Strong fundraising boosts Marc Berman, Vicki Veenker in state Assembly race

Both have raised more than $100,000 in last reporting period, campaign finance documents show

Palo Alto Councilman Marc Berman raised $104,481 in the latest reporting period for his bid to succeed Rich Gordon in the state Assembly, more than any of his seven competitors, campaign-finance documents show.

The disclosures, which cover the period between Jan. 1 and April 23, also show a strong fundraising drive by attorney Vicki Veenker, who received $100,812 in contributions. The strong numbers coincide with recent endorsements she has received from California's teachers and nurses unions.

Cupertino Mayor Barry Chang, who held the fundraising lead earlier this year, received only $32,638 in the latest period — much of it in large checks from outside the district. His campaign still has more than $290,000 in cash on hand, according to his latest filing. Yet because he used some of his campaign funds to repay a loan, he actually ended the period $7,362 in the hole.

Mountain View Councilman Mike Kasperzak, meanwhile, raised $34,219 in the last period but remains well behind the other three Democratic front-runners in total cash raised.

The other four candidates have far smaller campaign chests. Menlo Park Councilman Peter Ohtaki, the lone Republican in the race, raised $22,495, while Mountain View Councilman John Inks, the lone Libertarian, $14,670, respectively (this includes a $10,000 loan Inks gave to his campaign). The two have only recently entered the race to replace Gordon.

Two other candidates — Seelam Reddy and Jay Cabrera — are running low-budget, grassroots campaigns and have not filed papers with the Secretary of State.

According to his finance statement, many of Berman's contributors have come from labor groups, developers, Realtors, attorneys, business professionals and public officials. This includes $8,500 from the California Association of Realtors; $7,500 from the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council SCC; $4,200 from the Laborers Local Union 270; and $4,250 from the California Sate Council of Laborers PAC.

Berman also received $4,200 from the San Francisco Laborer's Local 261; and $4,200 from the Palo Alto Professional Firefighters.

Steven Westly, managing partner of the Westly Group, donated $2,000 to Berman's campaign. Palo Alto developers John McNellis and Chop Keenan contributed $2,100 and $500, respectively, to Berman's campaign, which is also being supported by dozens of local environmentalists, commissioners and community volunteers, according to his campaign statement.

Veenker's campaign was bolstered by recent endorsements and contributions from California's teachers and nurses unions. This includes $8,500 contributions from the California Teachers Association/Association for Better Citizenship and from the California Nurses Association Political Action Committee.

Veenker also received $4,200 contributions from Castilleja teacher Julian Cortella and Palo Alto resident John Rohrer; $2,000 checks from Stanford University professor Leonore Herzenberg and from Menlo Park resident Karen Grove; and a $1,000 contribution from the Teamsters union.

Chang, who led the field in cash raised in January, saw his overall balance wane in the latest reporting period. Most of his contributions came in the form of large checks from corporations based outside the assembly district, with Union City-based Marina Food LLC contributing $8,400, with $4,200 pegged for the primary campaign and another $4,200 allocated for the general election, according to his campaign statement. Helix Electric, based in San Diego, similarly gave $8,400, split between the two elections, as has Welkin International Industrial, Inc., which is based in Saratoga.

Kasperzak reported $34,169 in contributions in the last period, much of it coming in smaller checks from individuals inside the district. Among his top contributors are Menlo Park resident Patricia Spieker Hopman, Atherton resident Catherine Spieker, and Portola Valley resident Margaret Thomas, who each gave him $4,200 for the primary challenge. Allison Aldrich, an executive at, contributed $1,000 to his campaign. Virginia Bryant, Mike Kroll, Andrew Hudacek, Robert Wagner and Todd Regonini, all of Sares Regis Group, contributed $1,000 each to Kasperzak's campaign. Tod Spieker, president of Spieker Companies, contributed $2,100.

Kasperzak's council colleague Inks reported raising $14,670 in the period between Jan. 1 and April 23, including $4,670 in contributions and a $10,000 loan. His biggest contributors include Woodland resident Chris Rufer, (who donated $990), Mountain View resident Donald Bahl ($900) and Palo Alto resident Tod Spieker ($950).

