Back to Oakland? - Page 2

In what could be his first move toward the mayor's seat, Don Perata's political machine is working overtime to elect one of its own to Oakland's City Council
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But recent media reports and a Guardian examination of campaign finance records reveal several ties between both organizations and Hamill's old boss, Perata.

The first group, which calls itself Californians for Good Jobs, Clean Streets, and Outstanding Schools, displays clear Perata associations. The group's treasurer is Mark Capitolo, who used to be Perata's director of communications. Many of its donors consistently give to Perata's numerous political action committees. And its campaign documents list a Sacramento phone number that, as the East Bay Express reported in May, belongs to Perata's chief political strategist, Sandra Polka.

Polka and employees of her consulting business appear to be deeply involved in the senator's affairs. When we called Perata's Sacramento office seeking comment for this story, we were told to contact Paul Hefner, who works for Polka's firm. Polka, Hefner, De La Fuente, Capitolo, and Californians for Good Jobs president, Hilda Martinez, did not return our calls for comment.

Perata's links to the second group, known as Oakland Jobs PAC, are not as immediately apparent, and one person involved with the group denied that the legislator is aiding their cause. But an inspection of disclosure forms did yield evidence of the legislator's potential influence. In mid-May, Oakland Jobs received its first $10,000 from another political action committee known as Vote Matters. As the Contra Costa Times reported, Vote Matters spent more than $175,000 earlier this year trying to pass Proposition 93, which would have allowed Perata and other termed-out state politicians to remain in office. Perata strongly supported the measure, which did not pass.

Robert Apodaca, who called himself a "personal friend" of Perata's, informed the Guardian that he recommended that Vote Matters provide the money to Oakland Jobs. Apodaca is director of marketing for the architecture and planning firm MVE and Associates, which designed the huge Oak to Ninth Project along the Oakland waterfront. Perata passed key legislation that allowed the project to move forward, though it has yet to be built. Oakland Jobs donor Signature Properties is one of the project's lead developers and, according to the East Bay Express, Oakland Jobs' treasurer Sean Welch has worked for Signature Properties in the past. Signature Properties has also been a donor to Perata's political committees, as have several other Oakland Jobs contributors.

In addition to his work for MVE and what he deemed his "unpaid advisor" relationship with Vote Matters, Apodaca is listed as a paid campaign consultant for a now-defunct committee called the "California Latino Leadership Fund" (CLLF). CLLF employed Polka as well as Apodaca in 2006 and 2007. Polka is now working on behalf of the other committee backing Hamill this year, Californians for Good Jobs, Safe Streets, and Outstanding Jobs.

DEVELOPERS' DEEP POCKETS

Apodaca told us he could not remember why he pushed for Vote Matters, which normally supports state candidates and initiatives, to give money to a local committee like Oakland Jobs. But he was certain that Perata played no part in it. "He's not involved in [the committee's decisions]. He's not even in the room."

But a well-placed East Bay source told us Perata was in the room with Oakland Jobs–affiliated figures while money was being sought to support Hamill. The source, who asked not to be identified, said Perata was part of a breakfast meeting several months ago at the downtown offices of the Oakland law firm of Wendel, Rosen, Black and Dean, at which De La Fuente asked a group of prominent developers to give large sums of money to an independent expenditure committee that would back Hamill.

The source could not recall if the committee was named by De La Fuente or anyone else at the meeting.

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