For the second time in the 2018 campaign, the Richmond Progressive Alliance and/or its surrogates were found in blatant violation of Richmond campaign laws.
The first violation occurred on October 2018 by East Bay Working Families, a supposedly independent committee acting as a surrogate for the RPA. . See Surrogate for Richmond Progressive Alliance Found in Flagrant Violation of Campaign Law, October 24, 2018. On October 3, 2018, the Richmond City Attorney was notified of a campaign law violation of East Bay Working Families. The City Attorney’s Office “contacted the law firm representing East Bay Working Families and notified them that the mailer did not comply with the City’s municipal code. The organization’s attorney responded and acknowledged the non-compliance, apologized and indicated that they relied on an older version of the City’s campaign materials ordinance posted on the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) website. She agreed to immediately cease and desist from sending out the mailer and sent the city attorney a copy of an updated mailer that was in compliance with the City’s current requirements.
Unfortunately, the city attorney chose to simply admonish the violator instead of assessing a fine, essentially sending the message that violations are okay and will not be punished.
The second violation involved the RPA’s flagship campaign mailer, “The Richmond Sun” (see Snopes for the Richmond Sun, October 25, 2018), thinly disguised as a newspaper. The Richmond Sun originally filed with the FPPC as an independent committee but later switched over to being a recipient committee. The Richmond Sun lists its address as 2540 Macdonald, the same as the Richmond Progressive Alliance, and Michael Gliksohn, and RPA Steering Committee member as treasurer. Ada Recinos, Melvin Willis and Jovanka Beckles, featured in the Richmond Sun, are members of the Steering Committee of the Richmond Progressive Alliance (http://www.richmondprogressivealliance.net/rpa_membership_elects_new_steering_committee), and Eduardo Martinez is a member of the Richmond Progressive Alliance. All four had “ads” in the Richmond Sun. Major funding for The Richmond Sun came from Jovanka Beckles ($7,800), Ada Recinos ($2,400), Eduardo Martinez $2,500) and Melvin Willis ($2,500), for a total of $10,999 for the calendar year 2018 to date. The Richmond Sun, however, did not disclose the major donors as required by Richmond law.
The remaining contributions include $6,000 from Rebecca Vasquez, a prominent cannabis industry personality. In a Richmond Confidential article, “Court documents point to ‘pay to play’ scheme between marijuana dispensaries and City Council,” reporter Reis Thebault wrote, “In one of the documents, a sworn statement given to an RCCC attorney on Oct. 24, Richmond Police Sergeant Michael Rood recalled an April 2015 conversation with his colleague Detective Erik Oliver and Rebecca Vasquez, the president and executive director of Holistic Healing Collective dispensary. During this conversation, Rood said, Vasquez and an associate repeatedly bragged that they ‘pay the City Council to get what they want.’”
Following an investigation, the City Attorney’s Office announced the following on December 10, 2018:
Our office, primarily James Atencio under my supervision, analyzed the alleged violations and met with representatives of the Richmond Sun to gather more information on this matter. We found that that Richmond Sun did not comply with the Richmond Municipal Code (RMC) requirements regarding mass mailer disclosures. The Richmond Sun treasurer was cooperative throughout our review process and acknowledged the mass mailer violations when we provided him with our analysis. In accordance with the RMC, our office imposed a $1000 fine against the Richmond Sun, which was paid last week. We are pleased with this resolution and now consider this matter closed.
The Richmond Progressive Alliance continues to tout itself as a paragon of truth and transparency, when in fact, it is just the opposite.