Political Action Committee Must File with City of Berkeley

By Judith Scherr
Friday September 07, 2007

Business for Better Government, the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee, should file its campaign disclosure forms in Berkeley and not with Alameda County as it has done since 2002, an Aug. 15 letter from the state Fair Political Practices Commission says. 

To correct the error, the PAC will have to re-file the disclosure forms with the city. 

“My feeling is that we’ve got to follow the law—and we will,” Ted Garrett, new executive director of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce told the Daily Planet. Garrett was not with the local chamber when the PAC filings were done and was only marginally familiar with the issue. When contacted Wednesday by the Planet, he had not received a copy of the FPPC  


“If we need to change the way we file, I’ll let the PAC board know, ‘here’s what we’ve got to do,’” he said. 

On May 30, Deputy City Attorney Kristy van Herick wrote to the state Fair Political Practices Commission asking if the BBG should have filed with the city, given that the PAC’s only out-of city contribution was a $500 donation to a state assembly race. It spent more than $100,000 on various Berkeley campaigns in 2006. 

The question is important, according to Berkeley Fair Campaign Practices Commission Chair Eric Weaver, because of the differences in the way the city and county inform the public of the sources of funds from a candidate or committee. Berkeley campaign finance laws mandate that the city post the source of funds on the Internet and in newspapers, but to see reports of candidates and committees who file with the county, one must go to the County Registrar’s Office in downtown Oakland during business hours. 

The letter to van Herick from Scott Hallabrin, general counsel to the state FPPC, concludes: “The history of the PAC you have provided covers the five years (and three election cycles) covering 2002 through 2006. During that time, all but approximately 0.4 percent of the money the PAC has spent (for non-administrative purposes) has been spent on multiple candidates, measures or committees in city-only related elections. This extra-city activity by the PAC does not constitute “regular’ contributions, or a ‘significant degree’ of involvement in non-City campaigns. Therefore, the single, $500 contribution the PAC made to a non-City candidate should be deemed de minimis and the PAC (at this point) should be deemed a ‘city general purpose committee.’” 

Weaver said future commission action would depend on whether the PAC contests the ruling. If it does not, then the commission could ask the PAC to file locally. In that case, the PAC can be charged late fees of $10 per day, but only up to $100 he said.  

The commission will likely discuss the state letter either at its September or October meeting, Weaver said.