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Don Perata Still Making Bank From Prison Guards Union
By Josh Richman
Originally published in the Oakland Tribune
Posted: 09/29/2009 04:15:26 PM PDT
Oakland mayoral candidate and former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata has continued to have a lucrative relationship with the powerful state prison guards' union since he left office in December.
State records show that the California Correctional Peace Officers Association's Truth in American Government, or TAG, Fund paid Perata Consulting $40,000 in the first quarter of 2009; the union's Issues Committee, a separate entity from its government fund, paid Perata Consulting $60,000 in the year's first half. Other records show that Perata Consulting is registered to Nick Perata, Don Perata's son, but communications consultant Jason Kinney said Tuesday that both father and son have an ownership interest in the firm.
"As a private consultant, Don is applying his vast experience and unique understanding of public policy to help CCPOA develop important inmate re-entry programs, preventing thousands of inmates from being dumped into our community without necessary preparation," Kinney said. "There is nothing inappropriate or even unusual about his private consulting work."
The TAG Fund also made a $50,000 civic donation in January to Avalon Village, "an innovative, nonprofit organization that enhances the lives of people 65 and over in Alameda," according to its Web site. "Avalon Village is designed to make remaining at home a safe, comfortable and cost-effective alternative to institutional long term care facilities." The site lists Don Perata as president of Avalon Village's board of directors.
The TAG Fund also paid $22,448.75 in the first quarter of this year to Liquid Logistics for membership mailers. Alameda County records show that business name was registered from 2004 through this month to Nick Perata. The association's Issues Fund also paid Liquid Logistics $35,100 in April for mailers.
The TAG Fund has paid $42,269.75 for voter focus group work this year to Sandi Polka, a longtime Perata consultant and confidante.
The prison guards' union had been among Perata's most significant contributors while he was in the state Senate.
For example, the TAG Fund gave Perata's Leadership California committee $602,000 in 2008, making the union far and away the PAC's largest contributor in 2008. Most of that money was given in August ostensibly to oppose Proposition 11.
"We just have more faith in Sen. Perata to get the job done," group spokesman Lance Corcoran said at the time, adding that it was unimportant where the money went so long as it would be used against the ballot measure.
Even after the ballot measure passed and Perata moved $1.9 million from Leadership California into his own legal defense fund — created to help Perata ward off a years-long, now-closed federal corruption investigation — the prison guards' group still seemed sanguine.
"One of the issues that always comes up with respect to independent expenditures is that they are independent. We were opposed to Proposition 11; however, once you make the contribution, you have no control over the independent expenditure," Corcoran said in December. "We continue to have faith in Sen. Perata, and we believe that our moneys were well spent."
Center for Governmental Studies President Bob Stern, who authored the Political Reform Act of 1974, at the time said the association likely did not care about the transfer because it had used its money to gain access, not for specific campaigns.
The group also reportedly gave $100,000 last year to the Rebuilding California Foundation, a nonprofit set up by Perata and registered to Polka's office address. The foundation's 2008 tax return says its mission is "to keep policymakers, civic leaders and the general public informed of and involved in the process of funding and building the new roads, new schools, safe housing and flood control projects our state needs to keep our economy strong."
That same return shows the foundation raised $200,000 in 2008 and had expenses of $275,203, of which $134,022 went to professional consulting and $91,169 went to charitable or civic donations; that spending is not detailed in the return, and Kinney said he could not reach the appropriate people Tuesday to answer questions about it. The foundation's only filing with the Secretary of State's office last year showed it spent just $8,932.48 to influence legislation.
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