San Leandro’s Assemblymember takes money from insurance companies and police, while supporting Benny Lee and Deborah Cox
Campaign finance disclosures were due earlier in the week and it’s always a good idea to find out who “owns” our elected officials.
I took a look at Assemblymember Rob Bonta’s backers and while unions are by far his biggest contributors, he has also taken a fair amount of money from insurance companies.
After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to get Bonta elected in 2012, police unions continue to support him. It’s not a surprise. Bonta has a been an advocate for the militarization of the police, while in the Alameda City Council he voted in favor of acquiring an armored personnel carrier and while in the Assembly he has refused to carry any legislation that would put any type of limits to police power.
Other contributors include gambling interests, lawyers, AT&T and, of course, California Waste Solutions.
In all, Rob Bonta took in almost $200K in the last 3 months and over $550K this year alone, even though he is running for re-election against San Leandro’s own Republican David Erlich who has raised less than $5K.
So what has Bonta done with this money? He’s given the Democratic party about $85K, as it’s expected and, he’s supported other candidates. In San Leandro, his largess went to two candidates: Benny Lee and Deborah Cox. They both got $1K. Not surprisingly, they are both heavily backed by the police department and are expected to rubber stamp whatever the police puts before them (Lee has so far).
One person Bonta has not endorsed is Councilmember Pauline Cutter, who is running for Mayor of San Leandro . Now, everyone in the Alameda County Democratic Party and the Alameda Labor council, in addition to the political establishment in San Leandro, has rallied behind Pauline. While she is not the most progressive candidate, she is a solid Democrat, a hard worker and the most independent member of the City Council. She is not a rubber stamp for the City Manager/Police Chief, which is why the Police Union endorsed Diana Souza. If Bonta wasn’t in the pocket of the police union, he would have likely endorsed Cutter by now. Endorsing Souza would be a losing proposition, after supporting the raising of the Chinese flag, voting in favor of red light cameras and taking money from California Waste Solutions (CWS), Souza is likely to come out third on the race, behind Dan Dillman. Bonta’s support of pro-police/pro-Chinese flag/pro-CWS candidates extends to his home city of Alameda, where he is now backing Stewart Chen.
Ultimately, politicians cater to their backers because they help them not just be elected, but become more powerful within the political structure. As long as voters automatically elect incumbents, this will remain the case. But the open primary system may make it easier for Democratic candidates to lounge successful challenges against Democratic incumbents – in particular when these tacitly support unpopular positions such as raising the blood soaked Chinese flag over our cities.