Back to Oakland? - Page 3

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 according to the source, pro-development activist Greg McConnell was there. McConnell told us he is involved in running Oakland Jobs. His business, the McConnell Group, has received funding from the group. The source also said representatives from Signature Properties and developer Forest Hill, another Oakland Jobs donor, were in attendance and that De La Fuente expressed an interest in raising "over a hundred grand" for the race.

A second source confirmed that Perata was at the meeting in question but did not recall De La Fuente asking for the funds, though the second source did say De La Fuente has subsequently called seeking money for Hamill's campaign.

Reached for comment, McConnell asserted that Perata is not involved with Oakland Jobs. He said a morning meeting did take place at the Wendel, Rosen firm "a couple of weeks ago," during which Perata asked the developers in attendance to contribute directly to Hamill's campaign. But according to McConnell, Perata left the room before De La Fuente made a pitch to fund independent expenditures. Direct contributions to candidates are limited to $600 per donor in Oakland. Independent groups like Oakland Jobs are not subject to those restrictions.

'NOT KOSHER'

In addition to learning of De La Fuente's alleged fundraising pitch at a recent developers' meeting, the Guardian has obtained a letter from De La Fuente to potential Hamill donors asking them to attend a $600-a-head event Oct. 2. Nothing in the letter itself, dated Sept. 16, appears to violate any campaign finance rules. But it is printed on what appears to be official City of Oakland letterhead, complete with the official seal. That could mean trouble for De La Fuente.

"That's not kosher," Mark Morodomi, the supervising deputy in the Oakland city attorney's office, told us. State law prohibits the use of government resources for political campaigning. Before coming to Oakland, Morodomi spent 10 years at the California Fair Political Practices Commission, the state's campaign-finance watchdog.

A line in small type on the bottom of the letter reads, "Not printed or mailed at public expense." Morodomi said the phrase "comes close" to making the use of city letterhead permissible, but he added, "It doesn't inoculate him. Magic language doesn't automatically make it okay ... those words have to be true."

According to Morodomi, if any part of generating and disseminating the missive involved taxpayer-funded resources — from printing costs to paper, envelopes, or stamps — De La Fuente would be in violation of the law. Using Oakland's official seal could also be problematic.

Hamill dismissed concerns that the invitation tested the limits of the law: "I've been around for 20 years, and I've seen council members use that kind of stationary for fundraisers all the time."

But City Attorney Russo, Morodomi's boss, that even if the letter turns out to be technically legal because no public resources were used, he is uncomfortable with De La Fuente's decision to mix fundraising with official city documentation: "It's not great form. You have to be really mindful as to how it would appear."

Guardian interns Katie Baker and Anna Rendall contributed to this report.

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