District other than that the seat is open and their friend Buffy is running for it? Do they have AD 15’s interests at heart?

But friendly contributions by famous people from far away aren’t the most troubling part. An entity called Govern for California is supporting Wicks to the tune of almost $85,000. I come to this calculation by way of form 460 that Wicks submitted to the Fair Political Practices Commission.

You won’t find this information on the main California Secretary of State website. It’s only when you download and view the .pdf version of the actual filing. On the F460 that was submitted there were little digital post-it notes scattered throughout the entire thing.

They all say pretty much the same thing: “Intermediary: Govern for California, FPPC ID #1383984, 2350 Kerner Blvd, Ste 250, San Rafael, CA 94901.” The question is, what exactly is an INTERMEDIARY and what is their relationship with the Wicks campaign? I perused the mind-numbing legalese at the FPPC to divine what defined an intermediary, and came away with no satisfactory answer. Also, the fact that one could ONLY see this post-it note on the actual filing itself and not the Secretary of State’s website is also a bit disconcerting.

But that leads to the question: what exactly is Govern for California. You do a few searches and you don’t find much illumination, so that means we have to fall back to where the MONEY flows. Govern for California also supports and funds an unapologetic supporter of charter schools, Marshall Tuck. The OB Rag sums it up very well in an April 9 article:

“Another key player in this story is Tuck’s biggest supporter(Marshall Tuck, running for Superintendent of Public Instruction), David Crane, a former special advisor to Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Crane now runs the Govern for California PAC, which is largely funded by hedge fund managers and venture capitalists, and (of course) other pro-charter school backers including members of the Walton family (think Walmart money). Crane himself has maxed out to Tuck’s campaign and his PAC(Govern for California) has funneled around $175,000 to it as well.” So Govern for California backs Marshall Tuck, a Charter School mouthpiece and puppet…and Ms. Buffy Wicks. Draw your own conclusions.

I’m still working on it. Wicks’s campaign website says she’s “a community organizer, an advocate for kids, and a new mother of an adorable baby girl named Josephine. We call her JoJo.” While Wicks was born raised in the Sierra foothills, compared to Oakland, Richmond, El Cerrito and Berkeley city council members, a school board member, an East Bay Utilities District Board member and other local activists and residents, how is this new North Oakland resident going to represent us?

With over a half a million dollars, who IS trying to buy the seat for AD15? And whose interests will Buffy Wicks be serving if she gets to Sacramento?

Douglas Ricketson works in Berkeley and lives in Pinole, which is the north end of the 15th Assembly district. He volunteers for Jovanka Beckles, who is running against Wicks and others for seat.