The Berkeley Democratic Club (“BDC”) is facing serious questions about alleged violations of state and local campaign finance laws. On July 12, 2013, the Berkeley Fair Campaign Practices Commission received a complaint against BDC alleging violations of the Berkeley Election Reform Act and state election law, including failure to file expense reports for false and misleading campaign materials that were distributed by homeless people during the November 2012 election cycle.
BDC was an avid proponent of the measure (Measure S) that would have criminalized sitting on a city sidewalk. The measure failed to pass. In campaigning for Measure S, BDC paid for and distributed campaign literature that falsely claimed the Alameda County Democratic Party supported Measure S. BDC’s false and misleading literature prompted a letter of reprimand from the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee.
On Election Day, BDC hired numerous homeless people to pass out their fraudulent literature at county polling places. Many if not all of the homeless people passing out the campaign materials were current or former clients of a Berkeley drug and alcohol treatment center, Options Recovery Services, Inc., whose director, Dr. Davida Cody, was a spokesperson for the Measure S campaign. “Hiring the homeless clients of a recovery program to campaign for their own criminalization is the opposite of harm reduction. Berkeley’s vulnerable populations deserve better,” said Patricia Wall, director of Berkeley’s Homeless Action Center.
BDC’s failure to report its expenses – namely, printing false and misleading campaign literature then turning around and paying homeless people to distribute said literature – effectively kept from public view who gave money to BDC or how it spent that money. BDC’s violations could result in substantial fines and penalties from the Fair Campaign Practices Commission.