Monday, November 5, 2012

A's Owners Political Contributions Nationally, Locally

It was recently reported that the ownership of the San Francisco Giants has given a great deal of money to both political parties this election season. The A's ownership, for this purpose limited to majority owner John Fisher (billionaire and part-heir to the Gap fortune) and managing partner Lew Wolff have also made sizable donations. Here is a brief breakdown of state and federal donations from the period of Jan. 1, 2011 to present taken from the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

Fisher donated a grand total of $70,100 with $51,500 going to Republican candidates. In the past, Fisher has given heavily to Republicans and causes as well. Notably, he was a major opponent of 2006's Prop. 82 which would have funded preschool for all four-year olds through a tax on high income earners. Fisher gave $25,000 to opponents of the measure, which ultimately failed.

*The numbers above do not include donations to the Major League Baseball Political Action Committee as its contributions are essentially split between parties and the A's influence on the direction of its funds is likely quite limited.

In Oakland

In 2010, Fisher and Wolff made $25,000 in contributions to support then-Oakland mayoral candidate Don Perata through his political committee Coalition for a Safer Oakland. This followed years of contributions to the politician. At the time, the East Bay Express reported this:

In addition, at a recent editorial board meeting with the Oakland Tribune, Perata appeared uninterested in talking about keeping the A’s in town, according to several attendees. “He was very evasive,” said (Rebecca) Kaplan, who was at the meeting with (Jean) Quan, Perata, and fellow mayoral candidate Joe Tuman. “He basically conveyed that keeping the A’s is not very important.” 

After the editorial board meeting, one of the attendees, Tribune columnist Dave Newhouse, published a piece on October 6 about the mayoral candidates and their thoughts on the A’s and the Golden State Warriors. Newhouse quoted Perata as being resigned to the fact that the A’s are leaving. “I don't think the A's are going to stay here,” Perata said. “We can't play in this game, putting up the money. We haven't been smart with our franchises.”

In an interview, (Lew) Wolff denied that Perata's stance on the A's had anything to do with his $10,000 donation, saying he's supporting the ex-senator because he thinks he's the best mayoral candidate. Fisher donated $15,000. "I've known him for years," Wolff said of Perata, "and I respect him." Wolff also said he hasn't been paying attention to what Perata has been saying on the campaign trail.

In 2011, Fisher donated $10,000 to Perata's "Hope 2010 Cure Cancer" committee. Hope 2010 subsequently changed its name to "Hope 2012 -- Yes on Prop. 29 -- Californians for a Cancer Cure" and campaigned in support of Prop. 29 which would have taxed tobacco products to fund Cancer research. (The measure did not pass.)

IBA Buzz noted in a March 2012 posting that the committee gave almost $6,000 for "meetings and appearances" and travel reimbursements to Perata.

In the 2011-2012 election cycle $12,500 of the group's total treasury went to Oakland city council member and longtime Perata friend Ignacio De La Fuete for campaign consulting. De La Fuente also received $25,000 from the organization for similar services in 2009.

De La Fuente is currently running against fellow council member Rebecca Kaplan in this upcoming election for the at-large seat on the council -- a position currently held by Kaplan. In terms of the A's, Kaplan is a vocal champion of Oakland's "Coliseum City" concept. De La Fuente's support is unclear.

Oakland North reported on the sports issue which came up at a debate in August:

One question from the (Oakland Chamber of Commerce) Chamber addressed the issue of sports teams leaving Oakland and the role of the A’s, the Oakland Raiders and the Golden State Warriors as drivers of economic activity. The city recently unveiled the Oakland Coliseum City proposal, a $40 million project that would construct new facilities for the city’s three sports teams, as well as retail space, offices for technology companies and hotels.

Kaplan said she includes retaining sports teams under economic development. “Advancing the Coliseum City project, with shops and bars and restaurants and hotels, all connected to a convention center and regional transit is an important way of expanding job opportunities,” she said.

But others said there are more important issues the city should focus on.

“Yes, the A’s and the Warriors and the Raiders provide jobs, but we have learned stadiums should not be for the public sector,” De La Fuente said.

In considering the at-large race and the A's stadium issue, this article from the East Bay Express is worth a read. Here is a passage from it pertinent to the sports issue:

Kaplan, however, has become a much bigger booster than De La Fuente of keeping Oakland's sports teams in town. Kaplan was one of the first politicians to back the so-called Coliseum City project. That proposal, which is also supported by the mayor and other councilmembers, envisions new privately financed facilities for the Raiders, the Warriors, and, possibly, the A's, on Oakland Coliseum property, surrounded by restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and retail stores. Kaplan also supports a proposal for a privately financed ballpark for the A's at the Port of Oakland on the city's waterfront — if Major League Baseball and the A's prefer that site to the Coliseum.

De La Fuente also happens to be co-chair of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority an organization which the A's are actively trying to negotiate a short-term lease with.

In March, Matier and Ross in the San Francisco Chronicle reported this regarding De La Fuente:

None of the payments (From the Prop. 29 committee) was disclosed on De La Fuente's statement of outside earnings as a councilman and head of the Coliseum authority.

Just a "What If?" Exercise

Every individual is welcome to vote how they feel is appropriate and to contribute to any campaign or candidate they want to. A sole editorial comment here is that John Fisher's support of an old school democrat like Don Perata is somewhat puzzling. This is a man who from 2006-2010 gave $575,000 to the California Business Political Action Committee, Sponsored by the California Chamber of Commerce (CalBusPac) -- not exactly a friend of organized labor like Perata. CalBusPac also received direct donations from Philip Morris and was listed on the No on 29 website.

A cynic would could draw the conclusion that the A's owners gave to Perata directly in 2010 to help elect a mayor who wouldn't fight their exit from the city. Since then, they have maintained ties with Perata as he is still an extremely well-connected Democrat in a city where Republicans have no chance at winning an election. By giving to Perata they are also currying favor and influence with De La Fuente -- a potential mayoral candidate who also will offer them an easier path out of town. More immediately, De La Fuente will help cripple support for Coliseum City by replacing Kaplan and may help the A's get a more generous lease with the Coliseum authority.

Oakland only has the Coliseum City concept as a path forward for the A's, and the lease is their only legal tool. It is logical to assume that the A's owners would like to see De La Fuente succeed as he has not taken as hard a stance on the team staying as others have.

Do understand that bright lines are not here. The A's owners are not on record as having donated directly to De La Fuente and organizations like Hope 2012 pay campaign consultants all the time. The point of this exercise is to look at the "What if?" and nothing more.

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