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How "Soft Money" Works in Richmond

The subject of looking at candidates’ campaign contributions came up this morning. All candidates’ campaign filings are on line at the Richmond city clerk’s website.




There is a limitation of $2,500 for a donation to any Richmond candidate’s campaign committee, but there is no limit for an independent expenditure committee. You will notice that there are only three form 461s on file in Richmond. That’s because independent expenditure committees can file at counties or with the state if they can justify that they fund political races countywide or statewide. That makes it easier to hide the money because you have to go to Martinez or Sacramento to look at them.


For example, take a look at the diagram below (or click here) from Richmond’s 2006 election. None of the entities except “The Committee to oppose Measure T,” filed with the City of Richmond. This labyrinth of money laundering effectively confuses people about the source and destination of money. In Richmond, campaign money is typically laundered through such organizations as BMW (run by Nat Bates) and BAPAC.




(Diagram from the Secretary of State and the Richmond City Clerk. Graphic by Daria Oyundary Tsagaann)