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Hand holding out a stack of money tied to the end of a stick for bribery

WITH UPDATE BELOW

 

Yes, I know. We’re all tired of politics. But I couldn’t pass this up because it’s about how things work behind the slick campaign brochures.

Alert readers may recall that back in April, the Monterey County Deputy Sheriffs Association contributed $5,000 to Monterey County Supervisor Dave Potter and another $5,000 to supervisorial candidate Dennis Donohue. Nothing wrong with that. The association is the union that represents sheriff’s deputies and it’s only natural for it to cozy up to county supervisors who have the last word on wages and benefits. You may also remember that the head of the association, Dan Mitchell, filed a couple of specious election complaints against Potter’s opponent, Mary Adams, and Donohue’s opponent Jane Parker. The association even contributed $3,000 to one of Donohue’s campaign managers, Pivotal Campaign Services.

But that’s not the interesting part. The interesting part is that campaign disclosure forms show that the week before the Deputy Sheriffs Association started making those contributions, it received a $20,000 contribution from Chevron, the big oil company.

In other words, the money that found its way into the Potter and Donohue campaign treasuries apparently didn’t come from hard-working sheriff’s deputies. It came from one of the world’s largest oil companies, which has drilled a few holes in Monterey County and has visions of drilling a few more. (Association officer Scott Davis also appears to have benefited from the Chevron money with $1,000 contributed to his upcoming campaign for a Salinas City Council seat.)

During the just-ended supervisorial campaigns, the various candidates were watching closely to see if they could connect the opposition to oil-industry money, especially fracking money. That’s partly because an anti-fracking initiative will be on the November ballot in Monterey County and few politicians are willing to admit that they are fracking friendly. Potter, who lost his seat to Adams, returned a $2,000 contribution from an important fracking fellow a couple days after the Partisan wrote about it but held on to a contribution from a fracking lawyer in Wyoming.

There weren’t any obvious signs of oil money in the campaign reports filed by Donohue, who fell short in his attempt to unseat incumbent Jane Parker. Turns out it was there, it just wasn’t obvious.

UPDATED INFO HERE: After this story was posted this morning, an alert Partisan reader pointed out another back channel Chevron used to route a little help to the fellows. On April 11, right around the time it was writing a check to the deputy sheriffs group, Chevron sent a $30,000 check to the Monterey County Business PAC, which is made up of hospitality and ag interests. Four days later, the PAC contributed $20,000 to the Donohue campaign. Three days after that, the PAC sent $30,000 to District 1 Supervisor Fernando Armenta and a week later it gave $25,000 to the Potter campaign.

What this boils down to is that a little bit of legalized money laundering apparently enabled Potter and Donohue to pick up some extra campaign cash and to make it look like it represented union and law enforcement support when it really represented oil company support. Though that’s how things work in politics these days, with contributors hiding behind PACs and Super PACS, this was as slippery as an oil slick, never mind how the Chevron website goes on and on about good government and transparency.

Mitchell didn’t respond to a request for comment Friday. If he gets back to us, we’ll share what he has to say.

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thai boxingJUNE ELECTION TO HAVE IMPORTANT LOCAL IMPACT

If you like your politics rough, you may enjoy the classic contest shaping up between Monterey County Supervisor Jane Parker and former Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue for the right to represent District 4, which takes in Seaside, Marina and some of Salinas.

New campaign expenditure reports show that Donohue has tapped into his colleagues from agribusiness, picking up $20,000 checks from some of the Salinas Valley heavy hitters. The reports also show that Donohue has been working with two campaign management firms with reputations for sharp-elbow tactics. One of them, Pivotal Campaign Services, features Christian Schneider, who teamed with local Brandon Gesicki last year to run the below-the-belt campaign that dislodged Sheriff Scott Miller and replaced him with under-qualified Steve Bernal.

Donohue also has been paying for advice from Robert Dempsey, who in just two years went from being executive director of the state Democratic Parties in Vermont, North Carolina and Virginia to freelance campaign manager. On this coast, he is best known for his coaching of San Diego Congressman Scott Peters, who rode to a 2014 victory over a Tea Party-backed challenger in a campaign that is considered one of the nastiest in San Diego history, which is saying something.

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Donohue campaign consultant Robert Dempsey

Donohue is, like Parker, a Democrat but he fancies himself as a champion of commerce and innovation. The tone of his campaign was likely set at his formal announcement last month when Del Rey Oaks Mayor Jerry Edelen labeled Parker’s supporters as “radical zealots” intent on imposing a “primitive” lifestyle on the citizenry.

Parker supporters bristle at the description, but she does have the environmental vote sewn up. In her two board terms, she often has been the lone vote against major development proposals, most of which have featured glaring deficiencies such as inadequate water supplies.  Supervisor Dave Potter, who is facing a big-league challenge from Mary Adams, has joined Parker on the losing side of some development votes in recent months but it appears to be campaign strategy rather than a genuine philosophical shift.

In terms of political style, the candidates are opposites as well. Parker is quiet and studious, conscientiously reading the voluminous staff reports that often go unopened on the desks of some of her board colleagues. Donohue is boisterous and even boastful, full of ideas but not necessarily the means to carry them through. He has been heavily involved in produce sales and marketing most of his life.

In the money-collection period that ended in December, Donohue picked up just over $100,000, putting his total at $164,000. Big spenders in his camp, at $20,000 apiece, were Rick Antle of the Tanimura & Antle produce concern,  Newstar Fresh Foods, Nunes Co. and, of course, the Salinas Valley Leadership Group. That is the political action committee put together by contractor Don Chapin to pursue a pro-development agenda at every level of government. Not far behind was Church Brothers, another large agri-biz concern, at $15,000.

While Donohue was receiving his $100,000, Parker was picking up $34,900, but her campaign treasury stood at $147,000, including some loans.

Her biggest contributor for the period at $9,250 was Shirley Devol of Carmel, who lists her occupation as consultant. Her late husband, Kenneth, was a journalism professor. Others writing sizable checks to the Parker campaign were women’s rights activist Margaret Schink, $2,500; the Democratic Women of Monterey County, $2,000; Harriet Mitteldorf and school counselor Doreen Gray, $1,500 apiece; and Monterey neighborhood activist Mike Dawson, physicist David Fried, Ann Fitzpatrick of Salinas, Lowel Figen, George Thomas and art dealer Susan Schlumberger, $1,000 apiece.

Other notable contributors to Parker were state Sen. Bill Monning, $274, and Peninsula water activist George Riley, $224.

Parker’s campaign advisers, according to the filings, are the Lew Edwards Group in Oakland and community activist Elizabeth Panetta.  Lew Edwards principal Catherine Lew has managed numerous campaigns up and down California.

Responses to this and other pieces in the Partisan are encouraged. Publication of reader comments, and the pieces themselves, do not constitute any endorsement of the positions presented. The Partisan greatly prefers accurately attributed comments that avoid personal attacks.

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