A push poll sent by 2016 Oakland City Council candidate Peggy Moore made her opponent Rebecca Kaplan cry foul and received a stunning rebuke from Rep. Barbara Lee for including a claim that she had endorsed Moore’s upstart candidacy.
Now, the state Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) has weighed in, ruling Thursday that Moore violated the election code by failing to identify her campaign on two online mailings, including a public opinion survey, and proposing to fine her $2,500, according to the stipulation.
The maximum penalty allowed under the state Political Reform Act for campaign’s failing to properly identify the sender of a political mass mailing is $5,000 per violation.
The FPPC appeared willing to consider a larger fine, before relenting. “Here, the seriousness of the violations are heightened by the number of mass mailings, which evidences a pattern of non-disclosure. However, Respondents do not have a prior history of other violations of the Act,” according to the ruling.
The FPPC issued the ruling nearly a year and a half after Kaplan filed a complaint just prior to Election Day in November 2016, which Kaplan won re-election for the at-large council seat with 52 percent of the vote. Moore garnered just 20 percent.
The offending poll peppered Oakland voters with positive statements about Moore and unflattering descriptions of Kaplan. The poll then asked respondents to rank statements on a scale of 1-7 based on the likelihood they would vote for Moore.
“Peggy Moore will push to implement restorative justice practices to improve Oakland’s capacity to mediate and mitigate conflict outside of our already overburdened criminal justice system;” said the online poll, according to the FPPC ruling. “While current councilmember Rebecca Kaplan likes to talk about change, she has few real accomplishments to show from her 15 years as a politician.”
The poll erroneously claimed Moore, who is a former aide to Mayor Libby Schaaf, had received the endorsements of Lee and Assemblymember Tony Thurmond.
Lee refuted the endorsement claim and then a week later reiterated her intentions in a campaign press release. “Congresswoman Barbara Lee has not endorsed Peggy Moore in the Oakland City Council at large race nor does she intend to endorse Peggy Moore,” said Lee. “Any indication to the contrary is simply false.” Thurmond also denied making an endorsement.
EMC Research, a well-known Oakland-based pollster took responsibility for the inclusion of the false Lee and Thurmond endorsements. According to finance records, Moore’s campaign paid $15,000 for the polling.