Bates' Campaign Cleared of Taking Illegal Funds

Amelia Heagerty is a contributing writer and Wendy Lee is a staff writer for The Daily Californian.

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Mayoral candidate Tom Bates' campaign team was cleared by the city's Fair Campaign Practices Commission last night of suspected illegal financial contributions.

The commission voted unanimously to dismiss the charges, following a recommendation from the city staff.

Filed by Berkeley resident Sam Herbert, the dismissed complaint alleged that the Bates campaign illegally accepted funds from political action committees.

The complaint said that companies such as tobacco giant Philip Morris gave money to political action committees of powerful state politicians, which in turn contributed to the Bates' campaign.

The commission members said the complaint had no foundation, adding that the contributions listed in Herbert's complaint didn't add up to illegal activity.

"We have to heavily rely on people not lying to us," said Commissioner Sara Shumer.

The maximum amount a Berkeley political candidate can receive from each individual or group is $250.

"Complaints may not be based on mere suspicion," said Mal Burnstein, Bates' campaign treasurer. "It's 100 percent politically motivated," he added.

Burnstein said the commission's ruling was "the only reasonable decision."

After the ruling, Herbert continued to maintain that campaign finance laws need to be more strictly enforced.

"If you're going to have campaign regulations that govern at all, they should mean something," Herbert said. "As they stand, they don't."

But Herbert said the ruling was "fair."

Herbert's allegations against Bates were not the first to surface this election season.

Prominent neighborhood activist Marie Bowman also filed a complaint against the Bates campaign.

The complaint alleged that the Bates' campaign fund accepted contributions larger than $250.

The city reviewed the complaint and found that Bates' campaign finances were clean of wrongdoing.

Mayor Shirley Dean's campaign has also been reviewed for campaign finance discrepancies, although Dean's campaign manager Bryan Schwartz dismissed these as "technical."

When told of the commission's decision last night on Herbert's complaint, Schwartz said, "I think it's odd."


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