Palo Alto Weekly

News - October 5, 2007

Klausner leads school-board fundraising

Shunning self-imposed donation limits, Klausner has nearly double peers' contributions

by Arden Pennell

Palo Alto school-board candidate Barbara Klausner has raised nearly twice the amount of her closest rival, Melissa Baten Caswell, according to campaign-finance reports filed last week.

Klausner reported raising $23,908 compared to Baten Caswell's $12,550.

Candidate Claude Ezran recorded funds of $11,235, placing him in third. He provided $10,000 of that himself, Ezran reported.

Since filing the report on Sept. 26, however, Ezran has lent himself an additional $8,000, he said this week. The new loan pushes his campaign total to $19,235, second place behind Klausner.

Wynn Hausser filed $11,159 in campaign contributions, and incumbent Camille Townsend reported raising $7,629.

Pingyu Liu did not file a committee campaign statement. Liu is relying on word-of-mouth support rather than accepting donations, he said.

"I want to test how democracy can be completely separated from money," he said.

There are three openings on the Board of Education to be filled in the Nov. 6 election, and Townsend, who chairs the board, is the only incumbent.

Chart-topping donations to her campaign were a pleasant surprise, Klausner said. She initially considered herself the election's underdog because other candidates had greater name recognition, she said.

In August she set a goal to raise $20,000, a standard amount, she said.

Baten Caswell is aiming for the same amount, yet her campaign has been slowed by self-enforced limits, she said. She will not accept more than $250 from an individual or $500 from a couple, she said.

Hausser also limited donations, to $250 from individuals and $500 from organizations, he said.

Incumbent Townsend did not set limits but has focused on raising the minimum needed, she said.

"I grew up in the state of Wisconsin, and Senator Bill Proxmire was really our model of political restraint and fiscal restraint. And he won re-election spending less than $500," Townsend said.

Klausner did not set limits. Her largest single donation was $1,000 from Richard Taranto, a Maryland lawyer.

A nationwide letter-writing campaign to friends and colleagues netted her $4,200 in donations from outside the Bay Area, she said.

Klausner, who worked for the district from 1998 to last spring as a math teacher and later math specialist, is the only candidate to report monetary contributions from current district teachers.

Because individual teachers have little political lobbying power, there is no conflict of interest in accepting their donations, Klausner said.

Ezran has logged donations worth $1,235 in addition to his own loans. Loans are a way for candidates to take back extra money left after campaigning. He decided not to fundraise in favor of using his energy to meet voters and spread his ideas, he said.

"I work full-time, so I have to pick and choose what I think is most efficient in the campaign," he said. Additionally, he is uncomfortable asking friends and family for money, he said.

Liu said he is committed to running his campaign out-of-pocket. He has spent money only on printed materials, which he delivers himself when he goes to meet folks door-to-door, he said.

"I am the mailman," he said.

All other candidates reported costs to print and mail promotional materials, as well as funding the design and printing of lawn signs and purchase of advertising space.

The statements also revealed current board members' loyalties. Member Mandy Lowell, who is not seeking re-election, donated $250 to Townsend. Member Gail Price, also not seeking re-election, was reimbursed about $270 by Wynn Hausser for "campaign literature or mailings." She and former Mayor Vic Ojakian are co-chairs of Hausser's campaign.

Staff Writer Arden Pennell can be e-mailed at apennell@paweekly.com.

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