Coal developer donations to Ignacio De La Fuente pollute 2022 Mayoral Race
Would-be Oakland coal terminal developers appear to be shopping for influence in the Mayor’s office, by making major contributions to an “Independent Expenditure Committee” to support the mayoral candidacy of Ignacio De La Fuente. According to the latest reports, de la Fuente hasn’t raised a whole lot of other funding for his 2022 mayoral bid.
To help the struggling De La Fuente, two contributions of $50,000 each were made in early September to an “Independent Expenditure Committee” set up by longtime coal lobbyist Greg McConnell (described as “a front man for Vikas Tandon, a financier who has taken over plans for a coal terminal next to the Port of Oakland” by KPIX News in July 2021). The fund is called “Californians for Safer Streets Supporting Ignacio De La Fuente….”
The big money donors are:
- Jonathan Brooks, founder of hedge fund JMB Capital, run out of the same LA office as hedge fund Autumn Wind, which picked up ownership of Insight Terminal Solutions (ITS) in a bankruptcy proceeding; ITS is the sub-lessee of the West Gateway site at the foot of the Bay Bridge, where developers have been angling for years to build a coal terminal. Autumn Wind’s Chief Investment Officer is Vikas Tandon, who is now the CEO of ITS.
- Oakland Bulk & Oversized Terminal (OBOT), Phil Tagami’s shell company that entered into a development agreement with the City of Oakland in 2013 (via parent company CCIG), and held the primary lease on the West Gateway until the City terminated the lease in late 2018 due to the developer’s failure to meet contractual obligations (one of multiple issues contested in ongoing, opposing lawsuits in the California courts).
“Independent Expenditure Committees” are a device commonly used by donors to circumvent (exceed) direct contribution limits such as Oakland’s limit of $900 per individual to campaigns and candidates. Such committees are not lawful if they coordinate with the campaign they are supporting (in this case, the mayoral campaign of Ignacio de la Fuente).
Mayoral candidate Ignacio De La Fuente was a member and president of the Oakland City Council from 1999-2013. He was trounced in a bid to become Mayor of Oakland in 1998 when he got 7% of the vote to the 59% garnered by then-once-and-future, now former, Governor Jerry Brown; and lost another mayoral race in 2006 to former Congressman Ron Dellums; then was defeated by Rebecca Kaplan in a race for Oakland’s sole councilmember-at-large seat in 2012.
Former Councilmember De La Fuente sat on the board of the Oakland Coliseum Joint Powers Authority during the years it gave tens of millions away to the Raiders in order to entice them to continue playing in Oakland (it didn’t work, and Oakland didn’t get its “loans” repaid). He famously backed a plan to lay off hundreds of Oakland police officers in 2010, then ran (unsuccessfully) as a law-and-order candidate for the at-large City Council seat in 2012. He appears to be positioning himself as a law-and-order candidate again in 2022 … and his campaign donors seem to be betting that this pro-developer candidate will bow to would-be coal developers’ extortionate demands against the city’s people and taxpayers if he were elected.
No Coal in Oakland doesn’t make endorsements in political campaigns, but we invite all Oakland voters to do the math.