Ohtaki did slightly better, reporting $17,495 in contributions (along with a $5,000 loan) in the latest period. About half of his cash raised came from two contributors: Charles Munger and William Regan, each of whom contributed $4,200 to the race's lone Republican. He also received $1,000 from Grace Todd of Montague, Michigan, for the primary battle, according to his campaign statement.

The eight candidates are competing in the June 7 primary, with the two top vote-getters moving on to the November ballot.

Related content:

• To read candidate profiles on Barry Chang, John Inks, Jay Cabrera and Marc Berman, click here.

• To read candidate profiles on Mike Kasperzak, Peter Ohtaki, Seelam Reddy and Vicki Veenker, click here.

• For an interactive online presentation showing the candidates' stances on top state issues, go to


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16 people like this
Posted by Life long Palo Altan
a resident of Midtown
on May 2, 2016 at 12:07 pm

I am so pleased to see councilman Berman doing so well. His commitment to investing in our youth, our infrastructure and our environment makes him an obvious choice for me. And, as a fellow life long Palo Altan, I am so happy about his commitment to give back, we are all so lucky to be born here, and I know Marc is committed to fighting for those not as fortunate to get the same opportunities!

4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on May 2, 2016 at 12:18 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

13 people like this
Posted by Profesorsville Mom
a resident of Addison School
on May 2, 2016 at 12:57 pm

So excited to see Marc running a positive and thoughtful campaign. He brings intelligence, balance and perspective to the Council and know he'll do the same in the Assembly. Go Marc!

15 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on May 2, 2016 at 1:12 pm

Marie is a registered user.

I would be much more impressed if Berman also listed his work for the real estate industry as part of his experience.. There have been very few developer proposals he hasn't liked. I was fooled into voting for him once by his impressive resume and great PR. Now that I know about his record on the PA City Council, I will not vote for him. I am looking for a true progressive, one who has solutions to our housing crisis. Just build wherever and whatever does not work.

5 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on May 2, 2016 at 1:45 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

12 people like this
Posted by Marc supporter
a resident of Downtown North
on May 2, 2016 at 2:10 pm

Marc has walked the walk: he has consistently championed progressive causes while willing to do the tough work of budget review, infrastructure needs analysis and financial prudence. He has my strong support, and that of my neighbors and friends.

20 people like this
Posted by Merry
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2016 at 3:29 pm

Is this s campaign site?

22 people like this
Posted by Bought and paid for?
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 2, 2016 at 7:43 pm

How can Berman ever represent the people of Palo Alto in a negotiation with the fire Union after taking their rather large gift of campaign cash? This amounts to a bribe if he doesn't recuse himself from any negotiation.

Whatever gets double dealers like this off of our council is a positive thing, even if it's moving up to state office I suppose.

15 people like this
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on May 2, 2016 at 8:29 pm

Why do we need to spend up to a million dollars for this race.

No need.


21 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 3, 2016 at 10:51 am

mauricio is a registered user.

I am a progressive and I don't feel like Marc Berman represents me at all. I'm not surprised he is getting contributions from developers, because he has been a staunch pro development council member and frankly, in my opinion, he was a light weight.I'm glad he is getting off the council, but I certainly don't want to see him or ant of his fellow pro development buddies on the council in the state assembly. I would never vote for him for any political job.

16 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 3, 2016 at 11:26 am

I must be watching different CC meetings than Life Long Palo Altan, Marc Supporter and Professorville Mom, but the same ones as Marie, Mauricio and Bought and Paid For.

14 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on May 3, 2016 at 12:40 pm

Here's my favorite Marc Berman moment from a council meeting after the Maybell election: Web Link

Denigrating his opponents and ignoring voters. Not Cool.

8 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 3, 2016 at 1:25 pm

Per that clip he would not change his vote on Maybell because while 8,500 Palo Altans voted against Maybell more than 13,000 voted for him for City Council. Huh? Is he somehow twisting that to mean that 13,000 people agree with all the positions he takes and the votes he casts? That's mighty presumptuous. And ever so typical of a politician.

