When former Oakland baseball slugger Mark McGwire was confronted by a congressional committee about his steroid-fueled record-setting, he famously said, “I’m not here to talk about the past.” Now Oakland Tribune reporter Josh Richman does a depressing piece about how Oakland political slugger Don Perata is using a proposition campaign as a full employment scheme for his cronies, and Richman doesn’t even give the context that shows this isn’t the first time Perata has been down this path. Instead, all he writes is that “Perata and some of his political associates were the subjects of a five-year-long FBI corruption probe, which ended in 2009 without … charges ever filed.” Sheesh. Josh Richman apparently isn’t here to talk about the past.
Details on the former state Senate president’s latest scheme:
One of Perata’s current employees [at his consulting firm]… has been paid by Californians for a Cure. Anne Willcoxon, 58, of Moraga, has been paid $27,760 since last May, with the lion’s share of that – $15,000 – paid in the first two months of this year under the designation “campaign consultants.” …
The Sacramento consulting business of former Perata staffer Sandi Polka has been paid $53,887.03 since the beginning of 2011.
Chris Lehman, a former Perata staffer, has been paid $47,196.04 in the past year, mostly for campaign consulting, including more than $19,000 so far in 2012.
Maurice Williams, another of Perata’s state Senate aides, has been paid $32,000 by Californians for a Cure since last June, including $7,000 in this year’s first two months, for campaign consulting and fundraising.
Rhys Williams, who was Perata’s [Oakland] mayoral campaign press secretary, is now the ballot measure’s online campaign director; he has been paid $60,250 since last June, including $18,250 so far in 2012.
Stephene DeHerrera, who worked on Perata’s mayoral campaign while a fellow at The Organizing and Leadership Academy [TOLA] in Oakland, has been paid $13,073.34 since November for campaign consulting and fundraising.
TOLA is run by veteran political consultant Larry Tramutola, who helped run Perata’s 2010 mayoral campaign. Californians for a Cure has paid Tramutola $86,546.00 since last June, mostly for campaign consulting.
This is probably all legal, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t reek, especially because it fits Perata’s M.O. Here’s what I wrote about that M.O. back in 2008:
The Oakland Democrat is the focus of a lengthy FBI probe. But what has long been on the public record already documents how Perata has used politics to methodically enrich himself and his family.
Son Nick Perata, a campaign consultant, was paid at least $700,000 from 1999 to 2003 by political groups with ties to his father. Over the same time span, the son paid his father more than $137,000 for “rent.”
From 2000 to 2004, Don Perata’s college roommate, political consultant Tim Staples, received $313,000 from campaigns affiliated with the elder Perata. Don Perata got about $100,000 a year over the same period from Staples for mysterious consulting work.
This may be legal, but it reeks. Yet few seem to care in Perata’s home district — or in Sacramento. Term limits are the only reason Perata is in his last months as Senate leader, and the California Democratic Party has given $450,000 to his legal defense fund.
Talk about jaded. It appears other state politicians don’t look down on Perata’s self-enrichment schemes, but rather envy them.
There was also this amazing story from the East Bay Express in 2006, about Perata using an inexplicable bid for a Board of Equalization seat as a way to obtain nearly $300,000 in you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours donations from powerful special interests to pay his legal bills in the FBI probe:
But just so’s we’re clear, the Don has done nothing illegal — at least not until the FBI proves otherwise. He can set up a committee to run for an office that anyone who knows his career could not possibly expect him to be satisfied with. He can set up the committee four years before the election, long before any other politician would do so. He can take almost three hundred thousand dollars contributed for the express purpose of helping him run for office, and he can quietly redirect it to a fund set up to help him fight a federal investigation on charges that he accepted kickbacks and laundered illegal proceeds. And he never has to return the money. It’s all perfectly legal. It’s even a work of art, if you like that sort of thing.
Now had part or all of this background been included in Richman’s account, wouldn’t it have made it much more clear what’s going on here? Wouldn’t it have better told the story of who Don Perata is?
Of course and of course.
I know people who think highly of Richman. But I don’t get his priorities. In Richman’s story, he goes all out to include hyperlinks to Linked In accounts to confirm what he’s saying — the people listed have links to Perata. That’s all well and good, yet it’s not remotely as important as pointing out the similarity of the Oakland slugger’s present scheme to the one that had the FBI looking at him for years, and to the shameless way he funded his defense lawyers in the FBI probe.
200 words detailing Perata’s history would have made it clear that we’re looking at the same-old, same-old here — essentially, a legal form of political corruption being practiced by a pol with a long history of sleaziness, someone who wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if he had any conscience at all.
Instead, we get one sentence about the FBI dropping its probe. Josh Richman, this is an epic fail.
C. Reed: World Ombudsman