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The Island comments: Enough is enough

Submitted by on 1, October 27, 2010 – 5:00 am21 Comments

Late Tuesday afternoon someone forwarded me an e-mail from a JHayes from Taxpayer Network, an anonymously funded nonprofit “education” group that has been filling local voters’ mailboxes with attacks on elected leaders who are running for local office.

“Dear fellow Alamedan,” the three-paragraph missive from a purported member of the group – which has been using the Rocklin address of a Republican political consultant on its mailers – began, “Economic times are tough in our city and we need the City Council to enact ordinances to create jobs; not their votes to shut jobs out.”

In the two paragraphs that followed, JHayes took Vice Mayor (and mayoral candidate) Doug deHaan to task for votes he cast on the Alameda Theatre & Cineplex and parking garage redevelopment project. And it urged voters to contact deHaan about his votes – at home.

The e-mail was the latest dirty trick in a campaign that could go down as the dirtiest in Alameda’s history. And that’s really saying a lot.

Alameda has had what one might generously call a colorful history when it comes to electoral politics in which attacks, some outright false and others deeply personal, are nothing new. But candidates and local political watchers say they’ve never seen anything like what we are experiencing now. And they say outside money – some of which, or perhaps all of which, is being spent by the developer city officials once hoped would revitalize Alameda Point – is to blame.

The unprecedented flood of robocalls, phony fliers, nasty mailers and television ads – and let’s not forget those fake-addressed contribution checks – have proved an epic distraction from our issues, which even SunCal’s spokesman, David Soyka, told The Island that voters should be focusing their attention on: Pension reform, a balanced city budget, attracting business, government transparency, enhancing our quality of life.

Instead of bringing you a report on what happened at Tuesday night’s school board meeting – where hundreds of Alamedans turned out to express their concerns about proposed school closures and the shuttering of Encinal and Emma Hood swim centers – I am talking to you about yet another dirty campaign trick, with little to offer about who is responsible. I called every Alameda number for a J Hayes I could find, and so far no one has claimed responsibility.

Taxpayer Network all but brags on its website that its donors and expenditures are secret, because they are not, by the letter of the law, advocating for or against candidates. But no one can deny their attacks are having an impact on our election. Even candidates I have talked to who some might assume are benefiting from the dirty tactics being employed have said they are disgusted by what’s going on. And they, too, want it to stop.

So I have a message for voters who may be disenchanted with the current state of Alameda politics and the flood of outside money being directed at our local elections, one that you are free to consider “educational” that won’t show up on any campaign disclosure form:

“Taxpayer Network and SunCal have spent unknown sums of money playing dirty politics with Alameda’s election. Call them at (916) 626-6804 or (949) 777-4000 and tell them to stop wasting our time with their mailers, tricks and TV ads.”

You can also let these folks know you want them to stop poisoning our local elections with their dirty campaign tactics by signing this editorial along with us, in the comments section below.


  • Jack Boeger says:

    Great article Michele and I’m on board….


  • Les Baroni says:

    Jack, I’m with you! Let’s try to get everyone to make phone calls to the numbers listed and tell them to get out!!!!!

    As Michele said: “Call them at (916) 626-6804 or (949) 777-4000 and tell them to stop wasting our time with their mailers, tricks and TV ads.”

    Call now!!!!!

  • Jeff Ward says:

    Whoever is calling the shots at Suncal must not be very bright. They have certainly misjudged the unique community dynamics in Alameda where involved citizens can call shenanigans and the word gets out quickly. Their hamfisted vendetta will only put their reputation farther down the toilet for future prospective developments, and they have relegated their status in this town to that of a boorish troll who doesn’t know when to leave.

    Bye bye, Suncal!

  • David Howard says:

    The whole ‘taxpayer network’ campaign – presumably funded by SunCal/SCC Alameda Point LLC/Argent Management which is trying to eliminate opposition to their plans from the City Council and City Manager’s office – is so over the top as to be ludicrously transparent. Apart from that, it echoes SunCal’s tactics during the Measure B campaign, and we know how that turned out for SunCal.

    While I welcome your call for an end to the dirty tricks Michele, I note that this is at least the second time that you have re-published in your reporting the Taxpayer Network’ political message. I’ve no doubt they appreciate that.

  • Liz Barrett says:

    Taxpayer Network is just another national right-wing propaganda machine that uses a national stockpile of contributions to interfere in local politics. Their message is hate, pure and simple. They are responsible for many of the negative attack ads on Democratic candidates in every state and locale. They claim to be against central government but they are a central machine that attacks local and state governments. Hypocrites. Liars. Go away. Hands off Alameda.

  • Darcy Morrison says:

    This is a great response, Michele, and a well-written editorial. Thanks very much!

  • Suzanne Lindsey says:

    Thank you! Well done Michele.

  • Richard Bangert says:

    Soyka’s statement telling us where we should focus our attention is hypocritical. He made this statement even as his company uploaded professional videos that appeared ready to air on television.

    Thirty-second and 15-second videos saying “paid for by Taxpayer Network” promoting Lena Tam and “Paid for by SunCal LLC” targeting Frank Matarrese appeared yesterday on the adamsturner YouTube channel.

    This is the same channel where SunCal posted its Measure B promotional videos.

