At Large Council Seat Race: A Look into the Campaign Financing of Derreck Johnson and Rebecca Kaplan

Derreck Johnson raised about $114k  for his nascent political campaign in the 35 days from announcing his candidacy to turning in a bi-annual campaign finance report. Kaplan raised about 15k total from January to June 30 and about 33k in 2019, before any challenger had emerged. Kaplan raised only about 8k during the same period that Johnson raised all of his current financing.  Both in the number of donors, and the amount raised, Johnson surpassed Kaplan by extraordinary amounts.

Derreck Johnson

Johnson Got More Maximum Contributions Than Any Other Candidate So Far in 2020

Johnson’s funds consist of seemingly disparate donors: the father of Beyonce Knowles, the husband of Kamala Harris [Harris is Johnson’s cousin], and the owner of the Tribune Tavern among many others.  But Johnson raised more $900 dollar donations—the 2020 individual contributor campaign limit—than any other candidate running a City of Oakland race so far this year. Johnson received $60k in maximum donations from 72 donors in the brief 5 week fundraising campaign. The next two highest maximum fundraisers, Reid and Walton, only raised $50k and $44k, respectively. 102 donors gave $500 or more to Johnson’s campaign—$500+ contributions represent 2/3 of the cash total Johnson raised. 

About ¼ of Johnson’s Itemized Contributions Came From Previous Donors to Libby Schaaf

Many of Johnson’s high-end donors are previous donors to Libby Schaaf’s 2017-18 mayoral campaign. These include mega-landlord and developer Riaz Taplin, Charles Freiberg, of Kasowitz, et. al., and Miye Takagi of 40th St Apartments. Adam Goldenberg who violated Oakland’s Campaign Finance Act by donating the maximum to her campaign four times through different entities, also donated the maximum to Johnson in June. In all, about $30k of Johnson’s funds came from donors who’d previously donated to Schaaf—and 2/3 of those were donations over $250. Johnson announced his campaign in conjunction with an endorsement from Schaaf.

Notable Donations From Several Principals of the Same Company or Organization

Johnson also received a notable series of donations from individuals involved with the same firms or organizations. The East Bay Rental Housing Association President Wayne Rowland and Vice President Luke Blacklidge donated $900 each to Johnson’s campaign—EBRHA is a notoriously anti-tenant protection group that has spent hundreds of thousands of campaign financing dollars protecting the rights of investment rental property owners. Six principals from Penumbra, an Alameda based medical devices corporation, donated $3,150 to Johnson.  Three principals from Riaz Capital donated $2,000 to Johnson.

Summit Bank Principals Gave to Johnson, Johnson Chose the Bank for His Campaign Finance Deposits, Johnson Sits on the Bank's Charity Board

Notably, three principals from Summit Bank donated 2,050 to Johnson, including Summit's Chair and founder, Shirley Nelson and President, Steve Nelson. Summit is a local independent bank that specializes in loans and financing geared to bay area business and development—local developer John Protopappas of Madison Park Financial sits on the bank’s board. Johnson was appointed to the board of Summit’s charitable foundation in 2018. As the primary treasurer for his campaign finance committee Johnson seems to have chosen Summit for his campaign bank account. 

Rebecca Kaplan

Local and Regional Unions Gave Generously to Kaplan

Kaplan’s fundraising is miniscule next to Johnson’s, and its also less than what she raised in a similar time frame for the 2016 at large race. About 1/3 of Kaplan’s current 2020 funds came from unions and labor associations—an almost even split of regional construction unions and those associated with local trades work, including the major non-sworn City of Oakland unions, SEIU, IFPTE and firefighters. Kaplan also received contributions from the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance  and United Food and Commercial Workers. Almost all of that support came last year, but most of the unions have supported her in the past. 

Influential Local Lobbyists Donated to Kaplan

Kaplan also received significant donations from Michael Colbruno and John Gooding of the Milo Group, and Isaac Kos-Read, a local lobbyist. Another influential local lobbying firm, the McConnell group, also donated.  Greg McConnell the firm’s CEO and founder was instrumental in bringing a suit against the City to halt Measure AA. 

A Handful of Large-Scale Developers Gave to Kaplan

Kaplan received a few large contributions from principals in major development companies. Michael Ghielmetti and Tom Quaglia of Signature, the developer of Brooklyn Basin, for example, both contributed—though in Quaglia’s case the donation was $100. Terrance McGrath, the developer responsible for the Macarthur BART Transit Village, also donated $800 in early 2020. 

Companies That Oppose Howard Terminal Development 

Some contributors that have cropped up often in conversations about the struggle for the Coliseum and Howard Terminal are also in Kaplan’s report. Kaplan received an $800 donation from Schnitzer Steel in March—Schnitzer opposes the A’s corporation’s proposed Howard Terminal development plan and is also known as a notorious source of pollution at the port. Kaplan received an $800 from Pacific Merchants Shipping Association last year, a corporate port-focused shipping association that opposes the Howard Terminal project. Andres Garcia, then-owner of GSC Logistics, another Port based company that against the Terminal development proposal, donated $800 to Kaplan last year [Garcia passed in June]. 

Few Contributions After Johnson Announced His Campaign

Most of Kaplan’s higher end donors gave to her campaign before any opponent had declared their intention. After Johnson declared, Kaplan received only six donations over $600—one from SEIU for the committee maximum and five $800 contributions from various Oakland residents. From late May to June 30, Kaplan received only 18 itemized contributions, though one of these was from fellow Council member Nikki Fortunato Bas. 

Note: Candidates aren’t required to individually itemize contributions under 100. About 5k of Johnson’s fundraising was from such donors, and about 3400 for Kaplan. 

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