"What I recall him telling me was that it was a big grassroots effort on his part, that many of his contributors were poor and lived in a complex and he organized them to go down there [to buy the money orders]," Purnell said. "It sounded plausible."
The city's original public financing ordinance was less restrictive regarding matching contributions than it is now, partly because of the Bey case. Contributions made by money order are no longer eligible for matching funds and now must be made on two-party checks drawn on the bank account of the contributors.
In the past, Bey has represented himself as a "spiritual adviser" to the late Antar Bey, who was briefly head of Your Black Muslim Bakery. Other bakery associates face numerous criminal charges in Alameda County, including torture, kidnapping, real estate fraud, and the Aug. 2, 2007, killing of Oakland journalist Bailey, who was working on stories about the Bey empire.
Most recently Nedir Bey served as president of the school site council for Fruitvale Elementary School.
Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, said the understaffed FPPC couldn't investigate every small-time municipal election.
But, he said, "when the ethics commission realized the FPPC wasn't acting on the case quickly, then Oakland really should have begun looking at it."
Cecily Burt is a staff writer for MediaNews, one of the Guardian's partners in the Chauncey Bailey Project. For more information and to read past stories, go to www.sfbg.com/news/chaunceybailey.