Labor groups boost Berman, Veenker in state Assembly bids

Two Palo Alto attorneys lead the eight-candidate field in contributions, endorsements from unions

With the primary election fast approaching, Palo Alto Councilman Marc Berman and patent attorney Vicki Veenker are getting late boosts from labor groups and political-action committees for their respective bids to succeed Rich Gordon in the 24th Assembly District.

According to the latest campaign filings, the two Palo Alto attorneys have had more success than any other candidate in the eight-person race in securing contributions and endorsements in the final weeks leading up to the June 7 election. Each has received thousands of dollars in May from labor unions, with Berman receiving $4,200 from the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees and $2,000 from Plumbers, Steamfitters and Refrigerator Fitters, Local 393; and Veenker receiving $1,000 from Teamsters Local Union 665.

The Teamsters are just the latest labor group to throw its support behind Veenker. In February, Veenker received $8,500 from the California Teachers Association. And in April, the California Nurses Association and the Mountain View Professional Firefighters contributed $8,500 and $2,500 to her campaign, respectively. She has also received endorsements from several major labor groups, including California Teamster Public Affairs Council and the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges.

Berman's campaign has also benefited from generous contributions from labor unions. Northern California Carpenters Regional Council gave $7,500 to his campaign in April, while San Francisco Laborer's Local 261 PAC gave $4,200 and the San Mateo County Firefighters Local 2400 contributed $1,000. Berman has also received endorsements from Palo Alto Firefighters, IAF Local 1319, Palo Alto Police Officers Association and AFLCME Council 57.

Some labor groups opted not to choose among the two Democrats but to endorse both. Berman and Veenker are each touting on their respective campaign websites the endorsements they had received from the California Labor Federation and from the Foothill-De Anza Faculty Association.

Cupertino Mayor Barry Chang, who led the field in campaign fundraising earlier this year, has also enjoyed a flurry of late contributions, though in his case the money is coming from corporations and individuals, many of whom are based outside the Assembly District. Devcon Construction, based in Milpitas, made two contributions of $4,200 each to the Chang campaign on May 29. Gary Filizetti, the company's president, contributed two additional checks -- each $4,200 -- to Chang's campaign.

All three candidates have spent heavily thus far, with Berman leading the field with $361,239 in expenditures (not counting the more than half a million dollars that independent political-action committees have spent to support his campaign) as of May 21, according to his Form 460. Chang is second with $326,550 in expenditures, while Veenker is third with $277,558.

Mountain View Councilman Mike Kasperzak is a distant fourth, having spent $76,466 on his Assembly campaign. Kasperzak has raised $113,416 since Jan. 1, according to his campaign filings, and had an ending cash balance of $113,890 as of May 21. His major contributors include Shernoff Bidart Echeverria Bentley LLP ($2,500), Recology ($2,500) and Hanson Construction Corporation ($2,100).

Kasperzak's council colleague John Inks, the lone Libertarian in the race, raised about $14,670 for his Assembly bid.

Menlo Park Councilman Peter Ohtaki, the sole Republican in the field, raised $24,215 as of late May and concluded the reporting period with $16,296 on hand. His top contributors are Charles T. Munger, who gave $4,200, William Regan, who also gave $4,200, and developer Steven Eggert, who gave $2,500.

The only other two candidates in the race, Jay Cabrera and Sea Reddy, are running low-budget campaigns and have not filed campaign-finance documents.

Underscoring the unusually competitive environment in what is typically a relatively ho-hum Assembly race (Gordon beat out two opponents in 2010 and then cruised to re-election in 2012 and 2014), independent political-action committees have been flooding residents with flyers supporting and -- in some cases -- attacking candidates.

EdVoice and the California Dental Association have been behind mailers supporting Berman's campaign, while an organization called the Californians Allied for Patient Protection has been sending out attack ads targeting Veenker.

The eight-candidate field will be winnowed down during the June 7 primary election, with the top two vote-getters advancing to square off in the general election on Nov. 8.

Related content:

Independent groups pump cash into Assembly campaign

• To watch candidate interviews, click here.

• 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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46 people like this
Posted by Ellie
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 3, 2016 at 8:45 pm

Berman paints himself as a leading environmentalist yet is burying Palo Alto in more mailers than have ever been sent in the history of the world - a big fat waste. This is such poor judgment and bad values on Berman's part. Will he throw taxpayer money around like he's throwing campaign money around?

