Oakland Mayoral candidate Don Perata has donated at least $75,000 this year from his cancer-research committee to East Bay nonprofits that have nothing to do with the cause for curing cancer — but are run by his former campaign treasurer and close confidante, Jill Cabeceiras. Sources also say that Cabeceiras is Perata’s former girlfriend.
Campaign finance records show that Perata’s committee, Hope 2010, which he established to support a statewide cancer-research initiative on the November ballot, donated $25,000 to the Oakland Parents Literacy Project and $50,000 to Avalon Village, a small Alameda organization that tries to keep seniors in their homes. Cabeceiras is the development director of the Oakland Parents Literacy Project and is the executive director of Avalon Village, according to the groups’ latest tax returns. The two groups paid Cabeceiras $86,167 in the 2008-09 fiscal year. Perata, himself, is the president of Avalon’s board of directors and sits on the Oakland Parents Literacy Project’s board. Perata mayoral campaign manager Larry Tramutola did not return a phone call for this story.
Ethics and political experts have previously questioned Perata’s use of his cancer-research committee to fund non-cancer research related issues. They have noted that the cancer-research ballot initiative will surely face deep-pocketed opposition from the tobacco industry because the measure would place an additional $1 tax on cigarettes.
Perata has loaned the cancer-ballot campaign $190,000 so far this year, but he also has spent large sums on expenses not associated with the proposition campaign, including expensive dinners and overnight stays at posh hotels. Perata calls these expenses “fund-raising,” but campaign finance records show that he has failed to raise any significant funds for the initiative.
The former state senator also has used his cancer-research committee to finance a group of well-paid political consultants who also work on his mayoral campaign, raising questions as to whether he has been using the committee to fund his mayoral bid in violation of campaign finance law. Recently disclosed campaign finance records also show that Perata appears to have spent $62,670 from his cancer-research committee on a glossy mailer he sent to Oakland voters earlier this year. The mailer talked about the cancer-research initiative, but it also served as a promotional piece for him and was sent from his mayoral campaign headquarters in Oakland.
Perata also continues to collect large sums from the state prison guard’s union. The union paid Perata $40,000 in the first two months of 2010 — the most recent data available. The powerful union says that Perata has been working as a “campaign consultant,” although it’s unclear exactly what he has been doing to earn that much money because the union has mounted no political campaigns. Perata has long been an ally of the prison guard’s union and as state Senate leader helped protect the union from budget cuts.
Last year, the prison guard’s union paid Perata $260,000 as a “campaign consultant.” The union also donated $50,000 to Avalon Village, the small nonprofit run by Cabeceiras. The donation represented about a third of the tiny group’s annual revenues. According to the state Fair Political Practices Commission records, Perata also solicited $55,000 for Avalon in 2008 when he was still a state senator.
It also should be noted that San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson, a longtime supporter of Perata, wrote a glowing piece today about the Oakland Parents Literacy Project, soliciting donations for it, without mentioning that the ex-senator sits on the board of directors and has been one of its main financial backers over the years. According to FPPC records, Perata raised at least $398,000 for the literacy project from 1999 to 2006. According to the group’s tax returns, other board members of the nonprofit include Oakland Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, a longtime close ally and friend of Perata’s, and Kerry Hamill, the senator’s former chief of staff.