Almanac

News - October 27, 2010

Election: New leader in Menlo council campaign financing

by Sandy Brundage

The six Menlo Park City Council candidates again disclosed the state of their campaign finances, reporting donations and expenditures from Oct. 1 through Oct. 16.

Three seats are open, with incumbents Rich Cline and Heyward Robinson fighting for re-election. Two newcomers are still winning the money race, but the frontrunners swapped places.

At the time of the last filing, educator and businessman Chuck Bernstein slightly trailed Peter Ohtaki, board president of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District. Now, despite a blistering series of attack ads against him that were funded by David Bohannon, Mr. Bernstein is in the lead, with $15,445 in donations.

The single largest contribution, $2,500, came from local accountant James Brenzel, who earlier made an identical donation to Mr. Ohtaki. Menlo Park Downtown Alliance founder Nancy Couperus returned to give another $250, as did Robert Ekedahl, who, like Mr. Bernstein, opposes the Menlo Gateway project. Business owner D.J. Brawner also came back, this time to add $500.

Mr. Ohtaki enriched his campaign by $3,075, giving him a total $14,865 in donations. The Lincoln Club of Northern California Political Action Committee, a Republican organization, contributed $500; Menlo Park Vice Mayor John Boyle chipped in $100.

Mr. Ohtaki's list of expenditures suggests a more diverse strategy than that of the other candidates, who limited spending to promotional materials. Mr. Ohtaki spent $595 on a campaign consultant out of San Francisco, Philip Fabian, a college student at San Francisco State University; $156 on robocalls and $143 on phone service to make those calls; and he made a $500 donation to the public affairs fellowship program run by the Coro Center for Civic Leadership.

Incumbents

The Almanac's last look at Mr. Robinson's war chest found $9,215. That rose to $11,934. Large donors include Menlo Business Park ($1,000); Palo Alto real estate agent Tod Spieker ($500); and the California Apartment Association Political Action Committee ($250).

Next comes Mayor Cline, in fourth place even though he collected $3,705, more than his council colleague during the past two weeks. That brings his total to $10,344. The California Real Estate Political Action Committee provided $1,000. Another housing association, the CAA Tri-County, donated $250. Realtor Michael Stoner gave $350.

Keith, Peterson

Attorney and planning commissioner Kirsten Keith watched her campaign fund grow by $2,600, bringing total donations to $6,799. Intel's chief marketing officer, Deborah Conrad, gave $2,000. Vice Mayor Boyle also contributed $100 to her campaign.

"If you don't have it, don't spend it," candidate Russell Peterson often says, and he continues to run a barebones campaign. Raising $325 since the last finance filing, donations for his campaign stand at $3,975 total, with $500 in non-monetary contributions for campaign signs and graphics from Palo-Alto based Mike Cobb Creative.

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