Are Local PACs Loaded For Bear or Gun Shy of Making Wrong Move?

chamber-parks-addWhen the three unions dropped what they thought was a bomb on unsuspecting Davis residents, they never expected the bomb to go off in their backyard and obliterate their efforts to depose Councilmember Sue Greenwald.

Called on it and triggering deep resentment and backlash, they took the remainder of their $25,000 largesse, nearly $14,000 unspent, and went home.

The Sue Greenwald mailer and the Clinton Parish mailer, paid for by the campaign itself, show the dangers of going negative with attack ads.

Two more sizable PACs are looming on the horizon.

The Form 450 filed by the Firefighters Local 3494 shows a remaining cash balance of $14,232.

From 2004 to 2008, in three Council elections, records the Vanguard has acquired show that the Firefighters spent $32,000 supporting the candidacies of Stephen Souza (twice), Don Saylor (twice), Ruth Asmundson, Mike Levy and Sydney Vergis.

That includes over $8000 in direct contributions to Stephen Souza, who has been endorsed by the firefighters this time around, the only known endorsement by the union.

In the last two elections, however, the firefighters do not appear to have spent even $100 on the campaigns.  In large part that is because Joe Krovoza and Rochelle Swanson in 2010, and Dan Wolk and Lucas Frerichs in 2012 have told them no.

Still we have ten days until the election, and with the firefighters sitting on $14,000 and the Chamber of Commerce PAC, which has endorsed three candidates, sitting on over $11,000 at last report, we have to ask, is something coming?

To date, the firefighters PAC has donated $3000 to the Yes on Measure D, the Parks Tax campaign.

The Chamber recently also flexed its muscles, spending just under $600 on a Parks Tax ad.

We have noted that the Chamber, having accepted more than $100 contributions, confined its options with regard to the more heavily regulated council candidate campaigns.

Still, it seems rather odd that the two PACs, collectively with nearly $30,000 in on-hand cash, would only be spending money on the parks tax.

It is not that the Parks Tax, Measure D, is not important.  The $1.35 million that the tax will provide will prevent massive closures and cut backs to the maintenance and operations of the parks.  From the firefighters perspective, money acquired through the parks tax is money that won’t have to come from other sources.

The problem is that the only opposition to the parks tax is Thomas Randall, who has thus far never found a tax that he supports and never been one to come close to defeating a tax.

Even most of the fiscal conservatives on the Vanguard site seem to be okay with a $49 tax, that only funds one-quarter of the current parks budget anyway.

And perhaps that is the point – putting money into the tax is the only way to stay relevant, and that cannot possibly blow up in your face.

So, has the Firefighters Union PAC, once the most powerful and feared union in the city, been reduced to a cheerleader for city services?  It is a question that looms large, $14,000 in the final days of the campaign.

Are they prepared to use that money in the last week plus of the campaign?  Or are they fearful that their efforts would not only be unwelcomed by most of the campaigns, but could potentially blow up in their faces much as the union’s attack piece against Sue Greenwald?

That is perhaps the biggest remaining question in this campaign.

From the Chamber’s perspective, their first foray in electoral politics in Davis probably has not been as smooth as they would have liked.  The Vanguard still questions the co-mingling of funding, never having had a satisfactorily answer for that.

The Chamber of Commerce’s choice of Stephen Souza has been roundly criticized as contrasting with their support for fiscal sustainability in the city.  Mr. Souza’s complicity with the firefighters union and the city’s cover up of the Firefighter Report only heighten that questionability.

Moreover, outside of a $100 direct contribution, it is not clear what impact that the Chamber has had into the council race.

The Parks Ad itself contains the odd line: “Lucas Frerichs, Dan Wolk & Stephen Souza support Yes on Measure D.”

It is odd because, so too do Sue Greenwald and Brett Lee.

It is obvious that the point of stating that is to somehow give their endorsed candidates preferred status among the public.

But if this is an IE for the candidates, as the message from Kemble Pope, Executive Director of the Chamber PAC indicates, then why not simply state: “The Chamber has endorsed”… those candidates?

Or if their goal is to support the tax measure, why not list all five?

The fact that all five candidates have come out for Measure D, along with the rest of the community, makes it actually irrelevant as an issue of differentiation.  No one is going to vote for a candidate because they support the parks tax, because all of the candidates do.

Oddly enough, in the high pressure world of Davis Politics, that seemingly mundane statement was critiqued and criticized on the Vanguard and now in a letter to the Davis Enterprise.

Judy Reynolds writes, “It’s a shame that the Davis Chamber PAC, whether intentionally or not, has provided us with another ‘subtle misrepresentation’ regarding our City Council candidates.”

She adds, “In an ad in Sunday’s paper supporting Measure D, in small print at the bottom, the Chamber notes that Lucas Frerichs, Dan Wolk and Stephen Souza ‘support Yes on Measure D.’ Implied is that Sue Greenwald and Brett Lee do not.”

“I have talked with both Sue and Brett’s campaigns, and found out that they are strong supporters of Measure D. The Measure D campaign should not be one that is politicized. Let’s hope that this is the last of this type of disinformation that we will see in this City Council campaign,” she concludes.

And guess what, it’s a fair criticism because the Chamber tried to get too cute in their ad and they made a simple statement misleading, that was supposed to be in support of their endorsed candidates.

Not intentional, but misleading nonetheless.  As noted, they simply could have said they support those three candidates. Instead they try too hard to link it to an issue no one is going to vote for on that basis.

