A sampling of mailings for Measures O and P, which are on the November ballot. (Please note that the quote from a Berkeleyside headline in the mailer on the left is inaccurate. The complete headline was “Rising rents, home prices in Berkeley and the Bay Area displacing thousands.) Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

It turns out the big money being spent in the Berkeley elections (excluding the regional Assembly District 15 race) relates to tax measures O and P. Money to support both the pro and con arguments for both is pouring in from builders, construction workers’ unions, developers, nonprofit housing groups and Realtors for the two measures. The total so far spent is $343,000.

Measure O would allow Berkeley to sell $135 million in bonds to build low-income and affordable housing. The organizations that might build those projects have contributed about $112,850 to “Yes on O,” as well as “Yes on P,” according to campaign finance reports. The two measures are being bundled and promoted to voters as a package. Measure P would raise the real estate transfer tax from 1.5% to 2.5% for property valued at or above $1.5 million.

Neighbors for an affordable Berkeley: Yes on O and P” filed a campaign finance report Sept. 22 stating that the group had raised $51,350. Since then, the group has raised an additional $61,500 for a total of $112,850.

The largest single contributor is Bridge Housing, a nonprofit group that is partnering with Berkeley Food and Housing Project to construct a $110 million affordable housing complex on a public parking lot on Berkeley Way in downtown Berkeley. The project is still underfunded. Bridge Housing donated $30,000 to the campaign.

The groups that have contributed $10,000 each include the Northern California Carpenters’ Regional Council Issues PAC; Panoramic Interests, owned by Patrick Kennedy, who has a plan to build tiny, pre-fabricated houses for the homeless; Nibbi Brothers, a general contractor based in San Francisco; EAH, Inc., a San Rafael-based nonprofit housing development and management organization, and the East Bay Community Foundation. The groups that donated $5,000 include the Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local 104; Cahill Contractors; and Satellite Affordable Housing Associates (SAHA), a company that builds and operates affordable housing, including in Berkeley. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 595 contributed $2,500.

Realtors make up the only groups opposing Measure P. The National Association of Realtors has contributed $193,250 to the No on P effort and the California Association of Realtors Issue Mobilization PAC has contributed $45,000. That brings total expenditures to $238,250.

The Berkeley Police Association is paying for mailers to oppose Kate Harrison and support Lori Droste

2018 is the first year of Berkeley’s new campaign finance law and that has restricted donations to $50 from individuals. That means that candidates who participate in the program can get as much as $40,000 in city funds. They cannot take money from PACS. Most of the candidates are using public financing, except Russ Tilleman, who is running for the D8 City Council seat and who has lent his campaign $832, and Igor Tregub, who is running for City Council in District 1. He lent himself $100 early in the campaign, which automatically disqualified him from joining the matching funds program. The maximum he can accept is $250 from any individual or PAC.

At least one organization has created an independent expenditure campaign for Berkeley City Council elections: the Berkeley Police Association. During its endorsements, the BPA said it supports “Anyone but Kate Harrison,” according to the Daily Cal.  Harrison, who represents the downtown area in District 4, was a strong advocate for putting a measure on the ballot to reform the Police Review Commission, a move many police officers oppose. Harrison also voted to pull Berkeley out of Urban Shield, a controversial training program that some Berkeley officials and residents feel militarizes the police. (She was in the minority position, however, and the city still participates in the training program.)

The BPA has spent $7,741 on mailers objecting to Harrison’s re-election as the District 4 representative on the council. The BPA spent $1,693 on mailers for City Councilwoman Lori Droste, who is running for re-election in District 8, according to campaign finance reports.

(BPA reported that it spent the money but has not submitted copies of the mailers to the City Clerk’s office, as required by Berkeley election law. BERA law requires copies to be sent one day after they go in the mail.)

