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Out-of-State Groups Fund Term-Limit Opposition

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday July 03, 2007

A former Oakland Assembly-member running for outgoing State Senator Don Perata’s District 9 Senate seat says she doesn’t believe that a term limits initiative will pass next February, allowing Perata to run again. 

Meanwhile, Perata’s charge that a recent term limits initiative-related complaint filed against him with the California Fair Political Practices Commission by a California organization is actually the work of “an out-of-state group” appears to be backed up by filings with the state and online documents uncovered in a Daily Planet investigation. 

State Senate President Perata (D-Oakland) was first elected in 1998 in the aftermath of the resignation of former Congress-member Ron Dellums and the election of former District 9 State Senator Barbara Lee to replace Dellums. California’s term limitation law should have ended Perata’s Senate career in 2004, but a favorable California attorney general’s opinion opened a loophole that allowed Perata to serve a third term. The law currently terms Perata out at the end of the 2008 legislative year, but an initiative on the California February presidential ballot would allow the Oakland State Senator and a handful of other veteran Sacramento legislators to serve one more term. 

Former District 16 Assemblymember Wilma Chan (D-Oakland) and current District 14 Assemblymember Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) have both announced their intention to run for Perata’s District 9 Senate seat in the June 2008 Democratic primary. 

Last week, Chan said by telephone that while she would like to see term limits extended, she does not believe the February initiative will pass. 

“I was termed out [of the Assembly] before I was ready to leave, so I’d like to see some leeway with the law,” Chan said. “But there have been several recent attempts to overturn term limits at the ballot box, and none of them has succeeded. So the likelihood of passage is not high.” 

Asked if that meant she was proceeding forward with the 2008 Senate election as if term limits will not be extended and Perata will not run, Chan said, “pretty much.” 

But asked if she would drop out of the race if Perata is able to run for re-election, Chan was more equivocal. “I haven’t thought much about that,” she said. “I would have to meet with Senator Perata, as well as talk it over with my own followers, before I made a decision.” 

Assemblymember Loni Hancock’s Chief of Staff, Hans Hemann, had earlier said flatly that Hancock would not run for the District 9 seat if Perata is able to run for a fourth term. 

Chan has been down this road before. In 2004, while still in the Assembly, she was an announced candidate for Perata’s termed-out seat until Perata received the favorable Attorney General’s opinion allowing him to run again. Following Perata’s re-entry into the State Senate race that year, Chan backed out. 

There was other news last week that might or might not have an effect on the February term-limit initiative vote. 

On Friday, the Sacramento Bee and the Oakland Tribune were reporting that a group calling itself the California Term Limits Defense Fund filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission asking that the commission investigate allegations that Perata had extensively used election campaign money for his own personal use. 

The complaint referenced allegations that originally surfaced in a May 23 Bob Gammon story in the East Bay Express. 

The Tribune article quoted Bob Adney, director of the California Term Limits Defense Fund, as accusing Perata of using campaign money “as his own personal slush fund.” 

The Bee quoted Perata as saying that the complaint had been filed by “an out-of-state group” that “want[ed] to kill any effort to change term limits.”  

An official with the Fair Political Practices Commission said the commission had “received it and it is under review by the commission staff.” 

In the complaint, provided by e-mail by Adney, the Term Limits Defense Fund Director” requests the FPPC to investigate and commence civil or administrative action against State Senator Perata for his illegal use of campaign funds for personal expenses. In the interim, the undersigned requests the FPPC to initiate action for an injunction compelling State Senator Perata to cease and desist violating the PRA.” 

The complaint continues: “Attached to this letter as Attachment ‘A,’ is a list of expenses reported by Senator Perata and his various controlled committees having occurred in the past five years which appear to present personal rather than political expenses. … Attachment ‘A’ is merely a highlight on an entire list of expenditures the undersigned alleges were personal appropriations paid for by funds from Senator Perata’s various controlled committees. The full list of expenditures is found attached to this letter as Attachment ‘B.’ It is each and every expenditure listed in Attachment B for which the undersigned is filing a formal complaint against Senator Perata, and for which the undersigned requests the FPPC to investigate and commence civil or administrative action.” 

Attachment B, included as a link to the Friday Flash Report post, appears to be a list of campaign donors identical to that posted on the East Bay Express’ 92510 blog on May 23 in connection with the newspaper’s Perata campaign expenditure story. 

A review of online documents left the impression that the Defense Fund has a limited history in California, and extensive roots in other parts of the country. 

Filings with the California secretary of state’s office show that the Defense fund was originally formed as the Committee For Real Term Limit Reform, then changed its official name to the California Term Limits Defense Fund. On Friday, immediately after news reports appeared linking the group to a Fairfax, Virginia-based organization called Term Limits America PAC, an amended filing appeared on the Secretary of State’s website showing that the group had changed its name again, to the “California Term Limits Defense Fund Sponsored by the Term Limits America PAC with help from Advocates Of Term Limits.” Other Secretary of State filings by the group amplify that financial relationship to the Term Limits America PAC,” with the group calling itself the “California Term Limits Defense Fund sponsored and major funding by Term Limits America PAC.”  

