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The Davis ChamberPAC was created by the Davis Chamber of Commerce. The Davis Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee exists to "support or oppose local, county or state ballot measures and candidates which impact the business environment in Davis." It is a legally and financially separate organization that is lead by an independent Board of Directors. The ChamberPAC Board is appointed annually by the current Chairman of the Davis Chamber of Commerce. The level of activity has varied over the years, but as of 2014 it is currently active.
December 1997 - Creation of a legally and financially separate entity, then known as the Business Issues Committee, by vote of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.
June 1998 Election - Support of Measure M, City of Davis Parks Maintenance Tax
November 1999 Election - Support of Measure S, DJUSD Parcel Tax to Support Davis Schools
2003 - Bylaws edited to increase the maximum monetary contribution from $500 to $1000.
March 2002 Election - Support of Measure D, City of Davis Parks Maintenance Tax renewal
November 2003 Election - Support of Measure N, DJUSD Parcel Tax to Support Davis Schools
November 2007 Election - Support of Measure Q, DJUSD Parcel Tax to Support Davis Schools
November 2007 Election - Support of Measure P, Parcel Tax to Support Davis Branch Library
November 2008 Election - Support of Measure W, DJUSD Parcel Tax to Support Davis Schools
2012 - Bylaws edited to broaden the scope of efforts to include support of candidates and allow donations from any business or individual.
June 2012 Election - Support of Measure D, City of Davis Parks Maintenance Tax renewal
June 2012 Election - Support of Lucas Frerichs, Dan Wolk & Stephen Souza for Davis City Council.
The City of Davis has enacted campaign finance regulations that govern both candidates for office and committees formed to support/oppose candidates and/or measures. These regulations form a layer of more stringent regulations on top of the State of California's regulations as enforced by the Fair Political Practices Commission
The City of Davis does not allow individuals to donate more than $100 to any City Council candidate per candidacy period.1 Also, independent committees (aka Political Action Committees or PAC's) may not accept more than $100 from persons per candidacy period to be spent on independent expenditures or candidate expenditures2.
There are no municipal spending limits on campaigns for local ballot measures in Davis.
In order to ensure that the community understands how the Davis ChamberPAC operates, during the June 2012 Election it was dedicated to transparency and went above and beyond reporting regulations and disclosed all of their donations and expenditures every week.
Accusations of illegality in reference to the "co-mingling" of candidate contributions and ballot-measure contributions into a single pool may or may not have a legal basis, depending on one's interpretation of municipal laws. There are no regulations, local or state, about how General Purpose Committees should manage their internal accounting. As previously mentioned, there are local regulations about how much money may be spent on City Council candidates. The Davis ChamberPAC continues to follow these regulations and has received assurances from the Davis City Attorney and City Clerk that the current method of accounting for donation and expenditures is legal.
During the June 2012 Election the Davis ChamberPAC had many advertisements that simultaneously supported three candidates and one measure. To account for this shared expenditure, the cost of the advertisements are split between the candidates and the measure. The online advertisements purchased on The People's Vanguard of Davis, Patch.com and the door hangers were split evenly: 25% for the measure and 75% for the candidates. For the commercial ran on Comcast, the number of seconds that each candidate or measure was on-screen was counted and a percentage calculated to apportion the cost correctly. In this case, the measure received 31.66% and the candidates received 68.34% of the expenditure.
Official Goals of the ChamberPAC
In their own words, "ChamberPAC believes that it is imperative that the Davis community has political leadership capable of fostering a community that is not only socially and environmentally sustainable, but also economically sustainable. Our community deserves elected officials and government staff who are willing and able to constructively work with community organizations and private industry to find solutions for current and future community challenges." In other words, they seek to solve the city's issues by creating a pro-business environment.
The ChamberPAC has been charged with:
Crafting and executing electoral strategies that result in improvement of our members’ economic vitality and the quality of life for the entire community.
Interviewing all council candidates in a debate conducive to properly assessing their grasp of economic matters and the need for a robust local economy.
Considering recommendation and possible support of a council candidate or slate of candidates that support the mission of the Chamber.
Raising funds to support PAC activities.
Forming a broad-based, business community coalition to support these efforts.
Note that all Davis ChamberPAC contributions are limited to $1000. The sole funding source for the Chamber PAC is voluntary contributions by individual members of the Davis Chamber of Commerce. The Davis Chamber of Commerce is a legally distinct corporation, so no funds from Chambers' operating budget are used to support Davis Chamber PAC activities. Neither organization is affiliated with the US Chamber of Commerce or the California Chamber of Commerce.
