News - October 13, 2010

Money trickles into Menlo Park council campaigns

by Sandy Brundage

The six Menlo Park City Council candidates disclosed the state of their campaign finances last week, covering donations and expenditures from July 1 through Sept. 30.

Three seats are open, with two incumbents seeking re-election. But two newcomers lead the money race, with less than a month to go before the Nov. 2 election.

Biggest war chests

According to the filed statements, Peter Ohtaki raised the most, with $11,790 in donations; $800 came out of his own pocket. The Menlo Park Fire Protection District Board president also landed the largest single donation of any candidate, $2,500, from local certified public accountant James Brenzel.

The California Apartment Association chipped in $250 for Mr. Ohtaki; the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors, $1,000. Fifty-seven percent of the donors listed Menlo Park addresses.

Coming in second, educator and community activist Chuck Bernstein followed Mr. Ohtaki's lead with $9,830, donating $500 to his own campaign. He was the only candidate to list non-monetary donations, approximately $190 worth from Cisco employee Tiffany Choy, who pitched in with nametags, refreshments, and paper goods.

Certain contributors of interest read like a "who's who" of Menlo Gateway opponents: Patti Fry ($200), Martin Engel ($1,000), Planning Commissioner Vincent Bressler ($200), and Councilman Andy Cohen ($200). A duet of former mayors also put money behind Mr. Bernstein: Lee Duboc ($200), and Mickie Winkler ($150).

Eighty-one percent of Mr. Bernstein's backers listed Menlo Park addresses.


Incumbent Heyward Robinson reported $9,214, including a $1,000 loan from himself. Sixty-seven percent of the money came from Menlo Park donors.

Mayor Rich Cline collected $8,837, including $2,198 he loaned to the campaign. Eighty-two percent of the 43 contributors live within Menlo Park.

He provided the only surprise among the candidates' list of expenditures. Mr. Cline seems to subscribe to the "get 'em while they're young" philosophy of civic involvement — the mayor rented a jumpy house for his and Mr. Robinson's joint kickoff party. "It was for me. I shoved the kids aside," Mr. Cline said.

Former mayor and active Democrat Gail Slocum favored the incumbents by giving each $250.

Other candidates

Attorney Kirsten Keith reported $4,199 in contributions — $3,000 from a self-loan, and the rest from 16 donors, about half of whom live outside the city. One fellow planning commissioner chipped in; John O'Malley donated $100.

Trailing the pack is community volunteer and stay-at-home dad, Russell Peterson. Of the $3,150 Mr. Peterson collected, $3,000 came from himself and a relative. Fifty percent of his four donors live in Menlo Park.


One political action committee, California Real Estate PAC, put in an appearance, giving $1,000 to Mr. Bernstein and $500 to Mr. Robinson.

The unions are not only skipping the endorsements, so far they've also refrained from contributing money or other assistance to any Menlo Park candidate.


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