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Unions, Developers Dominate Funding: By MATTHEW ARTZ

Friday October 08, 2004

Before a single vote has been counted in Berkeley, clear winners have emerged in the race to raise money for city council elections, according to campaign contribution and expense reports released Tuesday. 

In District 5 Laurie Capitelli has raised $25,048, more than double the amount raised by his nearest rival Jesse Townley.  

In District 6 incumbent Betty Olds has taken in $14,000 compared to $1,150 for her lone opponent, Norine Smith. In District 2 Darryl Moore has raised $4,992 while his opponent, Sharon Kidd, chose not to raise money.  

And in District 3 Max Anderson has netted $8,870, nearly quadruple the take of fellow-challenger Laura Menard and roughly five times more than incumbent Maudelle Shirek. 

Three city ballot measures that would raise taxes are flush with cash, thanks primarily to the contribution of the Service Employees International Union Local 535. The largest city union representing non-uniformed employees has dished out $18,000 in total funds for tax measures to increase funding for libraries, youth services and the city’s general fund. 

Winning the fundraising wars in Berkeley has almost always assured victory. In 2002, the most well-heeled candidates won every single race, including mayor, city council, school board and rent board. Deep campaign war chests mean not only that a candidate has money to burn, but usually indicates that they have the support of the city’s political establishment. 

To diminish the pull of contributors, Berkeley forbids contributions from businesses and allows individuals to contribute no more than $250 to individual candidates.  

That is still too much for some residents, who have sponsored a ballot measure to finance all campaigns with city money. So far backers of Measure H have garnered $32,129 in contributions, including the largest single contribution of the current filing period—$12,000 from the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund. 

Several opponents of the city’s current campaign finance system, like Councilmember Kriss Worthington, argue that money from developers, their family members and business partners have skewed city council votes on proposed buildings. 

“Developers who have major projects coming up for a vote give major amounts of money to buy access,” he said. 

This year Capitelli, a partner at Red Oak Realty, has taken in by far the most money from developers. Among his contributors, he counts prominent names like Ali Kashani, the head of Memar Properties; Chris Hudson and Evan McDonald, formerly of Panoramic Interests and now of Hudson & McDonald; David Teece, Hudson and McDonald’s chief financier; Robert Ellsworth, of Ruegg & Ellsworth; Avi Nevo of Aldar Investments; John and Michael Drew, who own extensive amounts of land in West Berkeley; Igal Sarfaty, owner of the UC Theater; Peter Tunney, the manager of Golden Gate Fields where a big commercial development is planned; and John DeClerq, developer of Library Gardens. 

In all, donors that could be directly tied to development contributed $3,600 of the $12,183 Capitelli received from July 1 through Sept. 30. Outside of developers, Capitelli also received numerous contributions from fellow real estate brokers. Capitelli, however, noted that he had a varied list of contributors that also included residents more cautious of new development including Landmarks Preservation Commissioner Carrie Olson and Planning Commissioner Gene Poschman. 

“The amount I’ve raised is indicative of the breadth of support I’ve gotten,” Capitelli said. 

One name who didn’t appear on Capitelli’s list of contributors or anyone else’s was Patrick Kennedy, the head of Panoramic Interests and the city’s most prolific housing developer. Capitelli said he declined a contribution from Kennedy, who did not return a telephone call for this story. 

While Capitelli was able to mine his contacts in real estate and development circles, his rivals struggled to keep pace. District 5 candidate Barbara Gilbert has raised $9,699—nearly one-third of which she loaned to herself. 

“It’s very hard for a populist candidate,” she said. “My donors are regular people.” 

Jesse Townley, a Green Party member and punk rock singer, has raised $11,942, thanks in part to a series of benefit concerts he sponsored. 

In District 3, Anderson’s money lead comes in part from the support of the city’s progressive establishment. He received contributions from, among others, School Board member Terry Doran, former planning commission members Zelda Bronstein, Rob Wrenn and John Curl and former mayoral candidate Don Jelinek. 

Community Activist Laura Menard trailed with $2,325, mostly from members of neighborhood groups, and Councilmember Shirek, who only started her write-in campaign in earnest two weeks ago, raised $1,751. Nearly a third of Shirek’s contributions—$600 in total—has come from councilmembers Gordon Wozniak, Miriam Hawley and Margaret Breland. 

The committee to support tax measures J and K (increases to the utility tax and the property transfer tax) has raised $15,910, two-thirds of which has come from union contributions, including a $9,000 donation from SEIU Local 535. Assemblymember Loni Hancock contributed $1,000 to the campaign form her campaign fund. 

SEIU Local 535 has also given $9,000 to support the library tax. As of Sept. 30, the backers of the tax increase have raised $30,491. Half of that amount has come from the group Friends of the Berkeley Public Library and a second library advocacy organization, Keep Libraries Alive, raised $3,118. 

Of the citizen-initiated ballot initiatives, only the backers of a plan to decriminalize prostitution raised money during the recent filing period. Thanks in part to a $550 contribution from George Zimmer, the owner of Mens’ Wearhouse, the group, Californians for Civil Liberties, has raised $3,033 for the campaign. Opponents, led by Brad Smith, an aide to Councilmember Linda Maio, have raised $400 to fight the measure. 

While the city council fundraising battles are lopsided, candidates for school board are running nearly neck and neck. 

The two most prominent challengers for the two open seats, Karen Hemphill, the city clerk of Emeryville, and Kalima Rose, a social policy analyst for Oakland-based Policy Link, have raised $6,789 and $6,427. Incumbents John Selawsky and Joaquin Rivera have raised $4,435 and $9,244. Rivera has loaned his campaign $4,000. The fifth candidate, Merrilie Mitchell, has not raised money. 

At the same point two years ago the three candidates ultimately elected to the school board each had raised at least $6,000 more than their competitors. 

Candidates must file a record of their contributions and expenditures again on Oct. 21—the last filing date before the November election.?