Tuesday, May 31, 2016

CA-17 poll shows nearly one-third of voters are undecided

Polling overwhelmingly predicts Rep. Mike Honda
and Ro Khanna will meet again this November.
A recent KPIX/SurveyUSA poll showed a six-point spread between Democrats Rep. Mike Honda and Ro Khanna, but the most important figure in the survey is the amount of undecided voters.

The poll in advance of the June primary revealed 29 percent of respondents described themselves as undecided. The high percentage of wavering voters likely explains some skepticism among politicos over its efficacy.

According to the poll, measuring 600 registered voters in the district between May 18-23, reported support for Honda at 31 percent of likely voters, followed by Khanna with 25 percent.

Republicans Ron Cohen was next with 7 percent, followed by Peter Kuo with 5 percent. Somewhat surprisingly Democratic San Jose Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio garnered just 2 percent, as did libertarian candidate Kennita Watson. The poll's margin of error is +/-4.2 percent.


Two years ago, during the first Honda-Khanna matchup, both pre-election SurveyUSA polls were very accurate. In June 2014, polling showed Honda leading the pack by 19 points; he won by 20. Prior to the 2014 November Election, polling predicted a 2-point win by Honda; he later topped Khanna by just under 4 points.

However, this time around, SurveyUSA's polling may not hit the mark. One line of thinking posits that a six-point spread for Honda would spell certain disaster for his prospects in November. Yet, there appears to be absolutely no fear coming out of Honda's campaign. It is laying low, staying out of the fray and has produced just three positive, informational mailers.

Another reason to question the poll: 69 percent of its respondents participated via landline phone, as opposed to those using more ubiquitous cellphones.

IE supporting Nate Miley is running a radio ad that targets Pleasanton voters

The IE supporting Nate Miley is running a radio
spot three times-a-day in the Tri Valley.
Pleasanton Families for Supervisor Nate Miley, the Independent Expenditure Committee formed earlier this month in support of the incumbent supervisor, and largely funded by donors who previously gave to his re-election campaign, has released a radio commercial.

The 60-second spot, which has been broadcast three times a day since last Thursday is running on the Tri Valley radio station KKIQ-FM. (LISTEN BELOW)

The ad is similar to a mailer sent last week by the IE that highlights Miley's endorsements from the entire Pleasanton City Council and features Mayor Jerry Thorne and Councilmember Karla Brown.

"We don't always agree, but the Pleasanton City Council agrees on one thing this election, Supervisor Nate Miley is the best choice for Alameda County supervisor," Thorne says at the beginning of the commercial.

The focus on Pleasanton through the IE and a mailer from Miley's re-election touting the backing of its city leaders, strongly suggests the campaign is hoping to shore up support in the eastern portion of District Four, which also includes East Oakland.

Voters in Pleasanton are the least likely to be familiar with Miley since he has only represented the city since redistricting in 2011. Furthermore, the city was put in play earlier this month when popular Rep. Eric Swalwell endorsed Miley's opponent, Bryan Parker.

In addition, Pleasanton is also the only city in the entire East Bay that includes a Republican majority of council members.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Email suggests Miley's re-election campaign and IE supporting him is improperly coordinating efforts

A mailer from Pleasanton Families for Supervisor
Nate Miley, an IE supporting his re-election. 
Earlier this month, a mysterious independent expenditures committee named “Pleasanton Families for Supervisor Nate Miley" surfaced without much funding or activity. However, campaign finance reports for the Independent Expenditure Committee, not yet easily accessible to the public, show a troubling connection, possibly coordination, between Miley’s official re-election campaign and Pleasanton Families for Supervisor Nate Miley.

In the case with Pleasanton Families for Supervisor Nate Miley, new evidence indicates a direct line between Miley’s re-election campaign and the independent expenditure committee, formed May 6 by 94-year-old Mary Warren, also a member of the Oakland Coliseum Joint Powers Authority. Miley also sits on the JPA. In addition, a smoking gun linking the possibility of coordination exists in an email from Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty to potential donors just two weeks ago.

An email from Alameda County Supervisor Scott
Haggerty in mid-May advertises a  May 25 fundraiser
for Miley's re-election campaign., but it also suggests
coordination between it and the IE, see below. 
Independent Expenditure Committees, known as IEs, are political groups that can raise unlimited amounts of money for candidates and causes--for and against them--but without any coordination with the official campaign. Such coordination would run afoul of state election laws. If wrongdoing is proven, the state Fair Political Practices Commission could potentially levy large fines.

The East Bay Citizen has obtained evidence that Miley’s re-election campaign and Pleasanton Families for Supervisor Nate Miley are not entirely separate entities, but, helping each other draw contributions from the same well of donors.

Last May 17, Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty notified, through an email, a fundraiser for Miley’s campaign to be held last Wednesday at McGrail Vineyards in Livermore. The owner, Jim McGrail, is a former Alameda County sheriffs deputy with ties to Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern. Miley and Ahern both attracted criticism for receiving substantial campaign contributions over the years from Corizon, the county contractor which has consistently received no-bid contracts for inmate health care services.

Haggerty’s email, for the most part, contains standard boilerplate for eliciting campaign contributions.
“The race for County Supervisor is close and Supervisor Nate Miley needs our supports,” wrote Haggerty. The suggested donation is $100 per person, it continues, and notes any check made payable to Miley’s re-election campaign.

However, the next sentence clearly links Miley’s campaign to the Pleasanton Families IE. “If you would like to donate to the Pleasanton Families for Nate Miley please let me know and I can email you that Tax ID,” wrote Haggerty.

What the public knew about the IE supporting Miley is this: It was formed May 6 and as of last Friday contained just $5,500 in the form of three contributions—all donors to Miley’s re-election campaign. No other finance records are readily available to the public. For instance, the IE’s Form 460 document showing contributions and expenditures is unavailable online even though it was due last Wednesday. For the time being, the only way an enterprising resident could view this document and others is if they took the time to travel to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters in Oakland and peruse its files.

In fact, Pleasanton Families for Supervisor Nate Miley is actually a misnomer, since not a single Pleasanton family has contributed to the IE. In addition, it has actually raised $24,500 through the final pre-primary reporting period ending May 21. The IE has also spent nearly $15,000 for a campaign mailer supporting Miley, a robocall, and a not-yet-seen door hanger piece. Required documentation of either large expenditure does not exist. Through May 21, the IE maintains a cash reserve of $14,772.

Exactly why the public is unaware of the IEs activity is not be illegal, but strongly suggests an intention to evade notice until closer to Election Day or after. Alameda County does not require that campaigns file finance reports online, but most do. Miley’s re-election campaign, like most, filed both online and in paper form. The latter method takes longer to show up online because it requires county registrar staff to scan the finance report into its system.