A filing with the Secretary of State’s office in early June showed that the only contribution the California Term Limits Defense Fund has received is $50,000 from the Virginia-based Term Limits Defense Fund. 

Shortly after he was hired as director of the California Term Limits Defense Fund, in an early June interview in Jon Fleischmann’s Flash Report [], a California Republican blog, Bob Adney indicates that his experience in political action comes entirely outside of the Golden State. “I started my involvement in politics while in High School,” Adney says. “A teacher ran for mayor in Poughkeepsie, New York and I worked for her campaign. She was a Republican running in an overwhelming Democratic city and she won handily. It was a great experience and I realized then that I had been bitten by the political bug. I left New York and graduated from the University of Maryland. While in college, I volunteered and worked on numerous campaigns. I've worked in races on New York, Maryland, and Nevada. One of the political highlights of my career was running a state Senate campaign in Nevada in which a 20-year incumbent was unseated in a huge upset. I've also worked for the Nevada Legislature and on two initiative campaigns last year in Nevada.” 

The California Term Limits Defense Fund lists only a treasurer, Kelly Lawler of Willows, California (Glenn County, near Sacramento). Lawler shows up as treasurer on a number of Republican and conservative campaign committees including the Protect Our Homes Coalition that supported the Proposition 90 zoning law initiative in 2006 (its largest donors in the first quarter of 2006 were the Fund For Democracy of New York at $1.5 million and Montanans in Action at $600,000), and OCPAC, which supported conservative Republican Congressional candidates in the 2006 general election. 



The California Term Limits Defense Fund and its parent organization, the Term Limits America PAC, as well as the Term Limits America front man, Howard Rich, appear to be part of a complex interweaving of national conservative political action and funding organizations whose foundations and interconnections bloggers and newspapers have been trying, unsuccessfully, to unveil. 

From the Sept. 26, 2006 Sunlight Foundation website, a poster named “Mrs. Panstreppon” describes some of those organizations and their leaders: 

“Jackson Stephens … is the chairman and vice-president of Club For Growth.Net. Stephens also is the secretary and Howard Rich is the president of the Club For Growth State Action. 

“[The National Association for Workers And Employers Rights] [an anti-union organization] is headed by Richard Quinn Jr., a former South Carolinian state legislator whose father is Richard Quinn, a controversial political consultant who numbers John McCain among his clients. 

“William A. Wilson is NAWER's treasurer. Wilson serves as a director or officer for numerous conservative not-for-profits, often alongside Howard Rich. A partial list of some of those organizations: US Term Limits, US Term Limits Foundation, Term Limits America PAC, America At Its Best, Council For Responsible Government, Parents In Charge (formerly Legislative Action Drive),, and Foundation.” 

From the Center for Public Integrity in an Oct. 27, 2006 article by Josh Israel: 

“Reading the mountain of news stories about him this year, you’d have every reason to think that Howard Rich’s pockets—at least when it comes to his favorite political causes—are plenty deep. Many stories have suggested, for example, that Rich may have poured more than $10 million into ballot initiatives that will be put to voters on November 7. 

“’The property-rights movement, as it is known, has a major new benefactor—Howard Rich, a wealthy libertarian real estate investor from Manhattan,” The Washington Post recently reported. “He has spent millions—estimates run as high as $11 million—to support initiatives that will appear on ballots throughout much of the West. 

“But … reports filed with the Federal Election Commission from 1980 through October 2006, in fact, show only $190,050 in … contributions from Rich. More than a third of that amount went to two political groups that are connected to Rich’s own organizations. Over the years Rich has given a total of $25,500 to Term Limits America PAC [emphasis added], which is registered at the same address in Fairfax, Virginia, as William A. Wilson, a political consultant who’s an officer of at least five organizations that Rich leads.” 

From the July 6, 2006 BOREGASM blog on that year’s attempted term limitation initiative on the Oregon ballot: 

“Oregon has long been a laboratory for cranky zillionaires to perfect their electoral Frankensteins. The amount of money that pours into the state over “local” issues is often astonishing. So, while the focus is on the term limits crowd, what is happening is, in many ways, typical of the manner in which home rule is being poisoned by out-of-state money—and, as Follow The Money notes, over 90 percent of all races are decided by who has the most money. The voting part seems to have less and less to do with it. 

“Well, never fear. US Term Limits (and their PAC Term Limits America, founded and funded by Howard Rich) is willing to drop six figures any time that the Usual Suspects ask. And, as in 2004 (and 2002, 2000, 1998, 1996, 1994 and 1992), the vast majority of all monies have come from shadowy right-wing contributors from out of state. 

“As of the May 2006 campaign finance filing date, the Oregon Term Limits group [recorded] a donation of $5000 for legal fees … from “Americans for Limited Government” which has the same address as “US Tax Limits”—which is unsurprising, since both are chaired by the same gentleman, Howard Rich (no pun intended) who also serves on the Board of Directors of the (Libertarian) CATO Institute in Washington, D.C. ... Rich, a wealthy real estate developer, lives in New York.  

“… [T]he entire Oregon state donation to the $156,497.25 term limits war chest has been $947.23 (or 0.00605 or 0.6% of the total for the campaign thus far).”