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More On Campaign Financing
March 29, 2002
After further review, I need to make some corrections and additions to yesterday’s E-FORUM on this subject.

There are actually two political committees affiliated with the oil industry operating in Contra Costa County. The first is the “Committee for Industrial Safety, Sponsored by Contra Costa County Oil Refineries.” The address is Mill Valley, and it is identified as a “sponsored ballot measure committee” formed to support an unspecified “proposed initiative concerning industrial safety regulation.”

The committee started 2001 with $467,724 in the bank and finished 2001 with $394,504 in the bank. Expenditures during the year went primarily to Nielson, Merksamer et al, Ross Communications & Management and McNally Temple Associates, Inc.

According to the McNally Temple Associates, Inc. website, “We represent multinational corporations, business and trade associations, labor unions and Republican candidates for public office. We use our strategic planning and communications skills to help our clients tell their stories, advance their issues and fight for their ideas and ideals in the political and legislative arena where candidates are elected and public policy is made.”

Ross Communications & Management may be political consultant Richie Ross or someone else.
Nielson, Merksamer, Parrinello, Mueller & Naylor worked for the Dole campaign and in the mid 1990’s had collected $1.9 million from the tobacco industry since 1988, more than any other California firm. In 1994, Nielson, Merksamer was paid an additional $350,000 to write Proposition 188, called the Tobacco Control Act. The proposition promised tough statewide restrictions, but its language actually weakened state law by acting as a "pre-emption law" to kill dozens of tougher local restrictions throughout the state. When the media exposed Proposition 188 as a tobacco industry ploy, voters defeated it.
It is unclear what the PAC was contemplating in the way of an industrial safety initiative, but it is a good bet that it was not intended improve the health and safety of residents of Contra Costa County.
The second committee, whose expenditures I detailed yesterday, is actually called “Committee for Quality Representation, a coalition of local manufacturers.” The committee, with a Sacramento address, started 2001 with $54,922 in the bank and raised an additional $117,760 during the year, for cumulative contributions of $167,760, primarily 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.