ALSO: Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley's obscene campaign finance stunts

Over the weekend, the first fruits of the IE’s campaign reached Pleasanton voters in the form of a mailer highlighting Miley’s support from the entire Pleasanton City Council. A knowledgeable voter in Pleasanton who tried to access the county’s campaign finance portal would find no information about the mailer and its cost.

What they would have found is telling, and includes a listing of donors to the IE that is almost an exact match to those who have also contributed to Miley’s re-election campaign. In some cases, the IEs donors are also entities who are also large county contractors, including Paramedics Plus and Alecto Healthcare Services, LLC. In addition, the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 55 PAC contributed $5,000 to the IE. The entry is notable since the firefighters’ union contract is due to be reopened this year.

Curiously, 8 of the 10 donors to the IE supporting Miley could have just contributed more money to Miley’s re-election fund (See chart below).That's because none of the IE’s contributors have come close to reaching the county’s very-high $20,000 maximum for campaign donations. In additional contributor to the IE--Grove Way Investments--did not give to Miley's re-election but are controlled by Castro Valley contractor Marc Crawford, whose aggregate total of contributions through various entities, make him Miley's largest donor.

The inclusion of so many contributors eschewing donations to the campaign proper, coupled with the lax reporting of the IEs finance reports, suggest a kind of shadow campaign running parallel to the official campaign. Critics of IEs often scoff at the illusion that they are truly independent of the main campaign. However, proving such crossover or blurring of the lines is often difficult.

CONTRIBUTOR                  IE $ MILEY*
Falcon Point Associates      $5,000 $1,262
IAAF Local 55                $5,000   $500
Black Tie Transportation LLC $2,500 $    0
Grove Way Investments**      $2,500     --
Top Team Management, LLC     $2,500 $5,000
Alecto Healthcare Services   $1,500 $2,064
Gray, Greer, Shelby & Vaughn $1,500 $  750
The McConnell Group          $1,500 $1,000
Paramedics Plus              $1,500 $4,189
John Wong, Mission Peak Co   $1,000 $    0
*Note: Alameda County maximum contribution is $20,000 per election cycle
**Affiliated with Miley donor Marc Crawford.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Miley is running an atrocious campaign, yet he may still win

Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley and
Bryan Parker in Castro Valley.
Every four years, Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley’s mantra is to express gratitude to his opponents, you know, for running against him. The utterance, however, is always dripping with insincerity. Miley doesn’t appreciate any type of challenge, whether it an unfunded first-time candidate or someone like Bryan Parker, a primary opponent this year that is matching him dollar for dollar in contributions.

Despite Miley saying he’s ready for any challenge, over the past few months, and especially recent weeks he has shown profound dose of hubris and has run one of the worst primary campaigns in recent memory.

Even an outfit that only in recent days has flooded all-important areas of the Fourth District like Castro Valley and Pleasanton with bright yellow campaign signage and has barely dented anybody's mailboxes with mailer, just might pull out a win against Parker’s insurgent bid.

In the meantime, it is very clear that if Miley loses on June 7, it will be due to a lackadaisical attitude toward actually running a campaign. Think about it? Parker’s strong campaign and financial wherewithal has been known since last fall. So, why has Miley’s campaign only now putting the pedal to the metal over the last two weeks, even last 10 days?!

His campaign signs should have been planted in the ground exactly one month ago, not last week. And how can Miley have so much money, yet wait until two weeks ago to send his first mailer? Furthermore, why choose to focus on the county’s drug disposal ordinance as an opening volley?

Voters in the district received a mailer from Miley’s campaign showcasing photos of pills. Hardly inspiring, but telling. In fact, according to Miley, himself, the county drug disposal ordinance is the only accomplishment worthy of trumpeting after 16 years in office.

Miley is also showing he's scared. Money is suddenly pouring in. The going rate appears to be $5,000 apiece in campaign contributions. Shamefully, Miley is also playing Castro Valley residents--telling them he supports a non-union grocery store coming to town, while on the other hand, accepting $10,000 and more from the labor union blocking the store from opening shop by way of a CEQA appeal. Cannabis interests are chipping in at an extremely fast pace--around $60,000 and growing, and an independent expenditure committee formed this month only started receiving money last week. Keep a sharp eye on that IE.

What’s happening here is very clear and indicative on what happens when public officials become entrenched in their office and insufficiently unafraid of voters. When it comes to running for your political life, Miley is extremely rusty and it shows. But, despite Parker’s campaign hitting all the right notes and creating it own luck, Miley is possibly favored to win in June. However, all things even, and it's not entirely clear where at this point yet, it's wise to place your bet on the campaign with the better ground game. In this case, it's clearly Parker.

LISTEN! East Bay Citizen Podcast with state Senate candidate Nancy Skinner

State Senate candidate Nancy Skinner
EPISODE 24 | Primary Day is less than two weeks away and state Senate candidate Nancy Skinner sits down to chat about her campaign in the Ninth District.

Skinner, as a former East bay assemblymember, once represented half of the much larger state Senate. The other half was previously represented by her rival this June (and likely next November) former assemblymember Sandre Swanson. The top two advance to the November General Election.

In the meantime, Skinner gives her thoughts on the June primary race, her experience in Sacramento and offers her views on governance, while touting her clear progressives credentials.

By the way, don't miss the end of the program! Listen to the reggae jam Skinner recorded back in 1981!

Click below to subscribe and listen on iTunes, Stitcher or listen at EBCitizen.com. Follow on Twitter @EBCShow.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Khanna says East Bay Citizen is becoming the National Enquirer; Is Honda looking into my school detention, too?

Ro Khanna is crying foul.
With less than two weeks until Primary Day, things are getting tense in the 17th Congressional District.

A pair of article in the last week is shading a different light on Democrat Ro Khanna and a growing pattern during past campaign of avoiding financial obligations.

First, former campaign staffer Bill Ferguson, who revealed emails showing Khanna acknowledged owing him money for his work on his 2004 race. Ferguson said Khanna failed to fully pay him in 2014.

Now, a former Silicon Valley executive named Chuck Bellavia says Khanna donated $1,000 to an event celebrating the birth of Jesus in 2012 and later canceled the check.

Khanna has suggested the Ferguson story is the work of Honda's campaign and possibly the Bellavia claim, too.

Khanna said Wednesday night, "The last three blogs make me question whether the East Bay Citizen has become the National Enquirer."

He aaded, "What I find is interesting is that every person with an ax to grind is going to the East Bay Citizen to smear me. I'm looking forward to next week's blog to learn about my school detention. I'm sure the Honda campaign is already tracking down the story."

It should be noted the National Enquirer in 2010 was in the running for a Pulitzer Prize following its reporting of former presidential candidate John Edwards's extramarital affair and love child.