22 people like this
Posted by Its becoming strange
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 3, 2016 at 11:21 pm

In the official list of Berman's contributors, note all the developers and venture capitalists, and at the bottom, he contributed $100,000 (25,000 +25,000+ 50,000) to his own campaign.

Web Link

From an earlier list, $50,000 loan to himself, and
$4,200 each, from parents and 2 siblings, total $16,800

Donations from a number of Palantir employees and
from several members of the Planning Commission and
about 5 or 6 leaders of Palo Alto Forward.
Web Link

Anyone still unsure about who he's working for?

5 people like this
Posted by South PA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2016 at 12:53 am

@Ellie, the vast majority of mail sent in support of Berman's campaign has come from outside groups that he is prohibited by state law from coordinating with. I don't think his campaign has sent more than a handful of mail pieces, which is normal for a State Assembly campaign.

@Its becoming, it is not very becoming of you to cherry pick your facts. Veenker has loaned her campaign $100,000 and given it another $8,000, Kasperzak has loaned his campaign $70,000, and Chang has loaned his campaign at least $80,000. What's wrong with getting donations from family members?

12 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jun 4, 2016 at 9:23 am

Vicki Veenker is clearly the best choice. Never vote for any candidate who is taking big campaign contributions from developers.

Above all, do not vote for Barry Chang.

Barry Chang:

Does not keep his promises.

Does not accomplish his goals.

Has a closed mind which is dependent only on what developers and other campaign contributors want.

Does not listen to his constituents.

Has no leadership skills and no vision.

Works to destroy public school systems.

1 person likes this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jun 4, 2016 at 9:26 am

Why are developers and construction companies giving so much money to Barry Chang who has no chance of winning?

It's because as a Cupertino city council person, he has tremendous influence over land use and zoning. He is working hard to push through huge and damaging developments that will result in big contracts for construction companies if successful.

Chang is in the process of being recalled for dereliction of duty.

32 people like this
Posted by
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 4, 2016 at 10:00 am

Among the barrage of glossy campaign literature from Marc Berman surrogates that daily hits our mailboxes, yesterday's attack ad on Vicki Veenker by the California Apartment Association -- "Whose Values?" -- takes the cake. An ad paid for by wealthy developers and apartment owners trying to paint Ms. Veenker as a corporate shill, and apparently the devil incarnate, is laughable. If Marc Berman and his allies were honest in saying "Veenker is a threat to landowners because she represents tenants fighting eviction," I would at least have some respect for them. The ad says a lot about Mr. Berman's character and integrity, not to mention the hypocrisy of his bedfellows. I have not been paying particularly close attention to this race, but that ad sealed the deal for me -- and not in the way its sponsors intended.

30 people like this
Posted by where the money is coming from
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 4, 2016 at 1:28 pm

If we are talking about corporate shills, I can tell you as a politically-aware Mountain View resident that Mike Kasperzak has been a great friend to developers, has advocated for VTA's plan to take away auto lanes on El Camino for BRT, and has been dismissive of residents' concerns. I won't be voting for him.

As for Berman, here are his main outside sources of support, with their expenditures for his campaign just in the period from 5/9/16 - 6/1/16 (from the Cal. Secretary of State website):

EdVoice (pro-charter school, anti-CTA) over $823,000
California Real Estate Association: over $160,000
Cooperative of American Physicians (lobbies for limits on malpractice awards) $30,000
California Dental Association (this is probably about malpractice awards as well): $108,000

Total for just these groups, just for this time period: over $1,100,000.

About the anti-Veenker hit pieces - The latest one is from the "California Apartment Association Independent Expenditure Committee." This is the same group that hid $90,000 in dark-money contributions to three Mountain View City Council candidates in the last election by routing the money through a shell organization. Previous anti-Veenker hit pieces were brought to you by "Californians Allied for Patient Protection," another malpractice insurer's front.

Berman and Kasperzak are all about serving moneyed interests, not their constituents. I'll be voting for Vicki Veenker.

Like this comment
Posted by Usual Suspects in 3rd Senate District
a resident of Southgate
on Jun 4, 2016 at 9:56 pm

According to the Capitol Weekly the 3rd Senate District looks a lot like our 24th Assembly District - in terms of who the aspiring kingmaker donors are.

