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Oakland Council Candidates’ Finance Statements Reveal Big Spenders, Large Campaign Debts




Campaign finance statements of Oakland City Council candidates were officially released last week, revealing large unpaid expenses in at least one campaign and heavy contributions by real estate developers and the police union in others. 


The election for the citywide at-large position may be the most contentious race in City Council, with widely popular incumbent Rebecca Kaplan facing off against well-connected political newcomer Peggy Moore.


Kaplan’s campaign has raised $101,734 since January and has a significant financial lead over Moore, who has raised $52,429 since August. Yet Moore has been spending much more than she has raised.


When Moore’s campaign finance report was filed, her campaign had $62,364 in unpaid bills to vendors for ads and to her consultant.


“I feel very confident without a doubt that we will raise the funds (to pay this off),” Moore told the Post. “I’ve never run a campaign that was in debt.”


Meanwhile, political observers are questioning whether the unpaid bills have exceeded a 45-day limit, converting them into campaign contributions under California law, which would surpass legal contribution limits for individual businesses.


“The question is, what’s the plan?” said civil rights attorney Dan Siegel. “Is it (the business’) intent to give her this contribution, and does Moore intend to pay them back?”


Moore defended her campaign’s financial validity, telling the Post, “We’re within our 45-day window and have not done anything wrong or unethical at all.”


The Post attempted to speak to Madison Street Press, EMC Research and SCN Strategies—businesses that Moore’s campaign owed thousands of dollars—but they either did not return calls or would not comment on the debts.


Meanwhile, Rebecca Kaplan’s largest campaign contributor has been herself, giving her own campaign $20,000 between January and June and an additional $24,000 between July and September.


In District 3, progressive Noni Session is campaigning to unseat Lynette McElhaney, who has raised considerably more campaign funds than Session.


Since January 2016, McElhaney has raised $51,656. Her campaign raised $10,709 in the July to September period.


Nearly half of McElhaney’s campaign contributions, roughly $22,000 out of the $51,656 raised—or 44 percent, come from real estate developers and the construction industry.


McElhaney did not respond to the Post’s request for a statement about whether these funds would impact her decisions on tenants’ rights issues and providing affordable housing in West Oakland.


Session told the Post that these large contributions are indicative of McElhaney’s approach of meeting and making decisions with large-scale developers behind closed doors.


Meanwhile, Session raised $7,429 between July and September, running a grassroots campaign that relies on volunteers.


“We’ve been making a lot of headway without big dollars, and I’m super proud of that,” Session said.


Campaign filings also reveal that the Oakland police union has been spending big to unseat City Council incumbents.


So far, the Oakland Police Officers Association has donated $16,800 on mail ads to unseat District 5 Councilmember Noel Gallo and $12,800 on mail ads opposing District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb.


Both council members played significant roles in getting the police commission— known as Measure LL— through the City Council and onto the November ballot.


“When it comes to the police commission, you have to remember that I am elected to represent the public—not the police union,” Gallo told the Post. “At the end of the day, the citizens requested that we establish a police commission.”


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