When it comes to politics and elections, people often utter the phrase “follow the money.” Looking at campaign forms for 2014 November General Election, it seems events have already catapulted into what could be a record election year.
$40,000 was contributed to help decide the Turlock Mayor election before the first filing period even ended June 30. Election day takes place Nov. 4.
For those Turlockers who don’t remember, the 2006 Mayoral election saw record spending. Together, then-candidates John Lazar and Kurt Vander Weide had more than $118,000 contributed to their Mayoral campaigns according to 2006 FPPC finance forms. Since then, elections have picked up on spending as money saw results.
Tens of thousands of dollars are spent per seat, and this year looks to be no different with Mayoral candidates on pace for record spending.
Running in the Mayoral election this year is candidate Mike Brem. His campaign, Mike Brem for Mayor 2014, has filed showing Gary Wahl as treasurer and Tom Sperry as principal officer. As of June 30, the end of the first filing period, Brem shows monetary contributions totaling $8,923.99. So far, Brem has spent $257.46, identifying $213.40 on remit envelops at Cherry Design & Printing of Denair. Accrued expenses for the campaign include $3098.95 to Meridian Pacific of Sacramento for campaign literature as well as Brem’s reimbursement to himself for campaign literature for $317.16
Contributions to the Mike Brem for Mayor 2014 campaign include a $500 donation from Turlock attorney Robert Triebsch, a $500 donation from PMZ realtor, Citizens for Yes on Measure B Steering Committee Chair, and Turlock Action for Business Political Action Committee member Jim Theis, and a $500 donation from Vice President of Human Resources at Foster Farms and Brem’s neighbor, Tim Walsh.
Brem himself donated $4,100, to his campaign, totaling nearly half of his fund. The largest donation to the campaign, other than from Brem, comes from S.H. Smith Farms at $2,000. The Mike Brem for Mayor 2014 campaign has received a total of 12 donations.
Gary Soiseth, the other candidate in the 2014 Mayoral election, filed his campaign name as Gary Soiseth for Mayor 2014. Campaign finance forms show a total of $32,402 in contributions, including a $5,000 loan made by himself and $1,172 in non-monetary contributions such as food and drinks for his kick-off meet and greet provided by Kurt and Julie Andre as of the end of the first filing period June 30. The campaign treasurer is Michael Hicks and the campaign manager is Josh Weimer.
Campaign contributions to Gary Soiseth for Mayor 2014 include: $250 from campaign manager and Brownstone Equities Property Manager Josh Weimer, $250 from former Turlock City Councilmember Kurt Spycher and his wife Shirley, $250 from Michael Warda – A Professional Law Corporation of Turlock, $500 from Turlock Irrigation District Board of Directors Vice President Joe Alamo and his wife Neila, and a $500 donation from former San Francisco Giants pitcher and current public speaker Dave Dravecky and his wife Jan.
Melissa Williams, Public Affairs Specialist at Modesto Irrigation District, where Soiseth works as Water and Energy Advisor, gave $1,500, former Turlock mayor of 16 years and Turlock Family Vision optometrist Curt Andre gave $1,500 with his wife Julie, and Jim Vieira of P&F Metals donated $1,500.
In the past, Soiseth told TurlockCityNews.com that he would follow self-imposed campaign finance restrictions in the election despite the Turlock City Council voting down a city ordinance for campaign finance reform. In mid-April, Mayoral candidate Soiseth said he would “lead by example,” accepting only $1,500 from individuals and $3,000 from farms and businesses. Listed on Soiseth’s FPPC 460 form is a donation from Eric and Rebecca Gonsalves, marked as an individual donation for $3,000. The occupation and employer listed is Eric Gonsalves’ position as Vice-President and Broker of Brownstone Equities. When asked to comment, Weimer, Soiseth’s campaign manager, explained that the $3,000 donation from the couple consisted of two individual $1,500 donations from Eric and Rebecca, “consistent with [their] earlier stated contribution guidelines.”
Associated Feed and Prospector, LLC donated $3,000 each. When asked whether the two companies are both tied to Matt Swanson, Weimer clarified that while the Prospector, LLC donation was backed by Matt and his wife Maria Swanson, the Associated Feed donation was backed by Rick and Andrea Swanson.
"I am very grateful to have such a wide group of supporters,” said Soiseth. “Along with Mayor Curt Andre and local businessman Matt Swanson, I have a growing list of farmers, students, veterinarians, community promoters, educators, small businessmen, and Congressmen in public and financial support of my candidacy. My entire list of supporters share my clear vision for better roads, reliable water, and balanced budgets at City Hall."
The Turlock Action for Business (TAB) PAC, sponsored by the Turlock Chamber of Commerce, also turned in campaign finance forms for the first filing period, showing that as of June 30 they had received $7,850 in contributions, for a total cash balance of $8,324.46.
Although the TABPAC is sponsored by the Chamber, it acts as a separate entity, as the Chamber cannot endorse any candidates, Chamber of Commerce CEO Sharon Silva explained. When the TABPAC decides to support a candidate, for any office (locally or within the State, as the TAB is not a federal PAC) the PAC interviews the individual, not the Chamber.
As a state PAC, TAB can support anyone who is running for a local or state office, including candidates for governor, assemblymember, senator, school board official, councilmember, or mayor.
