Is the Democratic Party or the Chamber Helping Libby Schaaf?


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The Alameda Democratic Party put out a last-minute mailer on behalf of Oakland City Council candidate Libby Schaaf that appears to have been funded by the Oakland Chamber of Commerce’s political committee. The mailer landed in mailboxes in District Four on Friday and Saturday, however the Democratic Party has not yet reported the expenditure to the Oakland City Clerk as required by law.

Ralph Kanz, a former chair of the Oakland Public Ethics Commission who is running against Schaaf in the election, said he plans to file a complaint today with the Ethics Commission. Michael Colbruno, executive director of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, did not immediately return a phone call as to why his group has not filed the proper disclosure forms.

Colbruno’s business partner, John Gooding, is head of OakPAC, the chamber’s political arm. Gooding also did not return a phone call seeking comment. Late last week, the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee reported receiving a $15,000 contribution from OakPAC. The party then sent out the mailer, touting Schaaf’s candidacy. It appears that OakPAC paid for the mailer because the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee only reported having $5,538 in the bank on its last campaign finance filing and the only donation it has reported receiving since was the $15,000 from OakPAC. Before taking over the Alameda County Democratic Party, Colbruno used to be the chair of OakPAC.

Both the Democratic Party and OakPAC have endorsed Schaaf for council. And so it should come as no surprise that either of them would pay for a mailer, backing her candidacy. The mailer also came on the heels of numerous mailers financed by Joe O’Donoghue of the San Francisco Residential Builders Association in support of another of Schaaf’s opponents, Jill Broadhurst.

As the Express reported last week, O’Donoghue’s decision to pump $47,500 into a committee that is backing Broadhurst appears related to O’Donoghue’s friend and business associate, Carlos Plazola, according to several knowledgeable sources. Plazola is an Oakland lobbyist whom sources say has never gotten along with Schaaf. The two served as aides together under Oakland City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente.

Regardless, it’s unclear why OakPAC apparently decided to finance a mailer on Schaaf’s behalf through the Democratic Party and not just pay for the mailer directly. Kanz, who also is telling his supporters to select Broadhurst second on their ranked choice ballots, speculated that it may be because a mailer coming from the Democratic Party may look better to voters than one from the chamber of commerce.