Khanna welched on donation to charity organizing celebration of Jesus' birth

CA-17 Democratic candidate Ro Khanna is facing 

a second claim that he failed to pay campaign debts.
Just minutes after candidates in the 17th Congressional District concluded their one-and-only pre-primary debate last May 6, Republican candidate Ron Cohen approached Ro Khanna and quietly handed him an envelope. “This person says you owe him money,” Cohen told Khanna. “I don’t know anything about it, but if you do, you should pay him.” Khanna politely took the envelope and said, according to Cohen. “I’ll look into it.”

Inside was documents from a former Silicon Valley executive who says Khanna, while he flirted in 2012 with a run for Congress in the Tri Valley, pledged, then wrote a $1,000 check from his exploratory campaign to an event in Livermore that re-enacted in large-scale the birth of Christ. Khanna then cancelled the check and avoided its organizers.

Khanna's support for the Livermore event called
"Living Bethlehem" was included in the program (above)
and signage. Khanna's check to the group was canceled.
The incident follows a report last week that Khanna failed to pay $6,000 in wages owed to a campaign worker from his first run for Congress in 2004. After repeated attempts by the staffer to receive payment, Khanna later attempted to over-pay Bill Ferguson, now a member of the Santa Clara Democratic Party Central Committee, during his 2014 congressional campaign, Ferguson, though, said Khanna again failed to pay him in full.

Together the stories begin to show a trend over the past decade or more of Khanna as a highly-ambitious young political prospect desperately searching for a landing spot to fulfill his political dreams while also exhibiting a nagging streak of scheming and manipulation.

Shortly after the CA-17 forum in Fremont last May 6,
GOP challenger Ron Cohen handed Khanna an envelope
containing Bellavia's claim of non-payment.
Following Khanna’s 2004 protest candidacy against San Mateo Rep. Tom Lantos, it was clear even to those at the time that he had the potential to quickly climb the political ladder. Similar to his 2014 campaign against Rep. Mike Honda in the South Bay, Khanna was already adept at creating the image for himself as a youthful disrupter with tech cred and a unique ability to raise large amounts of campaign cash.

However, which municipality Khanna would achieve his goals were never entirely clear. By 2012, rumors of East Bay Rep. Pete Stark’s retirement after four decades in Congress attracted Khanna and others to the newly-redistricted 15th District, which now included Livermore in the Tri Valley.

“Ro was attempting to be in the community. He was showing lots of interest in what was being done out here,” said Chuck Bellavia, who first met Khanna over coffee in 2012 to discuss a non-profit event called "Living Bethlehem" that he was helping organize to celebrate the Christian nativity story.

The spectacle was large-scale, said Bellavia, and included a life-size manger, along with 125 actors in a production very similar to a professional Civil War re-enactment. More than 12,000 attended the five performances spread over five days during the Christmas season. The event’s organizers that year raised over $100,000 in cash and in-kind donations, said Bellavia, but Khanna’s contribution was not one of them.

“We deposited the check and it bounced,” said Bellavia. “Repeatedly, Ro was not answering my emails. I finally got him to sit down for coffee and told him based on his commitment we had done certain things like put signage up, put him in the program.” According to Bellavia, Khanna said his campaign finance people looked at the donation and he said, "I couldn’t do it."

“I said, ‘You already gave us the check. Write us a personal check.'” Khanna said he would look into it, but never returned emails again, said Bellavia. Khanna used a similar explanation to Ferguson and his unpaid wages when he told the former staffer in an email that his campaign advisers had initially nixed paying Ferguson for 2004 work using 2014 campaign funds.

Khanna said he was initially unaware of the event's religious nature before making the donation.
"When I learned this event had a religious component, I didn't find it appropriate to use campaign funds," said Khanna.

In an interview last week, Khanna agreed with some of Bellavia’s account of the reasoning behind the canceled check, but added the impetus was also a worry his potential campaign would be linked to a group that is pro-life.

Bellavia disagrees and said the event was simply about telling the story of the birth of Jesus. “There was no evangelizing,” added Bellavia. During his first meeting with Khanna, said Bellavia, he recalls having a lengthy conversation about abortion in advance of Khanna writing the check to the group.

“I find his reasoning creative. Obviously it begs, why did you give us the check in the first place?” Bellavia said of Khanna’s pro-life explanation. “I find it interesting how stiffing a charitable organization for $1,000 has evolved into a whole different scenario. It’s been a few years and now there’s a new spin.”

When Cohen handed evidence to Khanna of Bellavia’s complaint earlier this month, it likely did not surprise Khanna. That’s because Bellavia had been in contact with Khanna earlier this year over the issue of the canceled $1,000 check. Similar to the Ferguson story, despite a lengthy disagreement without resolution, Khanna reached out to Bellavia for a campaign contribution earlier this year. Albeit, in this case, in the form of a bulk email asking for donations.

Bellavia, nonetheless, was peeved and fired off a missive to Khanna’s personal email. “I told him I was still disappointed by the canceled check,” said Bellavia, “and he wrote that he wanted to sit down with me for coffee.” Bellavia deleted the email, he said, and never responded.

NOTE: A quote from Khanna involving his reason for canceling the check was included after this article was posted..

UFCW drops $10,000 on Nate Miley; IE supporting him formed by nonagenarian

Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley said to an
audience earlier this month, "Don't hate the player,
hate the game."
With less than two weeks until Election Day, Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley is pulling out all the stops in his suddenly competitive re-election campaign against Bryan Parker. Over the last week, Miley has received thousands of dollars in late contributions from real estate interests, along with a labor union hoping to thwart a non-union grocery store from setting up shop in Miley’s district. The emergence of an independent expenditure committee supporting Miley is also creating buzz about its possible role so late in the campaign.

Last week, Miley received $11,500 from various landlords groups, some of which typically voice strong anti-renter sentiment in numerous East Bay cities. The California Apartment Association, a statewide special interest group, for instance, contributed $4,000 to Miley’s campaign last Thursday. The same organization gave Miley $8,500 earlier this year and is a strong opponent of rent control measures this fall in Alameda and Richmond.

Meanwhile, Miley also received another $10,000 on Thursday from the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW). Half came from the UFCW Western States Council Independent Expenditure PAC and the other half from UFCW Local 5. The latter also contributed $2,500 to Miley’s campaign earlier this year.

The contributions are notable because earlier this month Miley expressed support for a plan to bring Sprouts, a non-union grocery store, to Castro Valley, while a member of UFCW Local 5 filed an appeal to halt the proposal using the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

During a meeting of the Castro Valley Municipal Advisory Committee on May 9, a highly energized crowd voiced support for the grocery store, along with strong anti-labor sentiment. Miley told the group he support Sprouts.

“I’m not going to disparage organized labor. I think they play a vital role in our society,” said Miley. “It is my role and my job to represent everybody, whether they’re from corporate America, whether they’re from the grassroots community, or whatever ethnicity or gender they are, or wherever they live.”

