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By Tim Hunt

Friends of Livermore functions like a Super PAC

Uploaded: Sep 8, 2016

The national Super PACS (Political Action Groups) have nothing on the Friends of Livermore.
The Livermore group has mastered going around the city’s strict campaign contribution limit of $250 per person for City Council elections. Instead, followers give to the Friends of Livermore, which has no such limits. The Friends’ leaders decide who to back and spend generously to get them elected. Individual candidates with their endorsement raise little money.
Three people, Lynn and Joan Seppala (publisher of the Livermore Independent) and Jean King have poured tens of thousands of dollars into the group for recent election cycles. In the 2014 election, they invested $40,600 (59 percent of the $88,750 raised by the group for the election).
In the non-election year of 2015, King contributed $32,100, while the Seppalas gave $24,500. You can expect that $56,000 to go into the fall campaign that is just getting cranked up.
In addition to King and Seppala, the other major donors are Denise Watkins and Loretta and Jeff Kaskey. They put $11,800 into the 2014 election campaign.
The group, which successfully backed incumbent Bob Woerner and Planning Commissioner Steve Spedowfski in 2014, had turned its back on both Mayor John Marchand as well as Councilman Stu Gary. Presumably, they have been showing too much independent thought concerning the major downtown development the city is considering for the vacant lot that once held a Lucky store.
Marchand had been backed by the Friends in 2012 and 2014 in his successful run for mayor as was Gary in 2012. Marchand also has contributed financially to the group.
Instead, the Friends are backing Bob Carling and Bob Coomber. Like many of the donors to the Friends, Carling spent his professional career at the national labs (Sandia, where he was an executive). Coomber is a director of the Livermore Area Recreation and Parks District. Both have been endorsed by Spedowfski.
Interestingly, Mayor Marchand was also slated to have an opponent, but the selected candidate was not registered to vote in Livermore.
Carling and Coomber will face off against incumbents Gary and Laureen Turner. There’s no doubt that the incumbents will be significantly out spent—the core issue for voters will be whether they want to a council that will toe whatever policy the Friends advocate or a council with members who will independently act for the residents.
Gary and Turner are staging a joint campaign kickoff next week.