Tom Bates’ campaign officials refuted allegations Monday that the progressive candidate for mayor accepted illegal campaign contributions financed by tobacco and logging interests.
“It’s just absolute nonsense,” said campaign Treasurer Mal Burnstein. “Obviously [Dean] is so desperate she’s stooping to a new low accusing Tom of taking tobacco money.”
Monday’s allegation was the latest in a series of back and forth claims of illegal fund raising between the two campaigns.
The Dean campaign publicized a complaint filed by Berkeley resident Sam Herbert Monday that claims Bates’ financial reports show donations from fund-raising committees of state politicians which were funded in part by questionable corporate contributions. Herbert cited eight donations totaling $1,700 that she said violate Berkeley laws prohibiting the acceptance of campaign money from corporations.
“It’s a straight-up violation,” Schwartz said. He explained that because campaign committee funds come from a number of donors, it is impossible to make sure that specific donations to Bates don’t come from a corporate contributor.
Among the allegations, Schwartz notes that on June 5, 2002 logging company Sierra Pacific Industries, of Redding, Calif., gave $3,000 to the campaign committee of state Senator Wesley Chesbro of Humboldt County who, on Aug. 24, wrote Bates a $250 check from the same account.
Had Chesbro written Bates a check from a personal account instead of from the campaign committee account, the donation would have been legal, Schwartz said.
But Burnstein, who has worked on several Berkeley mayoral campaigns, said the Dean campaign has misinterpreted the law.
“They’re wrong. All that has to happen is that [the contributor] has to say that the money [from a campaign committee] has come from a legal source, and they have,” Burnstein said.
He noted that campaign committees such as Chesbro’s also receive private donations which can be legally transferred into a donation for Bates.
As long as the contributor assures a Berkeley candidate that the donation is from a non-corporate source, the donation is legal, Burnstein said.
Burnstein also refuted a claim filed by Berkeley resident Marie Bowman Friday claiming that Bates’ reports show he had received four illegal contributions of $500. Berkeley campaign law sets donation limits at $250.
According to Burnstein, the $500 listed under the spreadsheet column “Per Election To Date” was the result of a computer glitch. He said the spreadsheet program erroneously added the totals of the two preceding columns into the “Per Election To Date Column,” giving the incorrect total.
“None of those people gave more than $250,” Burnstein assured.
Both Bowman and Herbert said they were motivated to file their claims in response to charges filed by Burnstein last month claiming Dean misclassified about $3,000 of campaign contributions as office expenses.
“The Bates attack on Dean irritated me personally,” said Herbert. “It made me wonder if Bates was as squeaky clean by contrast.”
In a separate charge against Dean, Berkeley resident Carrie Olson said that Dean had accepted between $550 and $700 of illegal campaign contributions from her 1998 campaign.
The Fair Campaign Practices Commission ruled that Dean was in “probable violation” of the law, but Dean said that she was acting on the advice of the city attorney.
The campaign commission is scheduled to hear Bowman’s complaint at a session this Thursday. Because city offices were closed Monday for Indigenous People’s Day the commission has yet to set a date to hear Herbert’s complaint.