Shortly after, Miley urged the crowd not to blame the UFCW member who filed the CEQA appeal—her home address was distributed in a flier that night. “Don’t hate the player, hate the game,” Miley said of CEQA. [READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE AT OAKLAND MAGAZINE]

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Alameda County judicial candidate was Facebook friends with woman involved in Oakland police sex scandal

The campaign of Alameda County Superior Court 
candidate Scott Jackson took a hit Tuesday.
ALAMEDA COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT | Be careful who you befriend on social media, especially if you're running in a competitive three-person race for Alameda County Superior Court judge.

Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Scott Jackson's Facebook page showed he was friends with Celeste Guap, the then-underage woman involved in alleged sexual dalliances with some Oakland police officers.

One of the four officers involved with Guap alleged killed his wife and later committed suicide. The scandal threatens to take down the Oakland Police Department. Two officers involved in the allegations have already resigned.

The East Bay Times reported Tuesday that Jackson said he unaware of his social media ties with Guap. "I have no idea who that is, to be frank. I've never even heard the name," said Jackson. "I'm not active on Facebook at all." He added. "Now I'm going to unfriend her. Why would I want to be associated with her? I've never seen her before in my life."

The embarrassing news could threaten Jackson's campaign. He is in a competitive race with another Alameda County deputy district attorney David Lim and Alameda attorney Barbara Thomas.

Alameda renters group submits rent control ballot signatures; plot next moves

Alameda City Clerk's office sorts through ballot 
measure petitions delivered by the Alameda Renters 
Coalition Thursday afternoon at City Hall.
ALAMEDA | A ballot measure proposing rent control in Alameda took a big step closer to reality Tuesday when proponents submitted nearly 8,000 signatures to the city clerk’s office. If validated by the Alameda County Registrar of Voters in coming weeks, the rent control measure will appear before Alameda voters in November. Roughly 6,400 valid signatures are required to qualify for the ballot.

Members of the Alameda Renters Coalition, which sponsored the ballot measure, were in a celebratory mood as they gathered at City Hall on Tuesday afternoon to submit the results of more than two months of signature-gathering work by 100-plus volunteers. The group initially tabbed the number of signatures at 8,057. However, the city clerk’s office later pegged the preliminary number at 7,882.

The figure is slightly below the 25 percent additional signatures recommended to ensure a minimum number is validated. Members of the renters’ group said they are comfortable with the number since they had already eliminated a number of clearly invalid signatures—for instance, entries listing non-Alameda addresses.

Over the last few months, the sight of volunteers from the group toting clipboards has been constant on downtown street corners and in front of Alameda grocery stores. April Squires, an ARC volunteer, said she didn’t have to do much to convince people to sign the petition. “After a few weeks, people started looking for us. All we had to do was be visible with signs,” said Squires. “Once in awhile, someone would come by, maybe a landlord who didn’t like what we’re doing, and be a little abusive.”

She added, “I wish we had another month because it’s been so easy.”

ARC members, though, realize their work has only just begun. Two landlord-friendly ballot measures could potentially join theirs on the November ballot. A landlord-backed petition to change the City Charter to ban rent control in Alameda is still in the signature-gathering phase. In addition, a measure backed by Alameda Councilmember Tony Daysog seeks to roll back some tenant relocation fees paid by small-time landlords. The relocation payments were included in the rent stabilization ordinance that the City Council approved in March.

The rent control measure backed by tenants would cap annual rent increases in Alameda to no greater than 65 percent of the rate of inflation. It would also prohibit no-cause evictions, but provide landlords with recourse to evict bad tenants.

“I think putting things on the ballot is one of the most direct forms of democracy and people can decide,” said Catherine Pauling, chair of the ARC’s steering committee. “We need stability, and this is how we can provide it.” [READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE AT ALAMEDA MAGAZINE]

Monday, May 23, 2016

Honda campaign calls on Khanna to pay former staffer

CONGRESS | 17TH DISTRICT | Rep. Mike Honda's campaign said Monday that Ro Khanna "should be ashamed" for failing to pay a former campaign staffer who served him during congressional campaigns in 2004 and 2014.

Bill Ferguson, a former Milpitas City Council candidate and current member of the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee told the East Bay Citizen last week that Khanna owed him $6,000 in wages from his 2004 campaign against then-Rep. Tom Lantos in San Mateo.

Khanna disagreed and said Ferguson was paid even though he "didn't do a damn thing." He labeled Ferguson claim and threat of alerting the media was a form of extortion.

But, in 2014, Khanna admitted to putting Ferguson on the payroll for his 2014 run against Honda, but allowed it not to satisfy a past debt, but out of charity to Ferguson. Emails provided by Ferguson, however, show Khanna acknowledged a debt for previous work on his 2004 campaign.

Honda's campaign, hoping to open significant daylight between them and Khanna with just two weeks until the June Primary, was highly critical of the incident.

"These allegations are very troubling and highlight an alarming pattern of Ro Khanna not understanding the struggles working families are facing," said Vedant Patel, communication director for the Honda campaign.

"This is the type of callousness we expect from Republicans, not from so-called Democratic candidates. Ro should be ashamed and should pay the former employee in question the money he is owed immediately. How can Silicon Valley's middle class families expect Ro to keep his word to them when he can't even keep his word to his own staff?"

On Monday morning, Khanna, appearing on the KQED radio program "Forum," was asked by a caller to address Ferguson's allegations. Khanna denied Ferguson's claim and minimized its importance by saying no mainstream media organizations had picked up the story.

Alameda renters group to submit more than 8,000 signatures for fall ballot measure

Members of the Alameda Renters Coalition last
year demonstrating in front of Alameda City Hall.
ALAMEDA | Alameda's rent control ballot measure takes a big step Tuesday when the grassroots renters group behind the proposal submits more than 8,000 signatures to the city clerk’s office.

The Alameda Renters Coalition (ARC), the group behind the rent control measure, only needs around 4,600 valid signatures to ensure inclusion on the November ballot. The final number is not yet known since volunteers are still gathering additional signatures, as of Monday night, said Eric Strimling, ARC’s communication director.

"This is a moment of great celebration and gratitude to Alamedans for their support in putting this initiative on the ballot,” said another spokesperson Catherine Pauling. “It will establish the much needed renter protections City Hall has been reluctant to provide."

The renter’s measure would institute a cap on annual rent increases equal to 65 percent of inflation and eliminate no-cause evictions. It’s chances next November are buoyed by the fact Alameda renters make up roughly 55 percent of the city’s population.

ARC will formally submit the signatures to the city clerk’s office on Tuesday following a rally in front of Alameda City Hall, starting at 2 p.m.

The renters groups filed an intent to place the measure on the fall ballot last Jan. 29. In the months since, volunteers gathering signatures on street corners and shopping centers have been a fixture around Alameda.

