Monday, September 22, 2014

How Much Campaign Cash is Flowing From Outside Oakland? Don't Bother. The Candidates Won't Know

Oakland mayoral candidates at forum in May.
OAKLAND | MAYOR | An excellent source for tracking the influence of money in Oakland’s mayoral race came online last month allowing voters to easily view the amount of campaign contributions each of the 15 candidates for mayor, along with where the money is flowing from in Oakland and by whom. The site, Open Disclosure Oakland, also allows you to better gauge how much of the money is coming from out-of-town sources. Surprisingly, it might be wise for most of the candidates to check out the site before heading to candidate’s forums. At one such event last month at Temple Sinai, nine of the candidates were put on the spot: name the percentage of donations coming from outside of Oakland. None of them got it right.

Mayor Jean Quan said she didn’t know, but added, “Probably less than half.” It’s actually a little more than half of her contributions come from outsiders. City Auditor Courtney Ruby didn’t know. It’s actually more than 55 percent from outside of Oakland, according to Open Oakland. Councilmember Libby Schaaf wasn’t sure, either, but as she was speaking a campaign staffer texted her that 44 percent of her donations came from outside of Oakland. Schaaf explained: “You will see that I went to college in Florida, I went to law school in Los Angeles and all my in-laws live on the East Coast.” But, Open Oakland pegs the number at more than half from outsiders.

When the question was first posed by a member of the Greater Metropolitan Democratic Club August 25, Parker quickly moved to dismiss the inquiry and, instead, urged audience members to view them online. Another candidate, Said Karamooz, disagreed. There might be a reason for Parker’s ambivalence since his percentage of out-of-town money is one of the highest in the race at nearly 70 percent. However, Parker offered the percentage of Oaklanders donating to his campaign is around 40 percent and around 60 percent, if you take into account cash from neighboring cities.

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan’s recollection of where her campaign’s money is coming from is equally fuzzy. “A majority of my contributions are from within Oakland,” said Kaplan, who then repeated the sentence. Conversely, the figure from Oaklander is just over 40 percent, according to Open Oakland. When the moderator asked the question again, Kaplan then said the figure is around 60 percent come from Oakland. Dan Siegel was also way off in his recollection of how much of his contributions came from outsiders. “Maybe 10 percent, maybe 15 percent,” said Siegel. More accurately, nearly three-fourths of his money comes from outside of city limits, according to Open Oakland.

Later, Joe Tuman actually promoted the Open Oakland website himself and he has good reason. With over 57 percent of his contributions from within the city, Tuman’s total represents the largest home-grown accounting of campaign cash.. “I’m really happy to talk about my percentage,” said Tuman, a political science instructor at San Francisco State, who then shifted to lecture mode. “The assumption is always if a person willing to give you money, they will vote for you,” said Tuman. “If you have to go out of town to raise half of your money, then that means the people giving that money cannot vote for you.”

Karamooz, a technology expert who is running for mayor on a principled platform roughly based on criticizing the unholy influenced of special interests money in politics, added, “People from outside should not be able to influence and impact our lives.” In addition, said Karamooz, “As of right now, there are people who are waiting to see who is going to emerge as a front runner and they will donate to that person’s campaign irrespective of that person’s priorities, backbone and just so the day after the election they can own that person.”


  1. The biggest recipient of cash has the largest amount from outside Oakland. That's Schaaf. The biggest lie about where her money came from is Kaplan.

    Keep voting for those incumbents folks. They really "love" Oakland.

  2. These stats don't differentiate between when cash comes from nearby but not in Oakland proper, or when it comes from across the country. That isn't useful information.

    One could argue that substantial donations from Berkeley or SF or San Leandro mean that a Mayoral candidate has good connections to the rest of the Bay Area. That isn't necessarily a bad thing. An Oakland Mayor with regional support could be a very good thing.

  3. Quan gets a lot of donations from Oakland biz (indi/ethnic groceries, auto repair, clothing, cpa in cases I know personally) owners who live elsewhere.

  4. Respectfully, I disagree.

    If one doesn't live in Oakland, one should not be allowed to influence our elected officials. Any departure from this principle is a slippery slope. When it comes to principles, I would rather err on the side of too much than not enough.

    I know Principled Politics may be considered an oxymoron, but it is in our collective best interest to aim for it.

  5. If one candidate does know, the title of this article is misleading. Go JOE TUMAN!

  6. I like Liu, he is about money - showing people how to make money. Also helps that he is funny and honest.


  7. By MW:

    Concerning the comment of 9:37AM, if I move to Oakland so as to have influence with whichever candidate wins, while campaign season is still in high gear I am going to offer under the table bribes to each, every, and all of the candidates running for mayor.

    However I cannot do that now since I do not presently live in Oakland, and therefore as a non-Oakland resident right now it would be extremely unethical for me to try to influence them.

  8. Dear MW,

    Let me make sure that I understand your premise correctly. Are you referring to an individual who has just relocated to Oakland? If so, they would have an Oakland address, irrespective of whether they are registered to vote yet or not. And therefore, I would consider them a legitimate donor to anyone's campaign (but mine, of course). Please clarify the situation you are thinking so that I can make sure my response addresses your specific concern.