Many in the community have expressed concern about the PAC's donations and expenditures, so the ChamberPAC has consulted with the City Attorney and City Clerk to ensure that they are operating well within national, state and city laws. They publish a report of their expenditures every week to foster a sense of openness with the public. Some have called the PAC's operating procedures into question, to which they respond that they are making an honest attempt to operate within the boundaries of the law.
Some have questioned the legality of accepting large donations of $1000; this practice seems (to many) to defy the spirit if not the letter of Municipal Code 12.01.035, which, in general, serves to prohibit wealthy businesses and individuals from having an undue influence on local politics through large financial contributions.
Beyond mere legality, there is concern over an undue commercial influence over local city politics (which is the basic goal of the organization). Municipal spending limits would not permit $1,000 donations directly from Chamber members to campaigns. By establishing a PAC, the Chamber has the opportunity to pump more money into local races.
The ChamberPAC has endorsed Stephen Souza, Dan Wolk, and Lucas Frerichs for the 2012 City Council Election. The Vanguard has questioned these endorsements, given that "[i]t was Stephen Souza who, on the brink of the economic collapse, insisted that the city had a balanced budget and a 15% reserve, despite at that time what was $13 million in deferred maintenance" and that "[i]t was Stephen Souza who helped pushed through not only the budget in 2009 by a 3-2 vote, but the series of MOUs in 2009 and 2010 that did little to change the status quo. He was the swing vote on all of those and went against the side of fiscal sustainability." Souza also actively promoted Second Street Crossing (the site of Target) in 2006, which some believe has harmed Davis businesses such as the now out-of-business Alphabet Moon.
Measure D, which the PAC supports and has spent a portion of its campaign expenditures on, is the Parks Renewal Tax, which the PAC (as well as most of the community) believes benefits many local businesses and the general Davis community. The proposition is the extension of the original Measure D of 2002 that passed with a whopping 79% of the vote. To most people, this would imply that an extension would not require any advertisements in order to gain support, even during an economically tough time.
In the May 20th, 2012 edition of the Davis Enterprise, the ChamberPAC released its first print advertisement. Although it is primarily an ad for the populist Measure D, it also includes the names of the PAC's endorsed candidates for city council. The ad states that the endorsed candidates support Measure D, while ignoring the fact that the other candidates support it as well. In an official public disclosure, the PAC claimed candidate expenditures of only about $40 on the nearly $600 ad. This adds more fuel to the fire of the existing controversy of whether or not the PAC should have legally been allowed to co-mingle funds for both the candidates and Measure D in the first place.
It is interesting to note that all three endorsed candidates are contributors to executive director Kemble Pope's blog, The Davis Voice. The two unendorsed candidates have never contributed. Furthermore, Pope was a campaign consultant for endorsed candidate Souza's 2008 election bid. How these factors do not represent a conflict of interest is anybody's guess.
Some have criticized the PAC's other voting members for their industry ties that do not seem to represent a healthy balance of the diverse business interests of Davis. They are: Steve Greenfield (a principal with a civil engineering firm), Gregg Herrington (real estate developer), Michael Bisch (real estate agent) and Tom Cross (property management). Janis Lott (owner of Newsbeat is also on the ChamberPAC's Board as the liaison from the DDBA
Some members of the community have asked the ChamberPAC to provide a more detailed description of the internal voting process and how it led to the endorsement of the selected candidates. Specifically, the public would like to know which candidates each Chamber PAC member voted for and how this led to a collective decision. Thus far, it is unclear if a unanimous consensus was achieved or if there was even a formal voting process at all. According to Kemble Pope, "There was hours of discussion, dissent and arguing. We came to consensus on Frerichs, Wolk & Souza for a variety of reasons that have been stated over and over again."
This Vanguard article lists donors to the ChamberPAC in 2012 as of early May, 2012, noting in particular that West Yost Associates, who just landed another multimillion contract to handle the wastewater project for the City of Davis, contributed the maximum amount allowed by the PAC, $1000. Around the same time, the mysterious Alyce LLC, also contributed the maximum amount. Since then, there have been two more contributions of $1000 each.
June 2012 Election Endorsements
Lucas Frerichs, Stephen Souza and Dan Wolk
"Davis residents are strongly encouraged to support these three candidates because each of them has demonstrated a firm commitment to promote, support and advocate for the general economic vitality of the business community of Davis and the quality of life for the community. Frerichs, Souza and Wolk have the vision and demonstrated commitment to build a more socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable community. They are all collaborative, solution oriented leaders."