At the end of the day, the Davis Firefighters find themselves on the outside looking in, and the first foray by the Chamber into Davis politics does not seem to have created much of a ripple, other than some fodder for debate on the Vanguard.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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20 Comments

  1. TimR

    In addition to the misleading candidate endorsement, they are also saying that I can take special interest classes, go to summer camp, use ball fields, use the swimming pool, and take gymnastics or dance classes all for $1 day for my whole family. That would be a good deal, if it were actually true.

  2. psdavis

    “When the three unions dropped what they thought was a bomb …” DG

    All we know is the the unions [u]paid[/u] for the mailer. I seriously doubt if the union leadership was calling the shots (as implied by the above quote).

    Both Sue and Steve were the targets. Burchill was the hatchet man.

    IMO the unanswered question is – was Burchill acting as a free agent on behalf of his clients, did he cut a deal with another operative, or was he following instructions from some other hidden party?

  3. David M. Greenwald

    You are being naive if you don’t believe the union leaders signed off on the mailer.

    Why would Steve be Burchill or the union’s target? Souza has supported Burchill on every single thing he has taken a part in.

  4. David Suder

    [quote][b]Oddly enough[/b], in the high pressure world of Davis Politics, that seemingly mundane statement was critiqued and criticized on the Vanguard and now in a letter to the Davis Enterprise.

    She adds, “In an ad in Sunday’s paper supporting Measure D, in small print at the bottom, the Chamber notes that Lucas Frerichs, Dan Wolk and Stephen Souza ‘support Yes on Measure D.’ Implied is that Sue Greenwald and Brett Lee do not.”[/quote]
    DG, does Judy Reynolds’ concern really seem odd to you? Her characterization of the Chamber’s selective mention of their candidates as “another ‘subtle misrepresentation’ regarding our City Council candidates” seems right on the money. (No pun intended.)

  5. psdavis

    Burchill and Li go way back. I don’t see Jon helping in any way to support an effort that was truly intended to help Souza.

    Jon’s second least favorite councilmember is Steve (although Joe seems to have been making a bid to take over that slot in recent weeks).

  6. psdavis

    DG: In light of the PAC scandal, the Jon Li article that you took down is now newsworthy in that it might yield some new insights. I really wish you would re-post it.

  7. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]From the Chamber’s perspective, their first foray in electoral politics in Davis probably has not been as smooth as they would have liked. The Vanguard still questions the co-mingling of funding, never having had a satisfactorily answer for that.[/quote]

    The Vanguard can still “question the co-mingling of funding” till the cows come home – that does not mean anything untoward took place…

    [quote]The Parks Ad itself contains the odd line: “Lucas Frerichs, Dan Wolk & Stephen Souza support Yes on Measure D.” It is odd because, so too do Sue Greenwald and Brett Lee.[/quote]

    But the Chamber of Commerce PAC has no obligation to list candidates it does not care to…

    [quote]No one is going to vote for a candidate because they support the parks tax, because all of the candidates do. Oddly enough, in the high pressure world of Davis Politics, that seemingly mundane statement was critiqued and criticized on the Vanguard and now in a letter to the Davis Enterprise.[/quote]

    IMO much ado about nothing…

  8. Michael Harrington

    Jon Li: I wish you would edit your article a bit and repost. In light of the mailer, I think your article is newsworthy. Some of it was completely accurate, from my understanding of events.

  9. psdavis

    IMO suppressing Jon Li’s commentary is a much bigger sin than the DCOC not listing all the candidates in their Measure D mailer.

    It’s also not clear to me how much text written by Sue Greenwald was suppressed. Could someone that actually read it chime in?

  10. eagle eye

    Based on the number of derelict/neglected rental properties with the trio of Souza, Wolk and Frerichs signs, the chamber may have spent significant time or money getting those 3 signs planted in the lawns of rental property owners.
    Brett Lee appears to be the favorite of realtors and developers: His signs in my neighborhood are on those of realtors, pro-developer and NP interests.

  11. JustSaying

    psdavis, I read Jon Li’s commentary and agree with David’s decision that it wasn’t appropriate that David had decided to run the column. I didn’t read Sue’s comment and did not agree with his decision to take it down (after he’d warned Sue that she should provide proof for her mysterous charges).

    David has to make the editorial decisions about articles he might decide to run, whether authored by others or by himself–unless his guiding principles say he’ll let anyone write an article any time on any topic.

    Messing with the comments is another matter. While David promised that he’d provide a report about what Sue had written, he did not follow through. Sue said “no comment” and David ended up saying “no story, move along.” It’s impossible to tell who he’s trying to protect without knowing what Sue wrote.

    I’m against pulling stuff, particularly without explanation or, worse, without notice. Most online sites have pretty specific conditions and almost all have methods to document what’s happened.

    Vanguard stories are edited by Highbeam–without any indication of what she’s done to the stories–after they’ve been published, a very unusual practice. This opens the door for all kind of mischief, although the purpose is just a practical one, I’d guess. I’ve seen odd changes appear, but never anything nefarious.

    If the editorial practice in these columns was to leave everything here once it was published, it would have enlightened readers in both the Jon and Sue cases now that we see what’s happened since. Once you start pulling stuff (for any reason, including being “off topic,” whatever that might be from day to day), something is lost in the integrity of the publication itself.

    So, what do you prefer? Knowing you always will get to read everything that someone spews out–no matter how specious or nasty–or limiting your reading to something within the bounds of the Vanguard standard of good taste?

  12. David M. Greenwald

    Only a very small portion of the Li “rant” would have been relevant and most of it was unprovable attacks on people that the mailer had nothing to do with.

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