Inside the Hit Piece Last Summer Against Rebecca Kaplan

In late June, just as Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan was beginning her mayoral campaign, there came news of a particularly damning article in the Oakland Tribune alleging campaign finance rules may have been broken by her mayoral campaigns, this year and in 2010. The allegation Kaplan used money from a committee created to support a citywide transportation measure to pay the salary of some staffers on her mayoral campaign, at first, appeared to have had legs and might even bring an embarrassing fine from the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). Afterwards, the FPPC chose not to investigate the complaint. However, last month it sent the Kaplan campaign notice it had received new, unspecified information regarding the allegation. There may still be nothing to the claim, but how did the story first surfaced and who was behind it seeing the light of day?

Rebecca Kaplan announcing her run for Oakland 
mayor last June. PHOTO/Steven Tavares

In the weeks preceding the article, pressure was building over the issue from within the Oakland City Council, also referenced in the article, and led by Council President Pat Kernighan and Councilmember Libby Schaaf, who like Kaplan, is a strong mayoral candidate this fall. In fact, the issue of Kaplan’s Measure F account had been circulated by Schaaf’s campaign since, at least April, according to sources. The Tribune’s Matthew Artz was offered the story, in addition to San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson and others.

Schaaf’s campaign may have anticipated springing the story on the public through the press in order to coincide with Kaplan’s campaign announcement or even a few days before as an attempt to dissuade her from entering the race. Instead, Kaplan may have unwittingly thrown Schaaf’s timing off when she made the announcement in early-June on a downtrodden street corner in East Oakland. Two weeks later, the Tribune story was published. But, it wasn’t an example of journalistic sleuthing, by any means, but a good-old fashioned political attack. Until now, Schaaf has been able to sidestep any speculation it was her campaign behind the hit.

One of the political hit man in the Measure F story are two former Kaplan staff members who now support Schaaf’s campaign. Conspicuously buried in the Tribune article is Jonathan Bair, who worked for Kaplan’s mayoral campaign and worked on Measure F only after the November election. Bair’s inclusion in the article seems superfluous unless you know it was him, and another former Kaplan campaign staffer named Scott Hawkins (also in the Trib article), who was proffering information on Kaplan. Bair told The Citizen last month he is not affiliated with Schaaf’s campaign. But, just days after publication of the article, Bair and Hawkins, both communication consultants, were putting their money where their mouth is. Bair contributed $100 of his $300 total in donations to Schaaf’s campaign on June 30, a week after Hawkins added $150 to Schaaf’s campaign ledger on June 22, according to finance records.

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Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore

AVOIDING THE QUESTIONS Do you know what is not a good look for a candidate? Evasion, or, the perception of publicly dodging a question. Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore is up for re-election. She’s also a lawyer and on Thursday night at a candidates forum, she and other members of the Island’s powerful firefighters’ union slate of candidates unleashed a novel trick for evading difficult questions. Say you can’t answer a question because you might one day be asked to decide its merits, if elected to the Council. Gilmore, Councilmember Stewart Chen and council candidate Jim Oddie all used variations of the gambit to avoid answering some of Alameda’s toughest questions. Theoretically, a candidate could employ this legal-sounding method to avoid answering every thorny question. Afterwards, in an interview, Gilmore said she wants to keep an open mind on issues such as the proposed replacement of the popular Harbor Bay Club with new homes. Meanwhile, another well-worn strategy was also used to avoid a question on renters’ rights in Alameda: just say you need more time and information to make a decision.

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Carole Rogers

TRIUMPHANT RETURN? Legitimately there is about three people who can rightfully boast they saved San Leandro Hospital from closure last year. Unequivocally, one of those people would be former Eden Township Healthcare District board member Carole Rogers. She resigned earlier this year for a move to Palm Springs. Now, the retired registered nurse is hoping for a return to public service–this time at SoCal’s Desert Healthcare District. Rogers is running for a seat on the district’s board of directors this November and the local hospital provider, Tenet Healthcare, better be on its toes if she is elected. Just ask Sutter Health, which tried to close San Leandro Hospital in 2009 and would have been successful in doing so, if Rogers had not lead the charge to stop them. In fact, during my five years of covering politics in the East Bay, no other public official has come close to showing more courage and determination for the weakest among us than Rogers and her fight for that hospital. In a perfect world, there should be a statue of Rogers in front of San Leandro Hospital.

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Oakland’s Dana King gets an A for effort.

HERE AND THERE Even though experts continually say the chances of the Ebola virus wreaking havoc in the U.S. is very small, that isn’t stopping Rep.Eric Swalwell from trying to scare constituents in the East Bay. In 9/11 fashion, he tweeted Monday, “Congress should act on #Ebola aid b/c people in Africa are in need. And it’s only a 10 hour airplane ride from our shore.” Yikes!…No surprise here that AC Transit At-Large board member Joel Young ditched a League of Women Voters forum last week. Although there is probably no reason for the incumbent to engage his opponents in the race, Young also found it difficult to find time to debate during his infamous run two years ago for the 18th Assembly District…

Not many people know Rebecca Kaplan, the frontrunner, according to polls, in the big Oakland mayor’s race spent a good portion of her formative years in Toronto, which may account for why she seems like such a nice person, eh…Polls in Oakland say former KPIX anchor Dana King has a very good shot at winning election to the City Council. She’s a total political novice, but give her credit for this: even when the campaign event/forum is for another race, King is often in attendance–soaking it all in…Don’t like ranked-choice voting? Then here’s how you wish for its demise after this year. Imagine the hackles that would be heard in Oakland if Mayor Jean Quan wins re-election in a similar come-from-behind scenario to four years ago? Imagine if San Leandro, which also uses RCV, somehow elects a mayoral candidate in Dan Dillman, who spent over two months in jail this summer? Either scenario, but especially the first, would mean curtains for RCV in the East Bay…Meanwhile, Dillman has been all over the news getting his name out there, while his two opponents from the City Council are doing a very San Leandro thing—running for office as if it were a secret.

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