MEASURE A: Campaigns accuse each other of improprieties
CLARIFICATION: The Island reported on March 3 that opponents of the Measure A school parcel tax announced February 27 that they had filed a complaint against Alameda schools Superintendent Kirsten Vital and Measure A supporters claiming campaign improprieties. The Island has since received a copy of the complaint, which was signed and dated March 4.
Principals of the Measure A school parcel tax campaigns have filed complaints with the state’s campaign watchdog accusing each other of improprieties. Each has denied wrongdoing.
Alameda SOS chairman Michael Robles-Wong filed a complaint with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission on February 23 alleging that the Committee Against Measure A illegally issued robocalls to voters that failed to identify who paid for the calls.
The Committee Against Measure A announced on Sunday that Leland Traiman, one of the leaders of that campaign, had filed an FPPC complaint against two pro-A campaign principals; the campaign’s political consultants; Alameda schools Superintendent Kirsten Vital; and Gray Harris, the teacher who appears in one of the ads, claiming the district subsidized SOS’s campaign efforts by providing classroom space and a teacher for a campaign mailer in violation of state law.
Representatives with the Committee Against Measure A didn’t provide a copy of the complaint when a reporter requested it.
A spokesperson for Alameda SOS called Traiman’s claims “baseless” and said the campaign has complied with the law, and Vital denied the district provided the pro-A campaign free space or a teacher. She said the campaign requested, paid for and received a permit to shoot their photos after school hours.
A copy of a permit supplied by the school district shows that the campaign paid a charge of $12.25 to access a room at Otis Elementary School between 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. December 9, 2010 for a photo shoot. The district also supplied a copy of a second permit for another photo shoot at Alameda High School on the afternoon of December 10.
“The photos were not taken during the school day and no public funds were used to create the campaign flyer,” Vital said. “SOS, or any other community organization, may apply for use of district facilities pursuant to the Civic Center Act and Board Policy.”
When asked whether Measure A’s opponents broke the law, Traiman said that mistakes made by volunteer campaign activists are “understandable” but said no state laws were broken by the Committee Against Measure A because the calls came from out of state.
“Robocalls originating in California are prohibited. If they originate from outside the state they are not. California regulators have no jurisdiction over calls which originate from out of state or else those calls would also be prohibited,” Traiman said.
He said he paid for the calls independent of the campaign, supplying a reporter a copy of a to-be-filed disclosure form dated Wednesday that listed the calls as an independent expenditure.
A call received by a reporter at her home Thursday included a message saying it had been paid for by Traiman. Earlier anti-A calls the reporter received at home did not say who paid for them.
State law prohibits campaigns from making mass phone calls without disclosing who paid for or authorized the calls. Robles-Wong’s complaint says that Traiman, who is identified in the complaint as the secretary of the Committee Against Measure A, told participants in a February 22 public forum that he paid for the calls “but that he had not included identifying information because he was being charged by the word and including the identifying information would have been too expensive.”
Winning Calls, the Colorado-based firm that was used to make the calls, requires campaigns that use its services to sign a disclaimer saying they are conducting their campaign legally, its website says. An FPPC spokesperson said that while the department can’t comment on a specific situation, as a general rule committees are prohibited from contracting with any phone bank vendor that doesn’t disclose the information required by state law.
Violations of campaign finance laws carry penalties of up to $5,000 each, the FPPC spokesperson said. The state law that prohibits school districts from supplying funds, services, supplies or equipment to urge support or defeat of a ballot measure carries a fine of up to $1,000 and possible jail time for violators.
Committee Against Measure A spokesman David Howard filed a similar complaint against the school district in 2010, alleging it illegally used public funds to pay for mailers supporting the Measure E parcel tax campaign. The FPPC closed the case without charges, saying that while some the language used in the mailer was “inflammatory,” it didn’t “fall squarely within the parameters of a prohibited mailing.”