Dash for Cash

Although the race to fill Susan Rose’s seat as 2nd District
Supervisor has not officially begun, candidate Das Williams was
fastest off the fundraising blocks, raising $27,695 last December.
Of that, $25,000 came from just one donor, Peter Sperling, founder
of Call Wave Inc. and son of billionaire John Sperling, who started
the University of Phoenix, an online adult-ed academic institute.
Former Goleta School Boardmember Janet Wolf reported raising
$17,000; of that, she contributed $10,000 and gathered $4,000 from
relatives. Dan Secord, former Santa Barbara City Councilmember,
reported raising $8,600, $2,500 of which came from condo developers
John and Hazel Blankenship. Joe Guzzardi, emergency planner for the
county fire department, reported raising no monies in December, but
was quick to lambaste the big check Sperling wrote Williams. “To
me, that’s obscene.” Guzzardi added that with support from the
Committees to Protect Santa Barbara and the Goleta Valley—created
by neighborhood advocates Gary Earl and Ann Crosby—he expected to
reach all 9,000 households in the district for a mere $360.
Williams made no apologies for Sperling’s donation, explaining that
he and Sperling—who recently contributed $5 million to the
successful effort to save much of Ellwood Mesa—were friends and
fellow environmentalists.

Guzzardi was not the lone voice questioning county campaign
funds. Mayor Marty Blum was sufficiently alarmed by the numbers
tossed around last year that she’s rumbling about implementing
campaign finance reform; Councilmember Iya Falcone spent $89,000 on
her re-election effort while rookie Councilmember Grant House
lavished $73,000 on his first run. Councilmembers Helene Schneider
and Das Williams—who raised $70,000 two years ago—expressed support
for campaign reform in theory, but cautioned against passing
anything that gave “special interests” and incumbents a greater
advantage. They worried the council could tip the scale on behalf
of independent expenditure committees by reducing the amount
candidates could collect from individual donors. Councilmember
Brian Barnwell, meanwhile, charged that the $17,000 donated by
Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a major supporter of
the proposed Living Wage ordinance, had so tainted the public’s
perception of the council’s financial integrity that the Living
Wage proposal should be put to the public, instead of the council,
for a deciding vote.

In response, Mayor Blum wondered rhetorically why Barnwell and
others weren’t equally troubled by the considerable funds donated
by the police and firefighters’ unions—$12,800 and $8,500,
respectively—to their preferred candidates. “And we negotiate
salaries with these guys,” Blum said. Blum and Schneider plan to
introduce the matter at the March 7 City Council meeting.


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