6 people like this
Posted by So Tired Of The White Liberal
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 3, 2016 at 3:51 pm

So boring this race. Veneer is by far the most sincere candidate to represent the needs of the district in the State Assembly. Berman has been quoted in CC meetings basically stating the PA Council or PA government have no role in assisting folks in Palo Alto with rental housing. With this attitude, is it any wonder that Palo Alto remains a town go forward with blinders on? Berman is just another establishment pseudo-liberal who will continue to want to place all the people with need in the box of giving them entitlements. What people truly need are level economic playing fields so that they can live the life offered under the Declaration of Independence, "The pursuit of life, liberty and happiness". These candidates are just more of the same to keep the systemic, unfair economic status quo going forward. Those who have, will continue to get, and those who don't have get the government programs, if they can get through the bureaucracy set-up to make it look like there is a process to be followed. That's why I am voting for Trump! Make a America Better Again, please somone!

3 people like this
Posted by Wayne Jebian
a resident of Mountain View
on May 30, 2016 at 1:10 pm

[Portion removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 30, 2016 at 2:06 pm

[Post removed.]

2 people like this
Posted by FYI
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 30, 2016 at 4:12 pm

Berman received $8,500 from the California Association of Realtors
They are getting what they pay for. An automatic rubber stamp vote for development.

In the November city election four council members terms expire.
Berman, Burt, Kniss, and Schmidt. If we could unload B, B, and K, we might have a possibility of a resident-focused council.

7 people like this
Posted by voter
a resident of Mountain View
on May 30, 2016 at 4:32 pm

I recently posted this in the MV Voice:

Our local Assembly race has been inundated with money from interest groups whose identity and motivation has been obscured. Specifically, I'm referring to the pro-Berman mailers that have been clogging my mailbox, also the anti-Vicki Veenker hit pieces from "Californians Allied for Patient Protection."

Here is the California Secretary of State's listing just for "late independent expenditures" benefiting Berman: Web Link.

The Berman mailers (as well as pro-Berman Facebook advertising) have been funded mostly by "EdVoice," The California Dental Association, and the California Association of Realtors. Most of these mailers very generally tout his dedication to "the environment" and to schools, but none of the mailers have actually revealed why those particular groups are supporting his candidacy.

In the case of the Veenker hit pieces, they come from "Californians Allied for Patient Protection." Those mailers attack Veenker for not having previously held public office, but say nothing about the real reason why "Californians Allied for Patient Protection" would want to defeat her.

It's a dirty election, when the actual motivation for spending many hundreds of thousands of dollars is obscured. After a little digging around, and watching the candidate interviews provided by the Voice/PA Weekly, I have some idea of why these organizations are spending so much on this race.

Regarding the anti-Veenker hit pieces, a letter published in this week's MV Voice had this to say:

"Here is the reason this mailer was mailed out as I understand it. At a meeting with CAPP, she answered 'never say never' when asked if she was in favor of keeping the cap on malpractice compensation where it is now€, and where it's been for more than a decade. So even though she isn't proposing to change the MICRA legislation that is so sacrosanct to CAPP, that's not good enough for the group. It wants her to adopt a rigid position against any changes to the cap. I, for one, wouldn't want a representative who gave in to that sort of pressure."

This malpractice compensation issue may also explain the California Dental Association's $80,000 support for Berman.

Here is some information about "EdVoice": Web Link. As nearly as I can tell, they advocate for charter schools, and oppose CTA positions on teacher evaluation. Nothing on their pro-Berman mailers reveals the actual reason for their support (approximately $750,000). However, Veenker stated in her interview that she had not been willing to make a firm statement opposing the present teacher tenure standards. Perhaps that explains the EdVoice money for Berman.

In the interviews, Berman stated that he would not be willing to release the contents of the interest-group questionnaires that candidates filled out, although he would answer the interviewer's question on any issue if asked. Candidates' questionnaire answers would have had a lot to do with interest groups' support or opposition. Veenker said she would have no problem releasing the questionnaires.

And the California Association of Realtors...I assume it has to do with Berman's vision for development, or his position on rent control. Again, his answers on their questionnaire would tell us a lot, and of course the mailers don't mention the actual issues that motivate their support (over $160,000 on polling, "research," and mailers).

Berman, Veenker, and Kasperzak are the only serious candidates in this race. I may not agree with every one of Veenker's positions, but I'll be voting for her. Berman's and Kasperzak's negatives are huge, for me. As an MV resident I have voted for Mike in earlier council elections, but I've been watching his votes more closely for the last few years (almost invariably in support of big money in development proposals), and also his positions in favor of BRT dedicated lanes and HSR, and will never make that mistake again.

Like this comment
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 30, 2016 at 4:35 pm

[Post removed.]

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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