Developers Skirt Contribution Limits and Funnel Tens of Thousands of Dollars into Fremont Mayor Race
Incumbent Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison is a darling of housing developers. He has never seen a development worth questioning, much less voting against. And developers are repaying his generosity with their own, not only directing tens of thousands of dollars directly into his campaign but contributing tens of thousands more to a local Democratic Party organ, money used to produce and send mailers asking Democratic voters to vote for Harrison.
According to campaign finance disclosure forms filed with the California Department of State, the Ohlone Area United Democratic Campaign (OAUDC) has received $60,000 from housing developers in the last two months. It received $5,000 from Summerhill Construction, $10,000 from Sanjeev Acharya, $20,000 from Robson Homes and $25,000 from Ron Zeff, CEO of Carmel Properties. Records show that the OAUDC has spent around $58,000 (including a partly unpaid bill to a printer) on mailers supporting Bill Harrison. Though the Democratic Party has endorsed fifteen candidates in the Ohlone Area, the mailers only feature Bill Harrison.
By going through the Democratic Party, developers supporting Harrison are able to skirt Fremont’s campaign contribution regulations, which cap all contributions to $600 per donor. There are no limits on how much money any single contributor can donate to a political party, however, or on how much said political party can spend on supporting a candidate. The law does prohibit earmarking of contributions to political parties, but as long as winks and nudges substitute subpoenable e-mails, it’s too difficult to prove to deter political money launderers.
In addition to developers, the OAUDC received a $10,000 contribution from the Fremont Police Association and another $10,000 contribution from the Scott Haggerty for Supervisor campaign. Bill Harrison is the Haggerty campaign’s treasurer. As Haggerty is not currently running for office, his campaign does not need to file its own campaign finance reports until the end of the year. Therefore it’s impossible to know if Haggerty’s donation to the OAUDC followed a similar donation to his own campaign from developer interests.
The OAUDC contracted with Shawn Wilson, of Trident Consulting, to do the mailers for Harrison. Wilson happens to be Scott Haggerty’s chief of staff; last year the Grand Jury found that Wilson was pressuring county staff to do “favors” for large contributors to Haggerty’s campaign. On October 28th, Wilson contributed $7500 to the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee (ACDCC). As the ACDCC has yet to disclose any expenditures on behalf of candidates, we don’t yet know what that many is being used for.
If you receive a mailer for Harrison claiming to come from the Democratic Party, beware of who really paid for it.
I found out that Ron Zeff, the guy who gave the OAUDC $25,000, also gave $78,500 to Mitt Romney in $78,500.