Tag Archives: Charles Ramsey

Money Power: How low can you go?

There has been much discussion recently about money power vs. people power and its effect on politics.  As an example:

Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA): Tauscher has been one of the most aggressive spokespeople for the Money Party, using her position to undercut major Democratic efforts to address core economic issues from a middle-class perspective. As an example, it was Tauscher who ran to newspapers desperately trying to let K Street know that she would be working to undermine Democrats’ efforts to reform our trade policy. More recently, she told the New York Times that Democrats would be engaging in a “kabuki dance” with their own base voters – implying that there would be moves for show, but that pay-to-play business as usual in Washington will continue in the new Congress.

There are plenty of other examples of what the Money Party‘s priorities mean for everyday people, but I wanted to share one that effects me on a much more personal and local level and use that to make a pitch for public financing of campains, at least at the local level.

How low am I going?

I am talking about going all the way down to my school school board.  I have one child in the local school system, and one that will be entering it in the coming years.

The district is the West Contra Costa Unified School District and you would think that when you go that low, you would be free from the corrupting influence of Money Party politics.  In this case, you would be wrong:

Unprecedented fundraising in the race for the West Contra Costa Unified School District board is raising some eyebrows.

Incumbent Charles Ramsey and district Bond Oversight Committee member Madeline Kronenberg — among eight candidates for three board seats in the Nov. 7 election — have received more than $200,000 in combined campaign contributions. That’s more than 10 times the combined amount the remaining six candidates received from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, according to county campaign-disclosure statements…

But wait, it gets worse, yet:

Records show that much of the money Kronenberg has received is from contractors and subcontractors working with the district. It includes $20,000 in donations from the Seville Group, a construction management company that has a long-term contract with the district.

Kronenberg also accepted $5,000 from Interactive Resources, $3,000 from Arthur Tam and Associates and $10,000 from Wallace Boyd Gordon, an architect for Deems Lewis McKinley Architects.

All the firms have worked with or are actively working with the district on construction projects.

Yikes!  Her money is coming from the construction industry at a time when the district is spending a mountain of beans on reconstruction of 18 elementary, three middle and two high schools.  And… she was a member of the Bond Oversight Committee.  Conflict of Interests, anyone?  Her fig leaf:

“There isn’t any vendor choices made on the Oversight Committee. We don’t do that,” Kronenberg said. “I’m proud of the fundraising I’ve done and proud of what I’ve been able to raise. I think the reason I’ve been successful in raising the money is because I’ve established a presence in the community.”

The election is over, so why am I bringing this up?  Because I wanted to raise the flag that this is where it all starts.  This is where higher level candidates come from.  How can we expect to recruit good candidates for higher offices, if they can’t get a good start?

California’s Prop 89 failed in November, but I think that public financing of campaigns is an important part of the solution.  Maybe we have to start with these down ticket non-partisan races.  Public financing of campaigns is seen as a waste of taxpayer money, but I don’t think there are many more programs that the public could benefit more from:  allowing voters to choose based on the ideas of the candidates rather than having so much be influenced on how much a candidate can raise.

Plus, this race really isn’t quite over (top 3 are elected):

  AUDREY MILES  20,045   18.37%
  CHARLES RAMSEY  17,009  15.59%
  ANTONIO MEDRANO  16,943  15.53%

Note that Kronenberg was the biggest vote winner.  Money wins.  Well, sort of.  Only 66 votes keep Antonio Medrano from knocking out Charles Ramsey.  Let’s take a closer look at that.

several people have questioned what Ramsey intends to do with $132,600 — the largest amount ever raised for a West Contra Costa district board race…

Ramsey said he likely will spend $80,000 to $90,000 on mailings and probably will give the rest to charity…

Ramsey said rumors that he will use leftover money to run for state Assembly are unfounded and legally impossible because there are campaign-contribution limits for statewide races and he cannot roll his money over.

He got most of that money from Unions across the state.  Raising so much money from outside the district has raised its own questions about how school board contributions should be regulated.

He did spend a lot of that money on flyers.  I can tell you we got some nice shiny glossy flyers day after day.  I assume that he is running for the 14th Assembly District seat, and he was using the flyers to raise his profile and name recognition.  The currest representative for AD-14, Loni Hancock, will be termed out in 2008.  He has run for that race before.  My favorite part:

“Seven years ago I made a mistake,” Ramsey said as he admitted to soliciting sex from an undercover female cop posing as a prostitute. “I hurt my wife and family. The perception I had of women was not a good one.”

Although Ramsey said he has since been working toward changing that perception and giving back to the community, the surprise admission did not sit well with sophomore Denise May.

“I respect him for admitting he made a mistake, but it’s going to be imprinted in my mind throughout the campaign,” May said.

May added that the incident has caused her to question Ramsey’s morals because “anyone who has respect for women would never do that,” she said.

OK, maybe bringing up that quote is a little low (even for this diary), but this in not the person I want to be part of taking responsibility for the education of my little girls.

Medrano, who was endorsed by the Richmond Teachers and two current Board Members has until Friday to decide if he wants to ask for a recount.  He has to weigh the benefits to the costs.  Since voters were selecting 3 candidates, 67 ballots will have to be found that voted for him and not Ramsey, out of a little over 100,000 cast.

We shall see…