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November 05, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, November 05, 2004

Special interests little factor in election Special interests little factor in election (November 05, 2004)

Perry, not firefighters, in center of controversy

By Jon Wiener

Two years after two special interest groups together spent more than $31,500 in support of city council candidates, the campaigns have changed.

The final pre-election campaign finance reports filed with the city clerk on Oct. 28 showed that candidates still poured thousands of dollars into fliers and newspapers ads. But conspicuously absent from this year's race were the large amounts of special interest money that created a stir in 2002.

The local firefighters' political action committee spent more than $15,000 in 2002 on mailers and lawn signs. But despite having a similar amount in the bank at the start of this year's race, the union spent only $2,500. At the filing deadline, the firefighters reported a campaign account of $12,382.

Scott Williams, the union's political director, said the union had no specific plans for spending the money but would consider using it on future elections or legislative bills, for example.

Of the four candidates the union endorsed, only Laura Macias accepted a donation from the group. The union also made $1,000 contributions to the campaigns of state Assembly member Sally Lieber and state Senator-elect Elaine Alquist.

"We were a major player in this one, too. You just didn't see it," said Williams. According to Williams, over 60 firefighters walked precincts for the candidates, particularly for Nick Galiotto and Matt Pear, both of whom had requested help on that front.

Mailer dispute inflames race's final days

Two independent mailers that were sent by outside interest groups late last week created a mild controversy when Council member Greg Perry accused candidates of illegally cooperating with the groups.

The first mailer, from the County Democratic Committee, endorsed a slate of candidates and measures that included Macias and Margaret Abe-Koga. A second, from the South Bay Labor Council, endorsed Abe-Koga and Stephanie Schaaf.

He suggested that Abe-Koga in particular had illegally supplied the groups with a campaign photo and had known in advance about the mailers, charges she denied.

Perry, who was involved with Schaaf's campaign and did not accuse her of wrong-doing, apologized for implicating Macias after she called him to deny the charges.

Perry criticized the outside groups, which do not need to abide by the city's campaign spending limits, for getting involved in what is typically a nonpartisan race.

Candidates near spending limit

Some of the candidates had raised more money than they had agreed to spend by Oct. 26, the last day they could accept contributions. Others still had several thousand dollars left in their bank account with little time left to use it.

Schaaf began fund-raising in late spring and raised the most of any candidate, reaching $17,009, just over the voluntary spending limit of $16,882. Schaaf limited each of her contributions to $250 and, with the exception of a donation from the Santa Clara County Green Party, only accepted donations from individuals.

Pear raised $16,275 and still had $6,219 in the bank when he filed his report.

Abe-Koga raised $15,632. After spending $2,800 on the mailer from her county school board campaign account, Abe-Koga said she would count that amount toward her total contributions.

Galiotto raised $14,934, and refused donations from local groups including the firefighters union and the city's service employee's union, SEIU Local 715.

Macias raised $11,782.

Tom Means, the only candidate who did not agree to the voluntary spending limit, had raised the least, with $5,787. More than a third of that amount -- $2,000 -- was a personal loan he gave his campaign. As of the latest filing deadline, his campaign had spent $25 more than he had raised.

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