Coalition for a Safer California, a Sacramento political group with close ties to ex-state Senator Don Perata, is declaring that it has exceeded Oakland’s $95,000 spending cap for independent committees, thereby possibly lifting the cap for all other candidates and committees in the campaign. The move could be pivotal in the mayor’s race because of Perata’s prodigious fund-raising abilities and because he is close to reaching the city’s $379,000 spending limit for mayoral candidates even though the election is still six weeks away.
Both Councilwoman Jean Quan, who is also running for mayor, and Dan Purnell, executive director of Oakland’s Public Ethics Commission, said today that they have seen notification from the Perata-linked group, saying that it had exceeded the $95,000 threshold. But Quan said in a statement that she plans to call on the Ethics Commission tonight to not lift the spending caps in the mayor's race until it has determined whether the Coalition for a Safer California actually had spent that much money.
As the Express reported last week, Paul Kinney, head of the Perata-linked group, said that it had spent at least $70,000 on fund-raising and his salary in connection with the Oakland mayor’s race. However, according to the documents filed by the group with the Secretary of State’s Office, the group had not reported making any independent expenditures in the race through June 30. The group launched two hit-piece mailers earlier this year against Quan and Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, who is also running for mayor, but Kinney said last week that his group does not consider those ads to be related to the mayoral campaign. As a result, it’s unclear whether the group actually has exceeded Oakland’s spending limit.
Purnell said he was consulting with the Oakland City Attorney’s Office to determine whether a committee's declaration about going over the limit was enough to lift the caps for everyone else — or whether the Ethics Commission or the City Attorney’s Office must examine the committee’s expenditures and decide whether it has actually spent the required amount of money. Quan contends that the Ethics Commission must make the determination before the caps are lifted. Mark Morodomi, a lead lawyer for the City Attorney’s Office who handles campaign finance issues, said he was looking into the matter.
Last week, Quan and the eight other candidates in the race vowed to not exceed the $379,000 cap even if it’s lifted and accused Perata of trying to buy the election. Coalition for a Safer California had said last week that it exceeded the spending limit but then withdrew its declaration when it learned that the cap was $95,000 — not $70,000 as it had thought.
As for Perata, he has indicated to some reporters that he intends to go over the limit if the Coalition for Safer California does it first. Kinney is a longtime friend of Perata’s and his group is funded primarily by Perata’s main employer, the California prison guard’s union. It is illegal under state and local laws for candidates to coordinate with independent committees.
For her part, Quan alleges that Perata has been coordinating illegally with Coalition for a Safer California and with his own ballot-measure committee, Hope 2010. The Express reported earlier this year that Perata has been blurring the lines between Hope 2010, which is supposed to support cancer research, and the mayoral race by using several of the same consultants in both campaigns and having the campaigns share the same office. Quan’s attorney, Dan Siegel, has filed a complaint with the Ethics Commission, alleging that Perata also has been illegally coordinating fund-raising activities with Hope 2010 and Coalition for a Safer California.