Around the Valley: Contradictions and consequences | June 3, 2022 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Column - June 3, 2022

Around the Valley: Contradictions and consequences

by Gina Channell Wilcox

Please understand, I am not taking a stance on candidates, issues or anything of a political nature here. This is about perceived contradictions and, perhaps, unintended consequences.

Here are statements that are pretty much common knowledge and/or common sense; below these statements are what I consider contradictions. Or frustrations. Or both.

If abortion is "banned," women will get them illegally.

* We need to ban gun sales.

We have a serious drought. Crops are not being planted and farmworkers are not working consistently or at all in some cases. Proposed legislation would pay farmworkers to the tune of $1,000 a month while not working.

* Desalination plants are too expensive to build.

A leaked Supreme Court opinion hints at the court striking down Roe v Wade and the federal right to abortion, leaving state governments responsible for enacting laws concerning abortion. There is outrage and innumerable protests are held.

* The Supreme Court is set to rule later this year on the right to carry concealed weapons, thus bringing gun control into the realm of the federal government and limiting state governments' ability to enact gun control measures. Cue the protesters.

Homelessness in California increased in double digits between 2020 and 2021 for myriad reasons, and more affordable, "workforce" housing is necessary.

* We can't alter the environmental review process or curtail other tactics used by "concerned neighbors" that delay the projects by years. (Just this week a group in Livermore proposed a referendum for the November ballot to stop construction of 130 new affordable homes in the city's downtown.)

* (Bonus!) Elected officials, who get major money from the construction workers' union, will not cross said union; the union continues to request additional labor protections be attached to low-income and workforce housing, which makes it substantially more expensive to build.

"We know on so many levels how money is the problem with politics," Pleasanton City Councilmember Julie Testa said in a May 2021 council meeting, during which the majority voted to set voluntary limits on the amount an individual can donate to a local candidate.

* A political action committee (PAC) with majority funding from billionaire investor George Soros just contributed $1 million to a candidate in the Contra Costa County District Attorney race.

During the same May 2021 meeting, Testa called for more transparency so voters know who is funding which candidates.

* When individual contributions to campaigns are limited, people turn to PACs and independent expenditures and give as much as they want because there are, for the most part, no limits. And, in many cases, it is much easier to find out who is giving money to candidates when contributions are not funneled through PACs.

There is an example of what happens with contribution limits in Alameda County's DA race.

District Attorney Nancy O'Malley, who has held the office since being appointed in 2009, is not running for re-election. One of the four candidates vying to replace her, Pamela Price, has raised approximately $355,000 in contributions, according to county records. This includes $40,000 from John Bauer of Pleasanton, the father of a man who died in Pleasanton Police Department custody in 2018.

When Bauer hit the maximum of $40,000 he could contribute as an individual, he contributed $100,000 to the Independent Expenditures Supporting Price for District Attorney 2022 committee, which funded postcards, yard and window signs, mailers and the like for Price.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with what Bauer did. But what's the point in having contribution limits?

In Pleasanton, the definition of an "individual" also includes PACs, which can make a donation to a candidate of up to $1,000, according to assistant city attorney Larissa Seto when she clarified limits in 2021.

"But there's also a situation, if you have a political action committee that's independent of a candidate, then it can also make its own expenditures independently," Seto told the council at the time.

Seto further explained that it would be permissible for someone to donate $1,000 to a candidate, then another $1,000 to a PAC that in turn donated $1,000 toward the same campaign, "as long as that PAC isn't being controlled by that same candidate."

Pleasanton's decision in 2021 to put limits on individual contributions set the stage for some pretty creative campaign funding in the 2022 election.

Just a guess. I never make predictions. Never have and never will. (Contradiction intended.)

Gina Channell Wilcox has been the president and publisher of Embarcadero Media Group's East Bay division since 2006. Her "Around the Valley" column runs the first and third Fridays of the month.


Posted by FactChecker
a resident of Downtown
on Jun 3, 2022 at 2:40 pm

FactChecker is a registered user.

Big difference. Contribution limits and expenditure limits in Pleasanton for city council and mayor are voluntary. Contribution limits to county and state offices are not.

The bottom line is what the Pleasanton council majority decided was to protect incumbents. It is often challengers who are new to public office who need to raise and spend more money to get their name out there.

The focus should have been on transparency and reporting. Many campaign finance reports for pleasanton candidates were lacking, filed late, or not filed at all. That is the bigger issue that the council majority decided to ignore.

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