Measure D, The Parks Maintenance Tax
"The ChamberPAC has also endorsed Measure D, the Parks Renewal Tax, and encourages citizens to renew this parcel tax that protects our high quality of life. The special amenities provided by the City of Davis improve the quality of life of the citizens and also benefit the business community. City parks are an important component of the quality of life in developed areas, and adequate maintenance is essential both to assure parks perform that function and to prevent degradation on park properties. Since 1992, when the State of CA began taking additional local property taxes from cities to help fund state programs, the voters of Davis have taxed themselves to pay for amenities like high quality parks, schools and libraries. The ChamberPAC has been proud to support these efforts since 1997."
In the Media
Debate videos were broadcasted on Davis Media Access in May of 2012.
Wed, May 16th
7:30PM - 9:30PM
Davis City Council candidate statements
(8PM)Davis Chamber of Commerce PAC - City Council Candidate Debate 2012
Thur, May 17th
(12:30PM)Davis Chamber of Commerce PAC - City Council Candidate Debate 2012
Fri, May 18th
(12:30PM)Davis Chamber of Commerce PAC - City Council Candidate Debate 2012
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2012-06-05 12:13:19 In an utterly misleading last-minute action, the ChamberPAC is distributing 4000 door hangers endorsing their 3 candidates with the slogan "Protect Students' and Renters' Rights". http://davisvanguard.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5420:last-minute-ad-blitz-has-chamber-supporting-renters-rights&catid=50:elections&Itemid=83 —DonShor
2012-06-05 14:33:08 In an utterly predictable and undefendable public statement, Don Shor refuses to believe that there is merit and sound reasoning to the actions of the Davis ChamberPAC. —KemblePope
2012-06-05 15:41:13 Kemble Pope's statement continues his pattern of denigration, refusing to respond to the merit of my statement. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that the three candidates endorsed by the ChamberPAC would be any more or less sound on the issues of "Students' and Renters' Rights" than the other candidates. This is a last-minute campaign tactic, promulgated on election day in order to avoid any possible media coverage of the lack of merits and the misleading claims. There is no "sound reasoning" to the claim made in this door hanger. It is indefensible. So Kemble doesn't try to defend it. —DonShor
It certainly is interesting that Pope, a guy who says he wants to promote businesses, developers and, generally, the local Establishment, all of a sudden says he wants to help Non-Establishment students and renters. Logical disconnect or cynical manipulation? I hope the students and renters see through this flyer and vote otherwise...RaoulDuke
Hi RaoulDuke, I promote economic development policies, environmentally sustainable activities, open space and habitat conservation and a vibrant downtown. I have been a residential renter in this community for 10 years and I'm engaged to be married to a student at UC Davis. I regularly mentor and hire students. No disconnect and no manipulation, just my honest assessment of the situation. I hope that students and renters will feel empowered to be engaged, voting citizens of our wonderful little town. —KemblePope
2012-06-06 12:10:36 Now that the election is over, I think that Don has a fair point. I voted exactly for the people that the ChamberPAC wanted me to vote for. Up to a point, its reasons were my reasons. But what's the connection between this election and "students' and renters' rights"? I see nothing wrong with the endorsements in and of themselves, but why were they put forward in such a polarizing, propagandistic fashion? It doesn't look the best way to maximize either influence or donations. —GregKuperberg
2012-06-07 11:53:59 @DonShor and GregKuperberg - Dan Wolk & Lucas Frerichs have the most recent experience with Students' and Renters' rights, since they were both students and renters not so long ago! Also, they both served on the Social Services Commission. Here is that group's purpose, "Advises the City Council on all matters relating to issues of social services which affect the citizens of Davis, including but not limited to the issues of social services in health, affordable housing, homelessness, hunger, transit, child care, elder adult services, accessibility and low income needs." Students and renters, our most economically disadvantaged citizens, were and will continue to be protected by Lucas, Dan and Stephen. Stephen Souza served as chair of the Human Relations Commission which is the first place a citizen can go if they feel their rights have been taken or diminished. Stephen has also long enjoyed the support of UC Davis student groups... because he shows up to their events and helped them when needed.