Web Link

I think we need to get rid of the top-two primary system because it just gives the corruptors an extra round to mess up both parties by making them more money dependent.

2 people like this
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 4, 2016 at 10:33 pm

SEA_SEELAM REDDY is a registered user.

Here is my proposal

24+ Improvement Objectives for our 24th AD

•01 I am for Limited GROWTH
•02 Do not spoil our environment
•03 Lower airport noise; work with FAA
•04 Must REDUCE traffic GRIDLOCKs
•05 NO HIGH SPEED RAIL. Ok for CALTRAIN upgrades
•06 Eliminate corruption and backroom deals
•08 WOMEN Equal pay needed.
•09 Work to have minimum wages $15-20/hour
•10 School education funds from Sacramento
•11 Uplift East Palo Alto
•12 Lower business regulations that can lower costs
•13 State funding for helping children self-esteem and mental health
•14 Schools starting hours no earlier than 9 am
•15 Charter schools funding
•16 Family Counseling funding resources
•17 Success through mentoring
•19 Respect family; unite families
•20 $5000 Pet care medical bills deductions
•21 $500 fine for second offense for littering
•22 Housing ideas 1
•23 Housing ideas 2
•24 Open


25 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 5, 2016 at 6:34 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Marc Berman deserves to be in Sacramento doing something he believes in and reflects his views and talent, therefore he should be sent there as a lobbyist for the real estate development industry.

12 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 5, 2016 at 8:25 am

SteveU is a registered user.

We do not need attack ads.
We do not need candidates that SPEND (or use shills) their way to office.

4 people like this
Posted by Its becoming strange
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 5, 2016 at 10:28 am

South PA says I cherry picked on Bermans family contributions.

Then HE cherry picks from my post and slides over this:

Donations from a number of Palantir employees and
from several members of the Planning Commission and
about 5 or 6 leaders of Palo Alto Forward.

Want the names? Easy, but it's more fun to look at the Secretary of State's list to see who really is behind this big money development advocate.

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Enough Already
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 5, 2016 at 12:57 pm

So Berman and Veenker are in the pockets of big labor. I'll vote for anyone else in that case.

14 people like this
Posted by Its becoming strange
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 5, 2016 at 1:08 pm

No, @Enough, You don't get it.
There is a big difference between big labor and big development.
Berman represents developers and real estate interests.

Yes it is tiresome, and Berman's big bucks supporters have created a very unpleasant environment with their onslaught of dumb mailings. It has become quite strange.

10 people like this
Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 5, 2016 at 8:17 pm

I thought both Berman and Veneer might make decent assembly members andI was prepared to give both fair consideration. However, the latest hit piece mailers sent on Berman's behalf have convinced me not vote for him since he will be beholden to the folks who paid for the mailers and because he is not sufficiently convinced of the merit of his case to let his record and positions suffice.

Like this comment
Posted by Annette
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2016 at 11:38 am

Annette is a registered user.

Sea Reddy has been a PA CC candidate and he frequently posts in this forum. His professional credentials suggest that he is a smart guy but w/all due respect to the man, it has been easy to not take his candidacy seriously. But I am beginning to appreciate his lack of ties to any political machine, his apparent honesty, and his willingness to work to improve government at the state and local levels. As I see things, that - not self aggrandizement - is what serving is supposed to be all about. I also like that he is not adding absurd amounts of paper trash to the landfill. Unlike Mr. Berman, Mr. Reddy seems to respect what Zero Waste means.

3 people like this
Posted by Its becoming strange
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 6, 2016 at 1:32 pm

Mr. Reddy may be a nice man but a vote for him is a vote lost to a viable candidate, like Veenker.
I think being knowledgeable and informed is more important than being "nice."
His assumption shared by very few, that he belongs in a leadership position for which he is unsuited is a little sad.

10 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2016 at 2:17 pm

It is also interesting to note that a Berman mailer claimed that a Mountain View Councilwoman endorsed Berman when she did not (Margaret ?); she is upset about it and wrote letters to both the Mercury News and the Daily Post disavowing Berman, maybe the Weekly too. I'm pretty annoyed with the Mercury News for endorsing Berman. Based on the comments here I don't think Berman's going to prevail in Palo Alto. Also, Mayor Burt and former mayor Holman wrote a letter to the Mercury in support of Veenker.