Tregub has been raising money from individual donors and union PACS. He has raised $39,000 for his campaign for District 1. Those who kicked in $250 include former City Councilman Gordon Wozniak, fellow Rent Board Commissioner Jesse Townley, and Fiona Ma, a former assemblywoman now running for state treasurer. Some of the unions who support him include the California Nurses Association, the Northern California Carpenters’ Regional Council, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 595.

In the race to replace retiring Auditor Ann-Marie Hogan, Jenny Wong has raised the most amount of money, according to campaign finance reports. She has raised $21,500, with one of her $250 contributions coming from former AD15 candidate Elizabeth Echols and another from fellow CPA Paul Hammond. Wong has also donated $5,000 to her campaign.

Vladislav Davidzon is also vying to become city auditor but he had not raised any outside funds. He has donated $11,000 to his own campaign, according to campaign finance records.

Buffy Wicks has raised a record amount of money in Assembly District 15 race

Jovanka Beckles (left) and Buffy Wicks, are competing for Assembly District 15. It has become the most expensive AD15 race ever. Wicks has raised $1.3m  so far and independent expenditure committees have spent more than $1m on her behalf. Beckles has raised around $430,000 and independent groups have spent about $242,000 on her candidacy. Photo: KQED/campaign websites
Jovanka Beckles (left) and Buffy Wicks, are competing for Assembly District 15. It has become the most expensive AD15 race ever. Wicks has raised $1.3m  so far and independent expenditure committees have spent more than $1m on her behalf. Beckles has raised around $430,000 and independent groups have spent about $242,000 on her candidacy. Photo: KQED/campaign websites

Buffy Wicks, who has never held elected office but who worked for President Barack Obama for eight years, and ran Hillary Clinton’s campaign in California, has raised almost $1.3 million from 1,887 donors, according to state finance records. In addition, independent expenditure campaigns have spent $1,036,000 on her behalf.

A search of Wicks’ top contributors shows that most of them are labor unions. Those that donated $8,800 are the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 595; California Real Estate Political Action Committee; State Building and Construction Trades Council of California PAC; California State Council of Laborers; Northern California Carpenters Regional Council; Professional Engineers In California Government PECG-PAC; and the California Laborers for Equality and Progress.

Many wealthy Democrats have also contributed. Chris Hughes, a Facebook founder, gave $5,000. Ron Conway, a high-tech investor, George Hume, the CEO of Basic American Foods, and John Scully, the former CEO of Apple, have all contributed $4,400.

Independent expenditure committees are required by law not to communicate or act in cohort with the candidates they support. Govern for California has spent $493,109 promoting Wicks’ candidacy. The Coalition for East Bay Health Care Access, Affordable Housing and Quality Public Schools, supporting Buffy Wicks for Assembly 2018, contributed $443,000 to Wicks. The California Dental Association contributed about $99,480 to Wicks. according to campaign records.

Wicks’ opponent, Richmond City Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles, has raised $430,904 from 770 contributors, according to state campaign finance records. In addition, independent expenditure campaigns have spent $241,970 on her candidacy.

Most of Beckles’ top supporters are unions, according to campaign finance records. The California Teachers Association; SEIU United Healthcare Workers West both contributed $17,600 to Beckles. The groups that donated $8,880 to her campaign include SEIU California State Council Small Contributor Committee; the California Federation of Teachers COPE, Small Contribution Committee; the California Nurses Association PAC; the Faculty for our University’s Future; AFSCME CA, also known as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The Service Employees International Union Local 1021 Candidate PAC contributed $7,500. The Amalgamated Transit Union contributed $4,750.

There are three independent expenditure groups supporting Beckles. East Bay Working Families, a coalition of unions and community groups mainly funded by SEIU Local 1021, has spent $116,428 in support of her campaign. The California Latino PAC has spent $10,542, while the California Federation of Teachers has spent $25,000, according to campaign finance records.

Editor’s note: This story was updated after publication to include an Oct. 17 contribution of $130,000 filed by the National Association of Realtors for the No on P campaign. It was also updated to say that Russ Tilleman was not taking public campaign financing. 

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...