Environmentalists and Consumer Attorneys Fund Campaign Against Joel Young



Two progressive political groups — one representing environmentalists, and the other, consumer attorneys — are funding an expensive and hard-hitting campaign against East Bay Assembly candidate Joel Young. The campaign led by the California League of Conservation Voters and the Consumer Attorneys of California has focused on the numerous controversies surrounding Young, including accusations of domestic violence, violent threats, and the fabrication of endorsements. The campaign, which is using the name California Alliance, also has blanketed the East Bay with mailers, highlighting reports in the Express about Young’s troubles, including an endorsement that called Young “unfit for office.”

Campaign finance reports show that the California Alliance has spent at least $68,664 in mailers and consultant fees against Young over the past week. The group also has plenty more money to spend. Records show that it had raised $390,000 by May 19, including $200,000 from the Consumer Attorneys of California and $60,000 from the California League of Conservation of Voters. David Allgood, the league’s political director, said in an interview today that the group has more anti-Young mailers in the works.

“Generally, we came to the same conclusion as your paper did about his fitness for office,” Allgood said, referring to the Express’ endorsements, which strongly urged voters to not cast ballots for Young. The California League of Conservation Voters has co-endorsed Abel Guillen, a Peralta Community Colleges trustee, and Rob Bonta, vice mayor of Alameda, for the 18th Assembly District. The Express endorsed Guillen. The top two vote-getters in next Tuesday’s election, regardless of party affiliation, face off in November.

  • Guillen
The California League of Conservation Voters has long been one of the most influential environmental groups in the state, while the Consumer Attorneys of California, which represents plaintiffs’ attorneys, is the most powerful liberal lawyers’ group statewide. The two groups have had a political alliance for a dozen years, Allgood said.

Young, an AC Transit board member, has responded to the campaign against him with a flurry of his own mailers. Several of the mailers tout AC Transit’s decision to stop buying expensive Belgian-made buses in favor of less costly, locally made buses from Gillig of Hayward. The mailers make it seem as if Young spearheaded the buy-local effort.

But he did not. Board member Elsa Ortiz was the first to request that the agency stop buying the Belgian-made Van Hools, following a series of investigative stories in the Express. The stories showed that the Van Hools were accident prone, were dangerous for elderly riders and those with disabilities, and that AC Transit executives had taken expensive junkets to Belgium and elsewhere in Europe at taxpayers’ expense. Ortiz, with the help of AC Transit board member Greg Harper, led the effort to kill the agency’s exclusive contract with Van Hool.

Tellingly, Ortiz and Harper refused to endorse Young for Assembly and instead co-endorsed Guillen and Bonta. “Given his performance on the AC board, I really couldn’t endorse him,” Harper said of Young. Young has gained a reputation over the years as having a lackluster record on the AC Transit board.

  • Bonta
As for Guillen and Bonta, both have been pulling in substantial donations and numerous endorsements over the past few months. Guillen has the most endorsements from Oakland city leaders, including Mayor Jean Quan and councilmembers Nancy Nadel, Libby Schaaf, and Ignacio De La Fuente. Bonta, meanwhile, has been endorsed by Oakland councilmembers Larry Reid and Pat Kernighan. In recent days, Bonta also has picked up large campaign donations from several influential police unions, including the Oakland Police Officers Association.