In addition, two other rent-related measures are also in the signature-gathering phase. One backed by landlords would effectively ban rent control in Alameda, while another, proposed by Alameda Councilmember Tony Daysog would tweak the rent stabilization ordinance approved by the City Council last March in favor of small-time landlords who live on the island.

Friday, May 20, 2016

'Shame! Shame! Shame!': Swalwell misses vote allowing LGBT amendment to fail

Rep. Eric Swalwell
As cries of "Shame! Shame! Shame!" from Democratic lawmakers rained down on the House floor Thursday over a failed amendment to bar contractors from federal contracts if they discriminate against the LGBT community, the voice of East Bay Rep. Eric Swalwell was absent.

The amendment offered by New York Rep. Sean Maloney was defeated by a single vote Thursday. Swalwell was one of eight legislators who did not register a vote. In addition, eight members, including four from Southern California, changed their vote to no after it appeared the amendment would pass.

ALSO: Final roll call for the Maloney amendment

Swalwell scrambled to address his notable no-show, posting an explanation on Facebook Thursday afternoon. "I had to fly home to California on Tuesday night for a family health emergency, and so I missed some votes yesterday and today," wrote Swalwell.

Instead, Swalwell laid the blame squarely on House Republicans for maneuvering to thwart the bill at the last minute.
Not missing votes and maintaining a consistent presence in Washington has long been Swalwell's promise to his constituents since he unseated Pete Stark four years ago. Standing strong with the community LGBT has been another, although not entirely consistently.

Two years ago, Swalwell used another excuse to avoid renewing his membership in the House LGBT Caucus. This time it was because of inability to afford its membership dues.

Nate Miley received thousands this week from anti-rent control interests

Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley does not
support rent control in the unincorporateds.
Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley has received thousands of dollars this week from some of the most vehement anti-tenant groups in the East Bay and state, according to finance records, despite calls in Oakland, which he represents, to strengthen tenant protections.

Although rent control already exist in half of Miley's supervisorial district, including East Oakland, no such restrictions exist in unincorporated Alameda County. Along with Pleasanton, unincorporated areas, primarily Castro Valley, make up a sizable portion of the district. 

Miley has publicly voiced opposition to rent control in incorporated Alameda County, areas in which Miley is its most powerful voice.

"We don't need rent control," Miley said during a candidate forum last March. "Rent control is a disincentive to investment and it's also a disincentive for landlords to keep their property maintained." Miley then offered landlord-tenant mediation as one solution.

He added later, "We can look for other measures for tenant protection, but we don't need rent control. It's a disincentive. It will bring down the quality of life in our communities."

Bryan Parker, Miley's opponent this June, also opposes rent control for unincorporated Alameda County.

Landlord and real estate interests contributed $11,500 to Miley's campaign just this week, according to campaign finance records. On Thursday, Miley's campaign received $4,000 from the California Apartment Association Political Action Committee, a statewide organization that advocates on behalf of landlords and often registers strong opposition to rent control. The apartment group typically argues in favor of private mediation to resolve rent increase disputes. The same PAC gave Miley's campaign $8,500 earlier this year.

In addition, Fuller Enterprises, headed by big-time landlord Doug Smith, contributed $2,500 to Miley's coffers on Thursday. In the past, Smith, an anti-rent control voice heard all over the East Bay, and especially in Alameda, has often made derogatory comments toward Oakland over the matter. Smith owns 22 apartment building in and around the Bay Area, according to the Mercury News.

During an Alameda City Council meeting last year, Smith said publicly that any attempt to enact restrictions against landlords would result in crime coming to Alameda from Oakland.

"You will see higher rents due to supply and demand. you will see crime increase as the Oakland renters flee poorly-maintained, graffiti-ridden rent control housing in favor of our safe neighborhoods, top-notch schools and well-maintained housing," said Smith. "Eventually Alameda will be Oakland."

Other landlord and real estate interests have given large donations to Miley's campaign this year, too, as he faces his toughest re-election campaign yet.

They include Vasona Management, a Los Gatos-based property management firm that contributed $2,000 this week to Miley's campaign, and the California Real Estate Political Action Committee ($1,000 this week, $1,500 total this election cycle). 

Patrick O'Brien, principal of LSI Management Services, LLC, contributed $1,000 to Miley's campaign this week, in addition, to $4,662 earlier this year. O'Brien is also the chief financial officer at Pleasanton-based Leisure Sports, which also donated $1,000 this week; and San Lorenzo-based Eden Realty, a common donor to many East Bay campaigns, which contributed $2,628 earlier this year. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Former staffer says Khanna twice stiffed him for campaign work; Khanna says it was extortion, blackmail

Ro Khanna directed his campaign to pay Bill
Ferguson for work in 2014 as token of
goodwill, not to satisfy any debt from 2004.
A Santa Clara County Democratic Party insider named Bill Ferguson says Ro Khanna refused to pay him $6,000 for two months work following Khanna’s unsuccessful 2004 congressional campaign. It’s a debt emails show Khanna initially acknowledged, but now denies. Then it happened again in 2014, according to Ferguson, who was briefly employed by the Khanna campaign and paid half of what he was promised. Khanna maintains the payments in 2014 were intended to placate Ferguson and his repeatedly attempts at what Khanna called “extortion.”

Emails provided by Ferguson, however, show Khanna acknowledged he owed some sort of compensation. Starting in July 2004, just over four months following Khanna’s primary defeat that March to Lantos, Ferguson sent a cordial email to Khanna. “I've been needing to put in writing or email for you the outstanding amount due, as you requested. Here it is:” The invoice, totaling $6,000, included two $2,500 paychecks and $1,000 in miscellaneous expenses.

Bill Ferguson called Khanna "dishonest" for
not paying him on two occasions.
Khanna responded the next day: “Nice to hear from you. I’m in D.C. for a few months serving as executive director of the Indo American Council at the DNC, raising money for [John] Kerry. I have been unable to raise money for the campaign debt because everyone is focused on Kerry. but I know I owe you some money -- it will take time but I will pay. Let's catch up when I’m back in CA.”

More than a month later in August 2004, Khanna again acknowledges money owed to Ferguson and told him he was planning to “work off” earlier debts by returning to practice law. “I know that I personally owe you money, and will repay you at some point. I am a man of my words and live up to my obligations,” wrote Khanna.

In an interesting aside, in the same email Khanna tells Ferguson that while working on Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, he met Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, then-California State Controller Steve Westly and Honda. “I've forged a close relationship with Honda. I hope he gets into the cabinet. Who do you think would be a strong contender for his seat (who is worth supporting) if that happens[?]”

Without a reply from Ferguson, Khanna sent another email two days later. “Bill, didn't hear from you. Hope you aren't mad at me.....just wanted to assure you I remember my personal obligation. Please do reply and let me know what you are up to. Very much want to help you with your run as well.”

