Politicians Pledge to Refuse Support from Tagami

  • "Not to be used for bribing politicians" (Stamp Stampede). Photo credit: Kristina D.C. Hoeppner via Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/4nitsirk/14708007319). Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/).

Despite widespread opposition to his proposed Oakland coal terminal, developer Phil Tagami continues to jockey for political influence. No Coal in Oakland is determined to render Tagami politically toxic until he makes a legally binding agreement not to ship coal through West Oakland.

NCIO is collecting pledges from politicians that they will not accept contributions from Tagami so long as he continues promoting coal. The pledge reads:

I will not accept any support, financial or otherwise, to my campaign or my political fundraising efforts from Phil Tagami until he enters into a legally binding contract not to ship coal through Oakland.

NCIO has also requested that candidates avoid holding fundraising events at the developer-owned Rotunda Building, to thwart his practice of hosting campaign events. Our goal is to isolate Tagami, preventing him from influencing politicians and pressuring him to change his plans. Our interactions with political campaigns to-date suggest that this political isolation is already underway.

Tagami and politics

Tagami’s political aspirations go back many years, as revealed in Phil Tagami: Behind-the-scenes power broker (San Francisco Business Times, 11/20/2005). “If I run for office, it would be responsible to run for the office of City Council first before running for the office of mayor,” Tagami told his interviewer. He has a close business and personal relationship with Governor Jerry Brown—they own property together; Brown’s wedding was held in the Rotunda Building (which Tagami renovated and owns); and Brown has appointed Tagami to several commissions. He may be cultivating a friendship with Gavin Newsom, who was spotted visiting his house during a demonstration there the evening before Halloween.

Tagami’s continued interest in political connections was clear last summer when he applied for a seat on the new Oakland civilian police commission. He made it through the first round of the selection process, but was not nominated. More than fifty emails sent to the selection committee by supporters of NCIO contributed to the decision not to select him (see Tagami Gets Thumbs-Down From Police Commission Selection Panel).

Another example of Tagami’s political aspirations was the “Innovation Awards” ceremony he planned under the auspices of the charter school his children attend, the East Bay Innovation Academy. One award was planned for District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, who was running for office at the time. Interestingly, O’Malley had previously refused to sign NCIO’s pledge not accept donations from Tagami. She claimed it would make it difficult for her if she needed to prosecute Tagami for environmental offenses. It is hard to understand how she could think that refusing Tagami’s money would be problematic but accepting an honor from him would not be compromising. Another announced recipient of the award from Tagami was Alicia Garza. She declined after learning of Tagami’s role and the plan to honor O’Malley, who has earned the ire of Black Lives Matter activists, among many others (see Alicia Garza Declines Award Linked To Coal Developer Tagami).

Support for the pledge

During the crowded primary season, NCIO activists collected close to two dozen pledges from officeholders and candidates, some of whom did not advance to the general election. We are now focusing on the general election, speaking with candidates as well as incumbents not facing re-election who may be contributing to the campaigns of allies or retiring their past debts. A list of politicians who have signed the pledge is available on NCIO’s website.

In this effort, NCIO has received invaluable support from the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, whose endorsements are sought by progressive candidates. The Wellstone Club has agreed that it will only endorse candidates who sign NCIO’s pledge to refuse support from Tagami.

NCIO activists will be attending Wellstone events in the coming weeks to talk with candidates and obtain their pledges. We also welcome assistance reaching politicians from people who know them or their staff, or who attend a campaign function or other event at which a candidate is present. If you are interested in helping us contact candidates and incumbents, please write to NoCoalinOakland@gmail.com.