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Don Perata Can Buy Oakland Mayor's Race

The city council refuses to close a legal loophole in Oakland's campaign finance law. Plus, Meg Whitman says Jerry is to blame for all her woes.

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Oakland Mayoral candidate Don Perata once again demonstrated his low regard for legal ethics when he proudly pronounced last week that his campaign had exceeded the city's campaign spending limit. Perata, it turns out, had discovered a rather large loophole in Oakland's toothless campaign finance law that allows any candidate to spend whatever he wants before an election — while not having to worry about possible consequences until months after voters cast their ballots. Indeed, the loophole, has turned out to be big enough to drive a campaign through.

The loophole says that candidates can violate the city's cap once an independent outside campaign committee has done so. "Independent" allies of Perata, who just happen to get their money from the same places he does, said that they have — ooopsie! — exceeded the spending limits. The former state senator said, er, well, this is all, like, some kind of total coincidence.

The loophole also allows Perata to overspend now even if his "independent" pals, who call themselves Coalition for a Safer California, are lying about their overspending. Sure, he and they might get slapped with fines sometime next year. But that's not much of a worry for one of the most prodigious fund-raisers in East Bay history.

Two of Perata's main competitors in the mayor's race, Councilwomen Jean Quan and Rebecca Kaplan, immediately cried foul, but their efforts to make the loophole smaller before the election fell short. The councilwomen wanted the council to consider their proposal to force Perata's friends to prove to Oakland's Public Ethics Commission that they really had overspent and that they really are independent from the ex-senator before he can try to buy the election.

But after a legal opinion last week from the office of City Attorney John Russo said Perata was basically free to do whatever he wants, the council's Rules Committee effectively killed the councilwomen's request, voting 3-1 to keep it from the full council. Leading the fight against Quan and Kaplan was Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, a close ally of — you guessed it.

Meg, the Trusting Candidate

Meg Whitman desparately needs Latino votes to win the California governor's race. And last week, she probably lost a bunch. It's not because she employed and allegedly exploited an illegal immigrant nanny and housekeeper for nine years. It's because of how she handled it.

First, the ex-CEO tried to preempt the bad news by calling reporters before the ex-nanny held her own press conference. Whitman claimed that she and her husband, Griff Harsh, had no clue until 2009 that Nicky Diaz was in the country illegally. Dumb move. Because sure enough, Diaz's celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred produced a 2003 letter addressed to Whitman and Harsh from the Social Security Administration, questioning Diaz's Social Security Number. Whitman and Harsh said they didn't recall receiving it. But then Allred showed reporters the letter with Harsh's handwriting on it.

Harsh and Whitman also said they never asked questions about why the number being used by their Mexican-immigrant nanny had raised a red flag with the feds. Never crossed their trusting souls, they said, that the number might actually be bogus — even though Whitman's immigration platform is about taking a hardline against employers who hire immigrants yet turn a blind-eye to their status.

The supposedly gullible GOP candidate now sees a giant conspiracy. She contends that Diaz's sudden appearance late in the campaign must have been orchestrated by her opponent Jerry Brown. Sorry, Meg, it might look a suspicious, but as close followers of Brown over the years, we feel confident when we say: He's not that good.

But he is opportunistic. And so, of course, he pointed out the hypocrisy of Whitman's get-tough-on-all-illegal-immigrant-employers-but-me policy. And during a debate over the weekend, he summed up her alleged new skeptical persona and noted how it conveniently lacks any self-reflection: "You have blamed her, blamed me, blamed the left, blamed the unions," Brown said. "But you don't take accountability."

Voters, however, apparently are starting to hold Queen Meg accountable. On Monday, the right leaning pollster, Rasmussen, which does the polling for Fox News, showed Brown beating Whitman by five points. When Fox's pollster has a Republican down by five, you can bet she's losing by ten.

Three-Dot Roundup

Whitman, in fact, may be headed for Carly Fiorina status. Two new polls last week showed the Tea Party favorite trailing incumbent Barbara Boxer by seven and nine points, respectively, in the US Senate race. One of those polls, CNN-Time, had Brown beating Whitman by nine points, too. ... UC Berkeley axed five sports teams last week in an attempt to help close a $13 million annual budget deficit in its athletics department. Cal killed men's baseball, women's lacrosse, and men's and women's gymnastics. And in a surprise move, the university stripped its highly successful men's rugby squad of its intercollegiate status. ... State and federal courts delayed California's first execution in nearly five years until at least 2011 so that a federal judge can review the state's revised procedures for putting people to death. State officials had wanted to execute condemned murder Albert Greenwood Brown last week before California's supply of the lethal-injection drug, sodium pentothal, expired. ... The death toll from PG&E's pipeline blast in San Bruno grew to eight as investigators zeroed in on a power failure at the utility's Milpitas station as a possible cause. The power outage may have affected PG&E's ability to regulate gas pressure in its aging pipes. ... And Vaughn Walker, the federal judge who overturned Proposition 8 in August, announced that he's retiring at the end of this year to return to private law practice.

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