In an interview, Khanna said Ferguson “didn’t do a damn thing” while working on his 2004 protest candidacy against then-San Mateo Rep. Tom Lantos. Ferguson was paid, nonetheless, said Khanna, except for the last month of the primary race when Khanna announced to his staff that the campaign was broke and he couldn’t pay them. Those who stayed, said Khanna, did so knowing they would not be paid.

In addition, said Khanna, if a campaign debt was still outstanding, the Federal Elections Commission would not have allowed the campaign committee to be closed. “We paid him,” said Khanna. “He keeps popping up asking for money and jobs every few years.” Later, Khanna added, “The guy didn’t do a damn thing for me. He just kept blackmailing me.”

Khanna said if he believed money was owed to Ferguson, he would pay him. “This is not about the money,” said Khanna. “I’m not going to set precedent and pay a guy for extortion.” He also believes Ferguson’s decision to come out with his story is politically-motivated and timed to come out within the last few weeks of this June primary campaign. Ferguson is now a supporter of Honda.

Meanwhile, Ferguson said Khanna is merely trying to demonize him. “He’s a lawyer and he’s really good at explaining things, said Ferguson. “This is what he does. He just makes things up.” The bottom line, said Ferguson, is “He owes me money. He didn’t pay me.” He added, “It’s the principle of the thing. It’s dishonest.”

Ferguson said he periodically dropped the matter, but would make contact with Khanna over few years to keep in touch and politely ask for payment. Khanna, however, said he doesn’t recall any contact with Ferguson until the run up to his 2014 race. In the meantime, Khanna went back to practicing law and teaching before accepting an appointment by President Obama in 2009 as assistant undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Commerce. Ferguson ran three unsuccessful campaigns for the Milpitas City Council, but gained influence as an insider within the Santa Clara County Democratic Party. He is currently a member of the county Democratic Central Committee. “I thought we were friends,” Ferguson said of Khanna. “I didn’t push it, but he kept saying, ‘I’m running for office and I’ll pay you back.’”

After Khanna briefly flirted with the idea in 2011 of challenging long-time Rep. Pete Stark the next year in the East Bay’s newly-redistricted 15th Congressional District, Khanna focused his efforts instead on Honda in 2014. In the meantime, Khanna amassed one of the largest off-year fundraising efforts in Bay Area political history. With the 2014 June primary still a year and a half away, Khanna was already swimming in nearly $2 million in campaign contributions. Figuring Khanna’s campaign coffers were good for it, Ferguson asked to be paid for his past work using the 2014 campaign’s coffers.

Khanna’s 2014 consultant Leah Cowan, though, said “it wouldn’t look right to pay him for work in 2004,” according to Ferguson. “That’s when I started to get irritated,” he added. The Khanna campaign apparently had second thoughts. “If you work on the campaign, we’ll call it consulting,” Ferguson recalls Khanna telling him. Khanna, in an interview, agreed with the characterization to essentially over-pay Ferguson for minimal work on the campaign starting in early 2014. Khanna said he approved the payments out of “goodwill” to Ferguson because he was “hard up for money,” in addition, to thanks for “taking a chance on me” against Lantos in 2004, a bid predicated on opposing the congressman’s support for the Iraq War. “Unfortunately, Bill lost that idealism to stand up to the war in Iraq and the Patriot Act,” said Khanna.

However, it is still unclear whether Ferguson viewed this as a method to recoup money for his past work, although he called the 2014 arrangement “a compromise.” Ferguson maintains Khanna still owes $6,000 from 2004. Emails from late 2014, however, suggest Khanna feared Ferguson would take the story to the press in an effort to besmirch him and his campaign. Ferguson denies ever threatening to tell his story to the press, but admits to saying he would tell other staffers and local politicos about it.

In one email from Oct. 2, 2014, after expressing an opinion that Khanna was again making an attempt to avoid paying him, Ferguson wrote, “Ro, I really need you to take care of this. I have been talking and talking with you and Leah. I’ve been friendly and not caused any problems. Please, can we just solve this and get it over with?” At this point, Ferguson said he was only paid one installment of the four agreed $1,500 payments. On Oct. 20, 2014, Ferguson wrote, “Again, I’ve not publicized this, but I feel I’m just getting the runaround from you. And I have walked many weekends, additional, for you.”

With Election Day just two weeks away, Ferguson wrote to Khanna on Oct. 22, 2014, “Ro, you still don’t get back to me. I’m ready to assume that you’re fucking with me. That you’re telling Leah to lead me on and pretend like you’re planning on paying me. That you would like to do this thru Election Day.” Later in the same email, Ferguson, added, “I guess my next step would be to start telling people. I’ll start with telling your staff what is happening and ask them to pressure you. I’ve tried and tried to be nice. And it’s not getting me anywhere. Ro, PAY ME NOW.” The email was signed, “Please, Bill.”

Ferguson eventually received a second $1,500 check in late October, but in another email to Khanna, he referenced two more future payments. “Ro, Thank you for the check for $1,500. I did receive it last week. That’s good. Thank you. So, we’re now up to half. I would like you to tell me the plan for the next half.” Ferguson contends he actually did work on Khanna’s 2014 campaign, primarily door-to-door canvassing. However, he said he no longer was personally supporting Khanna’s candidacy against Honda at the time, not after the manner in which Khanna had treated him over the years. Khanna said he doesn’t believe Ferguson did any tangible work in 2014. Meanwhile, Ferguson never received the additional $3,000 he said was promised to him in 2014. In an interview, Ferguson said he dropped the matter, but felt used by Khanna for a second time. “They made me work more,” Ferguson said of the 2014 deal. “I feel like they were taking advantage of me again because I still wasn’t paid for the $6,000 they owed [from 2004].”

If any animosity between Ferguson and Khanna exists, Khanna sure does not recognize it. That’s because in January of this year, Khanna asked for Ferguson’s endorsement to unseat Honda. According to an email from Khanna on Jan. 19, he wrote, “I'd love to chat and earn your support if you are willing. Would love to catch up.” Ferguson said he never responded.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley's obscene campaign finance stunts

Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley riding a mechanical bull at a fundraiser April 9 hosted by Castro Valley resident Chuck Moore. Miley was required to ride the bull every time $500 was raised.
ALCO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS | Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley’s body jerked with the rhythm of the mechanical bull below him. Wearing a floppy hat and cowboy shirt, his right arm flailed to balance himself and then he fell to the inflated mat below him. The scene at a Castro Valley ranch belonging to his long-time supporter and fundraiser Chuck Moore could be a harbinger of the next few weeks of his political life. But then again, following his brush with the mechanical bull, Miley gingerly stood up, dusted himself off, and laughed away the experience. However, what the cache of donors may have neglected to acknowledge is the great lengths a politician of even Miley’s entrenched status as a 16-year veteran of the Board of Supervisors will go through to keep power. Miley, apparently, has gone to even further lengths, based on his most recent campaign finance report.

Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, left, smiling for the camera 
at a candidate forum last April with opponent Bryan Parker.
Before this year, Miley’s re-election campaigns have never required a need to do much fundraising. Since being elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2000, Miley has faced only token opposition. That is, until this year when former Oakland mayoral candidate Bryan Parker announced his bid to upset the county’s apple cart. Parker quickly proved formidable after posting $117,000 in campaign contributions last year over three months. Miley, meanwhile, reported just $4,800. But accounting for his debts, the incumbent’s campaign coffers were in the red. The realization that Parker, a well-financed moderate who could be an attractive choice for middle-of-the-road voters in the district’s Tri Valley portion, could be formidable may have sparked Miley’s campaign into fundraising and spending overdrive, culminating in over $163,000 in contributions since the beginning of the year. Yet, the sheer amount of contributions and expenditures contained in Miley’s most recent finance reports, and triggered by Parker’s candidacy also gives a curious look into the supervisor’s tangled web of potential conflicts between his official duties and his campaign. They include a number of contributions from companies that do business with the county, along with perceptions of impropriety attached to a number of contributors who Miley later appointed to a Castro Valley advisory committee, a body now facing calls by residents to strip Miley’s power of appointment and hand it to voters. In addition, organizations that have received some of the largest public contracts in the county have also spent lavishly on Miley’s campaign and his offspring have also benefited with employment related to their father’s position. In one case, Miley's daughter appeared to be her father’s early connection to the eventual collapse of a county program intended to help the poorest of the poor in Alameda County. Miley’s son, meanwhile, works as a staffer for Supervisor Richard Valle, and before that, Nadia Lockyer. What is worse is none of this is illegal, according to campaign and county election laws, but nonetheless, raises concerns about Miley’s campaign and the Board of Supervisors, an elected body with a nearly $3 billion annual budget that receives very little scrutiny from the public and press.

>>>VIDEO: Miley with supporter Chuck Moore at the April 9 fundraiser

Back at the ranch, once Miley had dusted himself off, Chuck Moore, the owner of the 100 acre Graceland Equestrian Center in Castro Valley, gave potential donors last month a strong pitch to open their wallets for Miley’s re-election campaign. “This is my buddy,” said Moore, wearing a cowboy hat, Western shirt and sporting a bushy white mustache (or just as you would picture a rancher would look like in Alameda County). Moore makes a portion of his living breeding and training horses and has given to Miley’s campaign in the past under the name of another business he owns, but more importantly, he’s been a consistent conduit over the years for raising money for Miley’s campaign through Western-themed fundraiser. “We need to keep this guy in office,” Moore continued. “He’s a great leader for us, especially in the agricultural community. He’s one of the few guys who listens to what our needs are.” Miley also listens to Moore’s own needs, as well. In 2013, Miley pushed for a revision of Measure D, the county ordinance approved by voters in 2000 to fight back urban sprawl in rural areas of Alameda County. The change in the law, it seemed, would have only benefited Moore and his desire to construct a 40,000 square foot cover over his arena for training horses. The Sierra Club vehemently fought Moore and Miley and after years of discussion and months of deliberation by the Board of Supervisors, the revision was defeated, but not before Miley carried water for Moore’s plan at every step. During one planning meeting in 2013, Miley berated opponents of the revision. “It’s not like the Sierra Club is sacrosanct and has a pipeline to the almighty and can determine what is best and what isn’t best for all of society,” said Miley. “That is not the case.” Miley later threatened that as a commissioner on the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo), which is charged with overseeing the borders of local jurisdictions, the Sierra Club’s protest might make him think about allowing some cities to more easily incorporate open lands. Miley not only worked solidly on Moore’s behalf, but openly flouted the risks that the county could be sued over the revision. “I really firmly believe this is the right thing to do,” said Miley. In an interview, Moore said he merely supports Miley based on his support for rural Alameda County and not for his own personal gain. But Moore added that another push to revise Measure D could be forthcoming.

>>>VIDEO: Opponents of Measure D in 2013 fight for a revision, including public comments from Miley, Moore

In 2014, Miley appointed Moore to the Alameda County Fair Board and a year later named him to the Castro Valley Municipal Advisory Committee (CVMAC), the large unincorporated area’s de-facto city government. But over the years, a nexus has emerged between members of the CVMAC, all hand-picked by Miley, and their ability to fund his political campaigns. Miley also has the power to replace members, if he desires. In addition to Moore, other members of the current seven-person MAC have written checks to Miley’s campaign. One member, a Castro Valley contractor and controversial figure named Marc Crawford gave $3,500 alone during the current election cycle. Another member, Linda Tangren, appointed last year, gave Miley another $3,200 this election cycle. In recent years, Crawford has proven his loyalty to Miley by constantly belittling a nascent group of Castro Valley residents who believe the CVMAC should be an elected body. Crawford has taken to the local newsweekly and social media to label the group, Castro Valley Matters, as some form of urban terrorists and a voice unrepresentative of Castro Valley. In turn, Miley took no stand on whether his advisory board should be elected, but advocated for giving the public a chance to decide the matter. In a feat of political jujitsu, Miley brought the issue to the Board of Supervisors, which would be on the hook for paying for the CVMAC election, but the item failed to gain a third vote to pass and without much exuberance from Miley.

Frank Mellon, a long-time Castro Valley resident who also serves on the East Bay Municipal Utilities District Board of Directors, believes Miley treats the 63,000 resident unincorporated areas of his district like his own personal playground. “I really and truly think Nate has treated Castro Valley unfairly and treats us like his private fiefdom,” said Mellon. A protracted search by Miley late last year to fill three open seats on CVMAC also rankled Mellon and others for its early lack of transparency and the perception the slots were filled by cronies of Miley. The seats went to Moore, Tangren and an attorney named Janet Everson. “It’s the kind of thing that makes people lose confidence in government,” Mellon added.

-EBMUD Board Director Frank Mellon on the amount of campaign cash Miley has funneled to his non-profit United Seniors of Oakland.

