E-Mail Forum
Hit Pieces Ratchet Up Election Garbage Dumping
October 21, 2001
Dozens of people have asked me how and when I will respond to the latest hit piece aimed at me, this time by the BMW. For those of you who were not fortunate enough to receive this extravaganza, I will describe it as an eight-page, three-color foldout, probably costing at least $18,000, bearing the return address of the BMW and the unmistakable imprint of Darrell Reese.

First of all, you have to understand that, over the last six years, I have become so used to these ridiculous and pitiful pieces that it has become difficult for me to become worked up over them. In fact, I have come to anticipate and rely on their arrival so much that I would probably lose sleep if they stopped. The themes and characters do not change, so there are no surprises. The only thing that amazes me is that some people still seem to buy into this garbage. A local political consultant told me that a recent poll revealed that only 4 per cent of Richmond voters know who Darrell Reese is.

Interestingly, the hit piece seems to have one additional unique purpose, that being the rehabilitation of Reese's miserable character.

Why am I the target? Because, since 1995, I have become the single most vocal threat to the legendary power of Darrell Reese and the people and organizations he controls and who use him to further their ambitions. In fact, I am the only mayoral candidate that has never accepted campaign contributions from Reese-controlled organizations.

But I am not the only elected official who has publicly condemned Reese, including his motives and methods. Mayor Rosemary Corbin and Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia have weighed in on many occasions, as have WCCUSD Trustee Charles Ramsey, WCCUSD President George Harris, III (who once sued Reese for selling bogus circus tickets to kids to raise money for hit pieces), former Richmond City Council members Jim McMillan and Donna Powers and Richmond City Council member Charles Belcher. EBMUD Board Member Lesa McIntosh and City Council Member Mindell Penn have both characterized the latest hit piece as "disgusting."

Who are those people and organizations that support Reese? There are two organizations that have become the alter egos of Darrell Reese for political purposes: Firefighters International Union PAC Local 188 and the BMW Close behind is the Richmond Democratic Club. Reese's pawns on the city council have dwindled in recent years, with Nat Bates the only one he can really consistently count on. For Nat Bates to be elected mayor would be major coup for Reese.

The BMW, from which the latest hit piece came, originally stood for "Bates, McMillan, Washington," as in Nat BATES, former city councilman Jim MCMILLAN and former city councilman Lonnie WASHINGTON. After Washington retired from the city council and McMillan jumped the BMWship, the acronym was reinterpreted as "Black Men and Women," a name they have tried to make synonymous with Richmond's African American community.

The BMW actually consists of only two or three people, including Nat Bates and Lonnie Washington. The organization's principal activity is to funnel money throughout Richmond, including campaign contributions, with the objective of keeping Nat Bates in office and Tom Butt out of office. Nat Bates is its mouthpiece and ambassador. Darrell Reese is its bagman and Lonnie Washington serves as its president and erstwhile economic expert. Washington routinely cites his former employment as an auditor as credibility for periodic cynical pontifications about the wastefulness of almost all city expenditures. With Washington's stamp of approval, Bates has voted against every major expenditure of city funds for municipal infrastructure for the last six years.

Probably the most telling insight into the BMW came in 1998, after Jim McMillan, a former BMW insider, blasted the organization in a West County Times article. "The Black Men and Women organization is being controlled by a 'white, conservative Republican, who doesn't even live in the city, former City Councilman and BMW founder Jim McMillan aid Monday. 'He's their Svengali, their guru.'"

In the same January 20, 1998, article, The West County Times went on to report that McMillan left the BMW because he felt Reese had too much influence over the organization and that Reese's influence was "based primarily on the political money he brings to the organization."

