OAKLAND | CITY COUNCIL | There are limits to how much a candidate for office in Oakland can accept from an individual donor. It’s why the most common dollar amount on campaign finance reports is $700. However, until a loophole was closed by the Oakland City Council Tuesday night, candidates opening committees to support city ballot measures enjoyed no limits on the amount of cash they could raise.
The varying rules have allowed some candidates to utilize the unfettered amount of money heading to ballot committees to fatten their own campaign war chests. Former State Pro Tem Don Perata, who represented Oakland in Sacramento and ran for mayor in 2010, was often accused of exploiting this loophole.
Before the city council approved an amendment to its campaign finance laws to put them in line with state regulations, Council President Pat Kernighan referenced Perata’s proclivity for exploiting the loophole, but not by name. “There was an East Bay official known for doing this,” said Kernighan as she introduced the amendment.
Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan was also accused of exploiting the loophole during her run for mayor in 2010. Reports in June alleged Kaplan used funds to pay some of her mayoral campaign staff from a committee supporting Measure F in Oakland. Kaplan later closed the committee. In addition, an assistant city attorney said Tuesday, approval of the amendment could not be applied retro-actively. Previously, the city’s Public Ethics Committee unanimously approved the amendment as did an Oakland City Council committee.
Shortly after the allegations against Kaplan were made public, they were brought to the attention of the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission. Initially, the FPPC declined to begin an investigation, but said it would reexamine the claim after receiving additional information.
The timing of the amendment has elements of being politically-driven. Kaplan is now viewed as the frontrunner for mayor this November to unseat Mayor Jean Quan. Councilmember Libby Schaaf, Kaplan’s colleague on the City Council, is also a strong candidate for mayor. However, Kaplan’s name, nor references to the campaign finance allegations were broached Tuesday night.