Brett Lee's position? He's got one good paragraph on his website. Sue's position? Couldn't tell you. And honestly, it was our job to promote our endorsed candidates and so that is what we did. —KemblePope
The last sentence could be the most reasonable part of what you are saying: You took it to be your job to do this. Again, I see nothing wrong with endorsements from the "ChamberPAC", but with all due respect, I think that the way you did the job was out of step with Davis politics. Because, a major reason that I supported the same people that you supported was that they know how to disagree. Yet I think that you're weakening the Chamber of Commerce on that same score. Even though, on a number of main questions, I truly agree with you. —GregKuperberg
2012-06-07 15:23:14 @ Kemble: The Social Services Commission has practically nothing to do with students. Moreover, Sue Greenwald is the Alternate on that Commission. You are being disingenuous and are just rationalizing after the fact. This was a strategic political decision which had nothing to do with their merits as candidates on student or renter issues. "it was our job to promote our endorsed candidates and so that is what we did." Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. Anybody who wishes to peruse the Social Services Commission minutes can look here: http://cityofdavis.org/meetings/agenda.cfm?c=16
2012-06-07 16:32:17 The Davis College Democrats also endorsed those three candidates, following questionnaires and the only student forum to be held on the UC Davis campus. That may also be a basis for the argument that they are good on student/renter issues. You can find the questionnaire responses here. Sue Greenwald did not submit a questionnaire and Brett Lee was ineligible for endorsement due to his DTS/NPP registration, but both answered questions and discussed their ideas at the May 6 forum (right before the LWV). —MaxMikalonis
2012-06-08 11:39:30 Kemble: The problem here is not the candidates you chose to support but the fact that the Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee was purporting to tell student renters who it was that was in their best interest to vote for. That's where most people are complaining. I would listen to Greg Kuperberg here, he and I rarely see eye to eye on local matters, but what he is saying is exactly correct. The biggest topic of conversation on Tuesday night other than the results themselves was the Chamber. That is something you want obviously but not as a polarizing force, which right now it is. —DavidGreenwald
Even a sincere discussion with student renters would have been fine. —GregKuperberg
I want to emphasize what DG says. KP, you seem to have labelled me as an anti-Chamber obstructionist. The truth is that until recently I had no impression of the Chamber whatever, and didn't even know about the PAC. But I very quickly saw much to object to: the misleading Measure D flyer, the renter flyer, the bias towards only certain types of business interests, the tapping of Souza even when it is clear that he has not been fiscally responsible. I realize that you and I can disagree about all of these issues, but what you ought to be taking to heart is that a great number of people — not just me — have reacted negatively to the PAC's actions and have been unpersuaded by your explanations. Do you really want the Chamber to be so controversial and polarizing? And yes, I do mean the Chamber itself. You've called it the ChamberPAC, and so you can't blame people for making the association, aside from the other connections we've already talked about. —CovertProfessor
But let's not get carried away with the point. It may be "clear" to you that Souza has been "fiscally irresponsible", but it's not clear to me at all. And while it is true that the ChamberPAC has been polarizing, both the Davis Vanguard and Sue Greenwald have been vastly more polarizing, and for a much longer time, but you seem to like them. Finally while the ChamberPAC's campaigning has been tendentious lately, it has at least been very good about disclosure, while you prefer to remain anonymous. Maybe I should temper my criticism of the ChamberPAC because, as saying goes, the perfect is the enemy of the good. —GregKuperberg
So, attack the messenger, is that it? (aka ad hominem). Everything you say is irrelevant to my main point. I was actually trying to be helpful, to say, "no really, the actions of the ChamberPAC are hurting the Chamber, that people are getting a negative impression of the Chamber." It doesn't matter who I am or what my other beliefs are. I am a Davisite who has gone from having no impression of the Chamber to having a negative impression. That should matter to someone like Kemble. —CovertProfessor
I don't think that anything that I have to say to you is any more ad hominem than what you have to say to Kemble Pope. Yes, your other beliefs do matter, if they add up to a double standard. If the ChamberPAC has done some glib things that weaken its message, then there is also a double standard here that weakens yours. You're pulling out a few too many stops here. You claim to speak for "people"; you single out one city councilman as irresponsible and you call that obvious; you accuse the ChamberPAC of being biased; then you turn around and say that YOUR other views are irrelevant. Is it fair pool to declare that someone else is selective and biased, but that each of your statements just floats in space by itself? This is a main reason that I do not like to be anonymous on the Internet. —GregKuperberg
My comments are towards the Chamber, not to you. If the Chamber wants to simply dismiss the opinions of anyone who would write anonymously on the Internet, they can do so. If they want to simply dismiss the views of Greenwald supporters (which I am — I have not sought to hide that) they can do so. If they want to simply dismiss the views of people who find the Vanguard there a useful resource (that's about as far as I would go — I don't always agree with DG and find many of the discussions tiresome) they can do so. I don't think it would be wise for them to do so — I would think an organization like that would seek to be broadly appealing rather than polarizing — but it is their choice. And as I have said my piece to the Chamber and clarified it as well as I can, and as I have no interest in getting in an endless debate with you (GK), this will be my last comment on this thread. —CovertProfessor
You make some fair points here, and I agree that the Chamber/ChamberPAC could have done a better job. Even so, "I support Sue Greenwald and I feel alienated by the Chamber of Commerce because it's polarizing" is a complicated message. I know people who support Rick Santorum and say that MSNBC is too polarizing, and that stance confuses me for the same reason. —GregKuperberg