“I as the CEO of the Chamber and the foundation, I am ex-officio on that PAC,” said Silva. “I have no say and I don’t’ sit in with the candidates’ interviews anymore. I did the first couple years but I only did it to make sure the process was in place.”
Silva explained that this approach was designed by choice, as she works with whoever is elected to office and does not want to interfere with endorsements by the PAC. The Chamber’s government relations committee acts as a separate entity, and they are able to campaign for certain measures, but the PAC only supports candidates. The TAB PAC has five members who also serve on the Chamber, and six members who serve from the public. Chamber members are not required to make contributions to the TABPAC. The Chamber and the PAC it sponsors even have separate director and officer insurances to add to the separation.
Contributors to Chamber PAC include PMZ realtor, Citizens for Yes on Measure B Steering Committee Chair, and TABPAC member Jim Theis at $250, PG&E Corporation listed out of San Francisco at $1,500, Romeo Medical Corp. at $500, Turlock Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors Chair Andrew Wigglesworth at $500, James Brenda at $250 and his company JKB Development, Inc. at $275 as of June 30.
For the first filing period, the PAC had $3,940 in expenses, including $1,120 to Wahl, Willemse & Wilson, LLP for accounting, $1,784 for directors and officers liability insurance from Winton-Ireland, Strom, & Green, and $1,000 for directors and officers insurance paid to the Turlock Chamber of Commerce. Accrued expense is owed in the amount of $2,156 to the Priayou Law Office.
The Turlock Firefighters PAC holds a considerable amount of money, with its campaign finance forms showing contributions from 39 individual Turlock Fire Fighters as members of the union, International Association of Firefighters, Local #2434. Not all Turlock firefighters are required to join the union, but members that do join have $105 extracted from a paycheck every month, which essentially means $105 is taken out of every other paycheck. For those who are union members and choose to support the PAC, $85 of the $105 is put towards general membership, and $20 is given to the PAC. If a firefighter is a union member and they choose not to support the PAC, the $20 is given for general membership so that all $105 extracted from their paycheck supports the union and not the PAC. This means that each of the 39 firefighters listed as contributors on the campaign finance form chose to donate $120 to the PAC as of June 30, except one individual who retired and therefore only had dues subtracted from two paychecks.
“The union is voluntary,” said Dale Melden, Turlock firefighter and PAC director for Local #2434. Upon being hired, if a person chooses not to join the union, “They still operate under the same MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) that we operate under, they work under the same exact conditions that we do, they essentially benefit from everything that the union provides, they just don’t have to join themselves. And as far as tax goes, that is also completely voluntary, if a member decides that they don’t want to have the same political contributions as the union, they can have that money taken out of the PAC fund, and their contribution is just rolled under the general membership.”
Currently, the Turlock Firefighters PAC holds $22,233.17, and listed expenditures for the period ending June 30 include $200 for the 2013 annual PAC fee to the Secretary of State, $50 for the 2014 annual PAC fee to the Secretary of State, $51.38 on Harland Clarke Checks for their bank account, and $43.05 at Seeger’s Printing for business cards.
There were also expenses listed for two separate PAC Director meetings with unidentified councilmember(s): one at Starbucks for $7.40 and one at Latif’s Restaurant for $5.98.
Matthew Jacob listed Dr. Raymond George as treasurer for his campaign Matthew Jacob for Turlock City Council 2014. As of June 30, an amended campaign finance form shows Jacob as receiving a single loan from himself for $1,500 with no other contributions listed. The initial form, however, which mistakenly covers a period from May 29 to July 31, shows the campaign receiving a $200 contribution from Valentine Sarkis. It also lists Jacob as providing a $6,500 loan to his own campaign. Expenditures include $5,575 on campaign paraphernalia at JN Sourcing Group, LLC .
Forrest White’s campaign, Forrest White for Council 2014, lists Marissa Geiger as treasurer. White donated $1,000 to his campaign and while candidates don’t have to list contributions or expenditures under $100, White still did, with $98 on postage and $92 on a P.O. Box rental.
Donald Babadalir filed an FPPC 410 form showing his campaign name is Donald Babadalir for Council 2014, but did not have an active monetary campaign prior to July 1.
Incumbent Bill DeHart did not file FPPC campaign forms for the first period ending June 30, as he did not yet have an active campaign.
“I had filed my Intention to run but had not yet officially formed my campaign,” said DeHart in an email statement. “My FPPC filing took place after July 1.”
Sergio Alvarado, running for City Council, also did not have a campaign prior to July 1.
For the 2014 November General Election, the Turlock City Council wanted candidate campaigns to be transparent, especially financially. Because they did not pass an ordinance mid-April for campaign finance reform, they decided to make the campaign finance forms readily available to the public, and TurlockCityNews.com has helped to do that. Provided here are PDF links to the campaign finance forms for the first filing period, ending June 30, for all City Council candidates and Mayoral candidates.
Donald Babadilir (No campaign finances required to report as of 06-30-14)
Bill DeHart (No campaign finances required to report as of 06-30-14)
Sergio Alvarado (No campaign finances required to report as of 06-30-14)
Citizens for Yes on Measure B (No campaign finances required to report as of 06-30-14)