8 people like this
Posted by Follow the money
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 6, 2016 at 2:31 pm

Labor loves the candidate bought by the developers. Expect LOTS and LOTS of new construction and "deals" to eliminate those pesky things like parking and trees.

1 person likes this
Posted by South PA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2016 at 3:15 pm

@Anne, your comment about a Berman mailer claiming an endorsement by Margaret Abe-Koga is incorrect. An outside group created a television ad, not a mailer, that included a picture that Abe-Koga was in, but did not identify her by name. The ad didn't say that Abe-Koga had endorsed Berman, and the ad was created independently of Berman's campaign. State law prohibits campaigns from coordinating with these outside groups, so Berman's campaign couldn't have had anything to do with the ad.

I recognize that PA Online discussion threads are fertile ground for Berman-bashing, but people need to be a little more careful about getting their facts right.

Like this comment
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 6, 2016 at 4:04 pm

@It's Becoming Strange - I understand your point about Reddy and agree fully w/your comments about Veenker. It seems to me she has good support in Palo Alto.

2 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2016 at 5:22 pm

@South PA: I stand corrected if the pro-Berman ad was on television and not a mailer, but the fact remains that Margaret Abe-Koga was not pleased that her image was used without her permission. The rest of my post is factually correct.

5 people like this
Posted by I support berman
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 6, 2016 at 6:24 pm

South PA is correct this forum has become fertile ground for berman bashing by a small number of residents ( with the apparent blessing g of the online staff, since berman is not a PASZ person).
Ms Abe-koga needs to get over herself, she is a public figure and cannot expect very picture that contains her image to be cleared for use by her.
And for those of you complaining about mailers, you seem to forget the massive number of mailers we received for the last council election that were pushing holman, filseth and dubois. But they are PASZ favorites...

1 person likes this
Posted by South PA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2016 at 8:42 pm

[Post removed.]

6 people like this
Posted by Dissappointed at Veenker
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 6, 2016 at 10:22 pm

I attended a candidate forum last week. The rules were said at the beginning of the meeting treating each other with respect. However Veenker came late, bdcause she claimed that was attending a graduation. Therefore, when it was her turn to answer a question asked by the leaders, she first took the time to trash Berman, and answer the question partially. This forum that had been going well, all of sudden turned into a hostile environment. Even one of the leaders had to say: "please do not attack each others" She did not even cared about the audience; she just care about using this opportunity to put embarrassed the other candidate. The rest of the elected candidates who attended the forum were very profesional. I would love to have a women for this seat, but we do not need one with these disruptive behavior. For these reason I did not vote for her. I would not be surprised if she is the one who is posting against Berman in this article.

8 people like this
Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 7, 2016 at 9:19 am

I didn't see "I support Berman" offering up any real response to the complaint about the mailers, only a plaintive, "well others do it too.." Mailers that provide information or even lists of supporters are fine - we saved and read those. What especially bothers me are the hit job mailers sent by various PACs. To me the fact that Berman has not objected to those (e.g. the one with kids dressed as devils) speaks volumes about his character and desire to get elected no matter what. I hope he reads this online forum and gets the message should he make it to the next round and possibly beyond.

5 people like this
Posted by I am voting for Berman also
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 7, 2016 at 10:39 am

Stephen- by law a candidate is not allowed to tell an independent group what they can or cannot put in their mailers. Also not sure what kind of response you are expecting from the Berman supporter. Him and south pa ate correct that this forum has become a site for posting fake and scurrilous comments about Berman. Don't you object to those hit jobs ?

9 people like this
Posted by Helyn
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 7, 2016 at 10:59 am

Dear "Disappointed at Veenker",

I've known Vicki and her family for 15 years. I've always been impressed by their integrity, character and work ethic. Since I've known her so long, I know that her daughter graduated from middle school that evening. Some things you just can't miss. Support whichever candidate you chose, but, you are out of line to impugn her character, i.e. "claimed to have a graduation". As far as I know, Vicki has not spread any untruths about her opponents, and has been the victim of misleading attacks from the independent expenditure committees supporting Berman.

4 people like this
Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 7, 2016 at 8:22 pm

Dear "I am voting for Berman also" : If Berman didn't want those mailers, he could disavow them, publicly. He hasn't. What else is there to say?

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

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