    The entire catalog of videos on the adamsturner channel was pulled shortly after TheIsland story appeared today.

    But screen shots exist that leave no doubt about SunCal’s connection with Taxpayer Network.

  • charlie taylor says:

    Emailing a candidate’s home phone number to voters is totally, absolutely wrong. I may not agree with most of Doug DeHaan’s decisions on the City Council, but in this case he has every right to be outraged. I’ve made my calls to the Taxpayer Network and SunCal, telling them to stop adding to our already negative political discourse.

  • Jon Pecson says:

    Thank you Michele for taking the time to put this together.
    As with many Alameda residents, and the 85% who rejected SunCal, sI ee the efforts of SunCal to discredit Alameda officials as unacceptable.

    I encourage everyone to call these numbers and tell them that this is unacceptable and not wanted.

    I have already called both numbers and will call again every day until the election is over.
    Having stayed up to watch the discussion on opening the Ema Hood swimming pool to the residents and children of Alameda made my family realize that your opinion and voice does count in Alameda.
    Thanks to the city council members and the mayor and the voting residents who stood up against SunCal.

  • Rosemary McNally says:

    In response to an earlier post today: “Tell them to stop adding to our already negative political discourse.”

    Huh? Great real.

    SunCal and their assorted crew members, both in and out of Alameda caused and started this dirty negative campaigning. They started it when they started collecting signatures in March/April 2009. And they continue shovelling a daily barrage of dirt.

  • Adam Gillitt says:

    To SunCal and those they pay to do their dirty work at the Taxpayers Network:

    Your brand of politics is what I stand against- the fear-mongering, insider-club influencing and behind the scenes string-pulling that leaves the voice of the Citizens out of their own government.

    You have already been told twice that you’re not wanted in Alameda: first at the polls, and then by City Council. When I’m elected, you can be sure I’ll tell you a third, a fourth, a fifth… how ever many times it takes for you to realize that you’re not wanted here, and your attempts at influence are equally unwelcome.

    Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence this election is not going to help your cause to come back to Alameda or change anyone’s mind about how corrupt and evil a company you are.

  • Elisabeth Eliassen says:

    I have never experienced this in all my years as a voter. The torture will be over after election day, but that isn’t coming soon enough.

  • Jon Spangler says:

    I just called the political consultants you listed at (916) 626-6804. The woman who answered the phone said,” We have nothing to do with that” and hung up.

    Not that I would expect transparency out of SunCal/Argent…

    In any case, it is also important for all of us to take a deep breath and put aside all the Taxpayer Network and/or SunCal/Argent propaganda when it comes to voting.

    There is absolutely no one in Alameda who is benefiting from all these independent expenditures. Period. We all need to take a deep breath and focus on which candidates will serve Alameda best over the next few years. That is what i have done all along, and I highly recommend the approach.

  • Irene Dieter says:

    The reason SunCal is spending so much money on its smear campaign is because candidates DO benefit from it.

    In the mayor’s race, SunCal obviously wants Marie Gilmore to prevail at the ballot box because it has targeted Matarrese and deHaan.

    SunCal has especially gone after Matarrese because he will stand up to them, and they don’t want to see him anymore. deHaan still has two years left on the council regardless of the outcome of the election.

    In the council race, the obvious recipient of SunCal’s expenditures is Lena Tam. SunCal has put out ads favoring her.

    People reading this news blog might not be influenced, but there are thousands in town who could be.

  • StevenGerstle says:

    It is also important to note that Marie Gilmore’s largest donation is from one of the members of SunCal’s advisory committee for Measure B. Chris Seiwald, owner of Perforce Software, donated $10,000 to Marie Gilmore’s mayoral campaign.

  • Kate Quick says:

    It is also important to note that Gilmore, Tam and Bonta have all clearly said many times that they wish SunCal would “butt out” of our campaign and don’t like being tarred with accusations that somehow they are behind this stupid stuff. Every time a new one comes up the fingers start pointing. They don’t want it; don’t like it and have told the “originators” to cut it out.

  • Aidan Barry says:

    Michele, awesome editorial. We all have one thing in common, we all look forward to November 3rd. I have full confidence that Alameda voters will do what is right for Alameda. Public debate of the issues is healthy, 95% of the robo calls and tv spots have been destructive to the individuals involved as well as to the election process. Breathe, think and vote for those who will support and do right for Alameda. We have a great town.

  • William Smith says:

    Sign me on to your excellent editorial as well. As a community, let’s show SunCal and the TaxPayer Network at the ballot box that Alamedans choose candidates based on their stance on issues and on their competence. We know our community well enough to discount such smear campaigns as SunCal and TaxPayer network are waging.

  • David Howard says:

    Kate Quick – When Lena Tam was caught holding inethical, if not illegal, serial council meetings with other members of City Council (Marie Gilmore) and caught sharing with SunCal confidential City of Alameda documents regarding negotiations with the developer, she and her local supporters spun it – cynically, I might add – as Lena Tam demonstrating open, honest, transparent government, etc.

    What is happening with The Taxpayer Network is anything but honest and transparent, and goes against what Lena Tam says she stands for.

    Rob Bonta has said he won’t take developer money in this race. But clearly, there is a lot of developer money being spent to get him elected.

  • Brian Harmon says:

    I’ve been outraged since the first robocall.

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