The race for the state senate seat being vacated by Don Perata just keeps getting nastier and naster. There have been charges and counter-charges of campaign irregularities between the two Democratic candidates, Wilma Chan and Loni Hancock. (Since the district’s registration is overwhelmingly Democratic, the primary is, to all intents and purposes, the election.)
Most recently, a mailer was sent to district Democrats last week, accusing Hancock of lowering the minimum academic standards in the public schools, and asserting this would hurt children’s future career prospects. (See associated pdf files.) The mailing came, not from Chan’s campaign, but from an “independent expenditure committee” with the interesting name, “Education Meaders for High Standards Independent Expenditure Committee.” If this seems a very specialized committee, it is. It has made only one expenditure, $49K — the costs for putting together and mailing the hit piece. Coincidently, according to the FPPC’s website tracking such committees, it has also received only one contribution — also $49K. The contribution came from another independent expenditure committee; this one called “California Tribal Business Alliance.” Neither the FPPC’s nor the Secretary of State’s website yet provides information about who’s funding that committee, but from its name. it’s probably a good guess that most if not all its money comes from various indian casino businesses and interests — i.e., the “education leaders” committee is nothing more than a front for tribal financial interests.
So, what do indian casinos have to do with educational standards? Not much; or at least the connection is far from obvious. However, why indian casino interests might want to target Loni Hancock is a lot clearer. As today’s endorsing editorial in the S.F. Chronicle notes, she has been outspoken in her opposition to the expansion of indian casinos, especially the expansion of the Casino San Pablo and the proposed establishment of a new casino at Point Melote in Richmond. One might expect tribal gambling leaders to think it’d be a good idea to keep her out of the State Senate, where her opposition might be even more powerful. What’s shameful is that they’ve apparently resorted to underhanded and deceptive tactics to attack her.
It remains to be seen whether Wilma Chan’s campaign had any hand in this chicanery. (Under state law, that would be illegal — independent expenditures are not allowed to be coordinated with or controlled by a candidate.) Even if she’s not involved, fair play should call for her to repudiate the hit-piece and demand that the tribal forces “butt out” of this local campaign. By the way, now that the issue has come up, It’d also be interesting to hear Ms. Chan’s position on tribal casinos, especially in her East Bay district.