Back to the latest hit piece and its content. The overall theme of the piece appears to be as follows:

1. Tom Butt was responsible for the FBI investigation that focused on Richmond politics in 1999.
2. Tom Butt alleged to the FBI that Irma Anderson, Nat Bates, Lesa McIntosh, Richard Griffin and Darrell Reese were involved in bribery of elected officials.
3. Darrell Reese was victim of an unfair law when he pled guilty to felony income tax evasion.
4. Tom Butt made outrageous attacks on the black community.
5. Five clergymen affiliated with predominantly African American churches can never forgive Tom Butt.
6. Over ten years ago, Tom Butt's architecture-engineering firm had some contracts with the City of Richmond that were awarded without competitive bid.

By way of response and explanation, I offer the following:

1. FBI Investigation: Although I am flattered that anyone would believe I could personally order down an FBI investigation, I believe the record indicates Darrell Reese brought this on himself. For additional information, see the attached file, which is a digest of media articles on the investigation.

2. Allegations of bribery: Although I have made no allegations of bribery and have no personal knowledge of any, claims have often been made by others. For example, on January 19, 2000, the San Francisco Chronicle reported: "Mike Bauman, president of Bauman Landscape, said Bates .... asked his company to contribute $20,000 in exchange for votes in a road construction project on Richmond Parkway. Mario Ghilotti, vice president of Ghilotti Construction said Bates and _____ offered to work as "consultants"' and help his company win the contract for $20,000."

3. Darrell Reese as victim: This is so ludicrous that it needs no further explanation.

4. Outrageous attacks on the black community: Possibly the most effective, but also the most disgusting, Reese-authored hit pieces attempt to use race as a way to influence voters. In 1993, Local 188 mailed a flyer urging support of the BMW slate stating, among other things, "The Point Richmond millionaires are attacking our black mayor and black city council members ... only you, the black Richmond voter, can save the future of for our children." That same year, Charles Ramsey earned the enduring enmity of the BMW by asking publicly that his name be removed from their slate due to its race baiting theme. In 1995, a piece ostensibly authored by Reverend Orenzia Bernstine and Reverend J.L. Johnson stated, "We believe it is important that the people understand that Butt is a thief. As Christians, it is our duty to oppose Tom Butt. We do not believe that Tom Butt can be trusted to represent us on the City Council." The last thing Richmond needs is a political campaign dominated by ridiculous race baiting tactics. How could anyone seriously embrace such accusations?

5. Five clergymen can never forgive Tom Butt: See 4, above.

6. Richmond contracts: Page 6 and 7 of the hit piece are actually reproductions of a hit piece first used in 1995. It was inaccurate then and it still is. For 28 years, I have been the CEO of a Richmond based architecture-engineering firm, Interactive Resources. The firm routinely provides services for dozens of Federal, state and local public agencies. For more information, see our website at www.intres.com . Over ten years ago and prior to my election to the City Council, my firm was selected to provide architecture-engineering services for several Richmond projects, including a seismic safety analysis of City buildings and a rehabilitation of the Richmond Plunge. The piece insinuates that these contracts were awarded "without a competitive bid." Federal, state and local law prescribes a competitive "qualification based" procurement process with negotiation of appropriate fees for professional design services, and this is what the City of Richmond used then and still uses. At any level of government, professional services are not "bid" in the sense that construction contracts are bid. This simply shows the author's ignorance of public policy. Page 7 of the hit piece is a list of payments made by the City to Interactive Resources, all over ten years ago, going back as far as 1987. Since I have been on the City Council, my firm cannot do business with the City. What this means is that I gave up a good client in order to enter public service, and my firm must now look outside our home city for municipal design projects.

If you want to help stop this kind of campaigning and mitigate the chance that anyone would be swayed by it, please contact or write letters to the editors of local newspapers. I would encourage anyone to call or email Peter Felsenfeld of West County Times at 510/262-2725, email pfelsenfeld@cctimes.com, Meredith May of the Chronicle at mmay@sfchronicle.com, and Will Harper at East Bay Express wharper@eastbayexpress.com. You can also do an on line letter to the editor at West County Times at http://www.contracostatimes.com/contact_us/letters.htm.