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Campaign Financing
March 28, 2002
While the City Council seems to be waffling about limits on the appropriate magnitude of donations to controlled committees (those that represent a single candidate or issue) the local version of “soft money” remains an undebated issue.

A good example of a “soft money” source in Richmond politics is a “general purpose committee” called “Committee for Industrial Safety Sponsored by Contra Costa County Oil Refineries.” During 2001, the committee raised $117,760 from Chevron Texaco Corporation, Home Builders Association of Northern California, Rich PAC, Tosco Corporation and Ultramar Diamond Shamrock, Inc.

They spent the following in the 2001 Richmond City Council and mayoral election:

• For Corky Booze: $32,176
• For Maria Viramontes: $20,325
• For Richard Griffin: $21,796
• For Charles Belcher: $33,033
• For Lynn Wade: $6,988
• Against Jim Rogers: $32,176

In addition, they gave $9,000 to SEIU Local 790.

The money was spent primarily on polling and mailing pieces. This is a significant amount of money and has no relationship to the funds raised by individual candidates for the use of their campaign committees. Neither is it controlled by any individual candidate. The results of these expenditures, however, are usually represented by campaign mailers that are essentially indistinguishable from those of individual candidates.

I am not inferring that candidates are necessarily influenced by these donations; quite the contrary. I was the recipient of some soft money support from Rich PAC, myself. I am just pointing out the magnitude of the money involved. The recipients of the oil refinery and developer largesse are all friends of mine and, I believe, beyond the influence of those who contributed. At any rate, the success rate was only 50%. One could say that the oil/developer PAC wasted $59,000.

In the mayoral election, I was able to raise only about $40,000, approximately half of what I expended. Some candidates benefited indirectly by as much as 50% to 75% of what I raised just from this single PAC.

Just something to think about.