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.