Accusations that Miley peddles access for campaign contributions was widely reported last fall in connection with Corizon Correctional Health, the county’s vendor that was awarded a no-bid $237 million contract to provide medical services at its jails. It ranks as the largest single contract in local county government. Over the years, Miley has accepted $15,000 in campaign contributions from the company now under fire for providing poor service and the death of one inmate. However, there is no prohibition against county supervisors accepting campaign donations from companies doing business with the county or hoping to win contracts, said Alameda County Counsel Donna Ziegler. But, Corizon isn’t the only company filling Miley’s campaign coffers that has a sketchy record of service. According to his most recent finance report covering activity from the start of the year through April 23, Miley accepted donations from at least three other companies who hold county contracts, two of which have proven costly to taxpayers. Paramedics Plus, which also employs Miley’s daughter, contributed nearly $4,200 to Miley’s campaign this election cycle alone and thousands in past years. The decision to drop the county’s long-time emergency ambulance company in favor of Paramedics Plus was controversial. In 2015, the company, fearing significant losses from a contract opponents had earlier claimed was a low-ball offer, asked and received from Miley and the Board of Supervisors a $4 million bailout to cover its losses. Similar contingencies were given to Alecto Healthcare Services, LLC, which has given thousands, including $2,064 this election cycle to Miley. The health care company has a controversial past related to buying bankrupt hospitals and quickly turning them around by, among other tactics, funneling patients through emergency rooms for higher price points, but costing taxpayers millions. Nevertheless, Alecto was approved to purchase the struggling St. Rose Hospital in Hayward. The facility's future is still in doubt. Earlier this month, a bill authored by Assemblymember Bill Quirk seeks to disband the locally health care district and give half its assets to St. Rose. In addition, in March 2015, the Board of Supervisors, with Miley’s vote, renewed the permit rights of alternative energy firm Altamont Winds, Inc. to operate wind turbines near the Altamont Pass despite the howls of environmentalist who said they killed roughly 2,000 birds a year. Miley, as is the case with Corizon, Paramedics Plus, and Alecto, has accepted thousands from Altamont Winds, including a $2,500 contribution last January.

The perception that Miley and the entire Board of Supervisors is not above board with its actions may not be readily accepted by elected officials in general, said Don Moore, a professor of management at U.C. Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Moore has studied conflict of interest in government and business along with the overconfidence and judgment that some time arises from it. “Some of the interesting results I’ve found is we all tend to be blind to having conflicts. It affects us all, not just public officials,” said Moore. “My best guess is politicians know they may look corrupt to those on the outside, but they also do not view themselves as being a bad person.” A public official might also feel a sense of fealty from contributors in the same manner as nepotism might benefit a leader. “If you ask him, he would likely believe they are most competent. He knows them,” said Moore. “He knows how loyal they are.” Unfortunately, I could not ask Miley about his history with campaign donors. An email from his campaign last week said Miley’s scheduled was too packed to address the specifics in this article.

There is no way to differentiate whether Miley’s attendance at the Claremont Club is for a deep-tissue massage or a meeting to discuss campaign strategy.

What is notable about Miley’s most recent campaign finance reports, ironically, is its blind honesty. For instance, Miley’s use of campaign funds to pay half of his health club membership at Berkeley’s tony Claremont Club & Spa has been criticized in the past. Miley previously had the same arrangement at Oakland's Belleview Club. Over the years, the $161.10 monthly expenditure litters his finance reports and almost taunts good government advocates. It didn’t help when Miley inexplicably said during a candidate forum four years ago that his membership was necessary for the sake of his own peace of mind. "Yeah, I can pay dues to the Belleview Club. I pay dues to the Claremont. I do that because I need to get away and have an opportunity to be in an environment where I don't have to deal with constituents who are constantly talking to me whether I'm in church, walking the streets or I'm in the grocery store," Miley told his 2012 opponent, Tojo Thomas.

Over the past four months, in addition to the monthly dues, Miley is blurring the line between using the Claremont Club for personal and official duties. On Miley’s most recent finance reports, two entries describe meetings that appear county-related, but paid with campaign funds. On November 18, 2015, Miley met with “constituents to discuss county matters,” said one entry costing the campaign $126.43. A month later on December 21, 2015, the campaign spent $179.21 at the Claremont Club, according to another entry, for a “candidate appreciation meeting with six county employees.” There is no way to differentiate, according to finance reports, whether Miley’s attendance at the Claremont Club is for a deep-tissue massage or a meeting to discuss campaign strategy.

Part of a flyer advertising Miley's Claremont Club
fundraiser, hosted by some of the biggest names in
East Bay politics.
The Claremont Club was also the scene of Miley’s most audacious fundraisers yet. A black tie event last Jan. 30 that cost the campaign nearly $30,000 to rent the swanky facility. The event also kick started Miley’s fundraising effort to neutralize Parker’s own impressive finance numbers. Including the Claremont fundraiser, Miley accepted more than $163,000 in contributions.  In addition, a significant portion, roughly $40,000 of Miley's large campaign cash haul, came by way of the cannabis industry, a special interests group he has nurtured for years and which is now poised to bloom. For his part, Parker, added another $95,000 to his ledger during the same period. However, Miley’s campaign was highly profligate, quickly spending $135,000 in short order, mostly on consultants and of course, renting the Claremont Club.

It's apparent Miley had clearly assessed Parker’s potential to fund a shocking upset in June by ramping up his own previously moribund fundraising efforts, but not totally, according to his finance report. With the perception Miley needs all the cash he can get to stave off Parker, his campaign nonetheless earmarked under the description of “civic donations” nearly $11,000 to the United Seniors of Oakland, Miley’s long-time non-profit. The group dedicated to various programs for seniors and youth in Oakland and Alameda County, has also at various times loaned money to Miley’s campaigns over the years. For instance, last year Miley’s campaign repaid $13,500 in loans from the United Seniors of Oakland, according to his finance report. “He’s been seeding that organization with money for a long time and it hasn’t been pocket change,” said Mellon. “What do they do with all that money?”

Despite the perception of impropriety, Miley’s chances for re-election are still positive. For one, the power of the incumbency at the Board of Supervisors is amplified even greater than other levels of government. An elected sitting member has not lost re-election in over three decades. Miley with 16 years experience on the board is only third out of five members in terms of tenure. Supervisor Scott Haggerty, also up for re-election this June, has sat on the board for 20 years. Like this year and every four years since he was elected, Haggerty has run unopposed. Furthermore, with tenure comes many friends in high places willing to multiply the power of the Board of Supervisors. A letter from well-known East Bay power player Don Perata, a past supporter of Parker’s Oakland mayoral campaign, helped to tighten, early on, the institutional vice against Parker’s run. In the missive, Perata told Parker he would lose the election and in harsh terms threatened the defeat would be the end of his nascent political career. Both Miley and Parker acknowledge the existence of the letter and its tone. Then last month, the elected Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, during an endorsement meeting in this race, politely listened to the candidate’s vision for the district, but when Parker exited the room, the local party’s establishment leaders unmercifully ripped him. “He should be ashamed of himself for running,” said Howard Egerman, an elected member of the central committee from Oakland’s 18th Assembly District. Another committee member, Kathy Neal, also of Oakland cut deeper. “We don’t always like to admit to mistakes that we make, but I will,” said Neal, who had once named Parker as her alternative to the central committee. “That was one of the most stupid mistakes that I have made in my life and as soon I realized that, I removed him immediately. That’s all I have to say.”