Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2016  
  < RETURN  
  Follow the RPA Money
November 6, 2016

In 2014, Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Richmond Confidential may be one of the most important newsgathering enterprises in the country right now,” for their in depth coverage of the Richmond 2014 election, something that no other media outlet was doing – or is doing even today. Richmond Confidential runs on a shoestring and features reporting by students at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism while providing practical experience for its students.

Richmond Confidential broke the story about Chevron’s massive cash infusion into the 2014 election, and in 2016, the on-line news source is once again tracking the money that is fueling the Richmond City Council campaign.

Chevron is now old news. There are new deep pockets in town, and they belong to the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA). As you can see from the chart below (see for the interactive chart), RPA candidates “Choi and Willis have more out-of-state contributions than any other candidate.”

But that is just part of the story. Choi and Willis are also backed (not shown on the charts) by the cash-rich SuperPAC, “Richmond Working Families,” that has already reported raising $125,000 and spending $23,777.74 on Ben Choi, $23,777.74 on Melvin Willis and $42,632.15 to support Measure L. The money originates largely from outside Richmond and is funneled through the public employee union, SEIU. You can bet much more will be spent before election day.

Strangely enough, “Richmond Working Families” also spent $1,458.31 on a Mailer for....Corky Booze? What were they thinking?

If you were to add Richmond Working Families expenditures to the graphs, Choi and Willis would rise to being the top-funded candidates.

The RPA is a tightly knit and tightly controlled political machine – some compare it to a cult or a gang – that is governed by an elite 17-person steering committee who meet at its new office across from City Hall to consolidate their plan for a utopian Richmond – which you may or may not be  part of. The RPA campaign bank is the PAC, “Richmond Working Families,” funded largely by SEIU, which also pays the rent for the RPA office. SEIU is listed as an “allied organization” on the RPA Steering Committee and holds one of the powerful 17 seats.

Nearly one quarter of the RPA Steering Committee members are either already on the Richmond City Council or running for a seat on the City Council  – Jovanka Beckles, Eduardo Martinez, Ben Choi and Melvin Willis. Willis is also the roommate of RPA Steering Committee member and “coordinator” (co-chair) Marcos Banales.

If you want to cede control of Richmond to a handful of mostly unelected zealots funded and influenced by interests outside Richmond, vote the “Team Richmond” (RPA) slate. If you want a City Council made up of independent thinkers who listen to Richmond residents first , choose another candidate – so long as it is not Corky Booze.

Campaign contributions largely from outside Richmond, finance records show

Follow the RPA Money

By Lauren Schwartzman and Reis Thebault
Posted November 5, 2016 1:03 pm

Who’s your money on for the Richmond City Council election? And where are you from?

A local election doesn’t necessarily mean local money. In fact, as our interactive graph above shows, Vinay Pimplé is the only Richmond City Council candidate to have received the clear majority of his campaign contributions from Richmond donors.

When it comes to campaign funds from Richmond alone, the race is fairly close, with many candidates having received around $15,000 from supporters within the city limits.

It’s the money coming from outside Richmond that sets the candidates apart.

Nat Bates and Jael Myrick lead significantly in contributions from elsewhere in California, most notably Martinez and Oakland. Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) candidates Ben Choi and Melvin Willis received sizeable amounts from Sacramento, namely from the California Nurses Association, University of California employee union, and Service Employees International Union.

And then there’s the money from outside California.

Choi and Willis have more out-of-state contributions than any other candidate. As of Oct. 27, each had received nearly $5,000 through Our Revolution, the political non-profit started by Bernie Sanders supporters in the wake of Sanders’ campaign for president.

Our Revolution endorsed 104 candidates this year, “from U.S. Senate all the way to school board,” said the organization’s Political Outreach Manager, Erika Andiola.

Choi and Willis were included in an Oct. 12 Our Revolution email with seven other candidates from across the country. They received contributions from 48 states and Washington, D.C., plus France, Germany and Spain. Many contributions were small, amounting to as little as $1 each when divided among the candidates.

But Our Revolution’s outreach was not the only reason far-flung donors gave to Choi and Willis. Gabrielle Semel of Brooklyn, New York, donated $150 to each of them because she is a “big supporter of Bernie Sanders and his campaign,” and learned about Choi and Willis through friends who live in Richmond. Johanna

Brenner of Portland, Oregon, who also has friends in Richmond, said she sees the RPA as “a model for what we should be doing in other cities.” She donated $500 each to Choi and Willis.

The largest out-of-state contributions for Nat Bates, Corky Boozé, Jael Myrick and Cesar Zepeda were from Republic Services, the Phoenix, Arizona-based waste management company that serves Richmond.

For Bates, a long-time Richmond politician, this fundraising is just how the game is played.

“I take a position and people will make a contribution,” he said. “That’s the political process.”

Our Methods

To create this graph, we used contributions reported by candidates on campaign finance forms filed with the Richmond City Clerk’s office. Those forms do not require that contributions under $100 be itemized, so we contacted each candidate for information on contributions that fell under this amount. Some obliged; others did not.

We totaled contributions for each candidate by the cities in the donors’ addresses. For donations from Our Revolution, we grouped very small contributions by state, not city.

In some cases, the overall total we calculated for each candidate did not exactly match the overall total they reported on campaign finance forms filed with the city. In no case did the difference amount to more than $2,000.

If contributions are shown as “unspecified” in the graph above, that is because the candidate did not did not itemize that money on forms filed with the City Clerk, and either did not respond to our requests for information or chose not to disclose the requested information.