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MEASURE A: Campaigns accuse each other of improprieties

Submitted by on 1, March 3, 2011 – 12:02 am14 Comments

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.”


  • To sum up:

    Traiman and Howard (ostensibly CAMA) have released a ginned up press release masquerading as a complaint (a frequent and ongoing tactic) that has no basis in fact or law and scream indignicantly about it.

    Alameda SOS files a complaint without the hoopla, it is about an actual violation of law that even CAMA isn’t trying to deny.

    Doesn’t seem that these two filings are equal in validity at all.

    Howard and Traiman sent out press releases earlier in the year stating that FPPC had claimed AUSD had violated the law, when, as you report above, they found the opposite. The growing credibility gap between the two campaigns is interesting to watch.

  • John says:

    Seems to me that both of this entire special (meaning expensive) election, and both campaigns are a waste of money that would have been better spent trying to actually improve the schools (which are not that great, despite one campaign’s claims that they are).

    • John Corbally, PhD says:

      John – Do you think those of us working 70 hrs a week for a pittance teaching kids want to spend our spare time (and money) on this? Its a necessity, not a pastime. And the comment on the schools being ‘not that great’ is vague to put it mildly. They aren’t as bad as those in Libya. Their not as good as those in Sweden or Japan. Point is, they need to be funded, and the selfish, usually 50-yr-oldish, well to do, ill-educated breadheads working against it don’t need schools anymore, so they don’t care. The next generation do need them, and Measure A is our only method of working to help give kids what we all got when we were young.

  • Jack B. says:

    Let’s not forget about the tactic of a) suing the school district; then b) condemning the school district for spending $$ on lawyers. Oh wait that’s so last year.

  • Susan Davis says:

    In re John Knox White’s comment:

    A “credibility gap,” indeed. Over the course of the Measure E and Measure A campaigns, it has become startlingly clear to me that much of what first the Committee Against Measure E and then the Committee Against Measure A has written is incorrect — to the point where I am suspicious every time I hear one of their claims. Sadly, even a quick phone call or email usually confirms my suspicions.

    I am impressed with the restraint that SOS has shown over the course of this campaign — they appear to be very much focused on our children, our schools, and our community, not slinging mud at the opposition or manufacturing drama.

  • Jon Spangler says:

    I agree with John Knox White’s analysis above – the credibility of AFT/CAMA overall is nowhere near the normally accepted community standard met by Alameda SOS and most other campaigns. Jack B. was spot-on, too….

    I received one of the ubiquitous and insufficiently-identified CAMA (aka Leland Traiman) robocalls last week.

    Traiman’s claim that he paid for the calls “independently” is pretty sketchy. His claim that they were an “independent expenditure” would probably not hold up: he is, after all, the Secretary of CAMA.

    When SunCal paid for similar calls from out of state, Tramain and Howard denounced them in the most unflattering terms. But now out-of-state robocalls are OK, even when they are insufficiently worded to meet FPPC campaign financing guidelines? Come on, Leland and David – you cannot have it both ways….

  • Jack B. says:

    Susan, I don’t know if restraint is what we need. I would like to see more refuting of CAMA’s false claims instead of leaving it to the bloggers.

  • Michelle says:

    Oh my Gawd.. robocalls!! Unbearable! What a crime. You pro A people are incredibly clueless. You spend all your time insulting us and calling us uneducated, stupid, mean, nasty, child haters, etc. etc. All the while with your hands in our pockets. You can’t even make nice while you attempt to rob us of our hard earned cash. Way to win friends and influence people. You know, if we are all so uneducated, perhaps that is why we don’t make very much money and can’t afford to pay more taxes. But somehow it’s our fault we are uneducated, as well. While we were taking care of our mentally ill mothers and working at nightclubs as teenagers to keep from getting evicted, we must have missed the golden age of totally free and easy college for everyone. We are just bad people for not taking advantage of all our opportunities. Of course it’s not your faults that your kids may be uneducated, that will be the “no on measure A” peoples’ fault.

    In any case we uneducated, selfish, idiots who use slang, such as “ain’t” seem to be highly successful in many aspects, such as being responsible people who scrimp and save and have good credit and pay our bills and mortgages on time and thus are able to own our own homes. So we must be punished by people who are unwilling to make sacrifices and want everybody else to make even more sacrifices in order to make sure that other peoples’ kids make a lot of money later on, because really, is this not what parents are bellyaching about? They are invested in their kids future earnings. You want to take money from us so that your kids are well off, later on. I am invested in my present earnings. Truly, many of you are right in a way, I don’t care nearly as much for the future of kids I don’t know, as their parents do. Especially when their kids are knocking me down and stealing my money and groceries. I already paid my school taxes twice this year and then paid more when I was mugged by teens. Now, their parents want to mug me again. No thanks.

    • Tracy says:

      I teach in AUSD and have a child in the schools. Your teen and young adult years -life with a single, troubled parent, working to make ends meet- sound remarkably similar to mine. I later used the initiative gained from those hard times to put myself through college. The educational foundation I received from free, quality public education as a child in a disadvantaged home enabled me to succeed in college and find stability in life. Getting mugged is a terrible experience; however, the schools are one way to get those kids off the street and on the way to becoming productive citizens. The alternative -weaker schools- dumps those kids most vulnerable to commit crimes back onto the streets. You refer to them as other people’s kids, but if they are harassing you on the street, then they enter your life in a big way. If schools falter, and they will falter if this does not pass, then it will be an even bigger problem.

    • John says:

      Behind every great fortune there is a crime.
      Honore de Balzac

      Try reading some Balzac, Michele…while you’re not impersonating Mother Theresa…oh you have it so hard…all the work you’ve done…

  • Michelle says:

    No, the AUSD can never have enough money and that is why they have open enrollment. Taxing us to pay for kids who are roaming our neighborhoods and jumping us. My property tax would actually go down about $230.00. I am still voting no. I would rather be safe than sorry. My freedom to move about the streets has been hampered by policies practiced by the school administration.

  • Michelle says:

    According to another poster there are 200 out of district teens going to Encinal. They would be in the 15 to 17 range of my muggers and some of the victims have described muggers as young as 13.

  • Fred says:

    Again, CAMA made it clear they had no desire to tell the truth. Once you’re “freed” from the truth, you can make up any nonsense you want.

    Thankfully the citizens of Alameda made the correct decision!

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