ASUC Senate condemns city democratic club’s campaign tactics

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The ASUC Senate unanimously passed a bill denouncing the actions of the Berkeley Democratic Club during the 2012 election at its meeting Wednesday night.

The Berkeley Democratic Club, the largest group supporting the Democratic Party in the city, is facing allegations of violating state and local campaign laws during the 2012 election for failing to file expense reports for false campaign literature distributed by homeless people in support of Measure S, a proposed city ordinance that would have made it illegal for people to sit on sidewalks between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. but was ultimately defeated by voters.

The Berkeley Democratic Club, which was involved in the Yes on S campaign, maintains it did nothing wrong.

The ASUC bill, SB 57, condemns what it says are unfair actions taken by the Berkeley Democratic Club and Yes on S campaign and encourages the Berkeley Fair Campaign Practices Commission to sanction them.

“Shady tactics do not create a level playing field,” said Matthew Lewis, a co-author of SB 57 and activism director of Cal Berkeley Democrats, a campus organization not affiliated with the Berkeley Democratic Club. “Cal Berkeley Democrats found the tactics used by BDC to be disgusting.”

According to Bob Offer-Westort, coordinator of the No on S campaign, homeless people, who were allegedly paid and hired by the Yes on S campaign, were seen handing out false campaign materials that claimed to be the “official endorsements of the Democratic Party” at polling places in Berkeley on the day of the 2012 election.

Offer-Westort claims that though the campaign materials were labeled official Democratic Party voter guides, they contained measures that were not actually endorsed by the Democratic Party.

The FCPC compiled a report detailing the Berkeley Democratic Club’s involvement in the Yes on S campaign that it presented to the group at the FCPC meeting Sept. 19.

Roland Peterson, a board member of the Berkeley Democratic Club, denied allegations against the organization and said the homeless workers were hired independently by the Yes on S committee.

“It’s not true,” he said. “The BDC has done nothing wrong.”

According to Caitlin Quinn, a CalSERVE senator and a co-author of the ASUC bill, the senate wanted to provide the FCPC with a student stance before a decision regarding the investigation was made.

“The bill doesn’t necessarily do anything except show that ASUC supports FCPC to investigate the BDC,” Quinn said. “No one should cheat in an election — that’s just against the idea of a democracy.”

Although the FCPC has already begun investigating the Yes on S campaign, it has not begun investigating the Berkeley Democratic Club. At its meeting Thursday night, the FCPC, which has jurisdiction over an organization if 70 percent of its expenditures are in the city of Berkeley, was not able to determine whether it has jurisdiction over the Berkeley Democratic Club. The FCPC tabled the issue of whether to investigate the organization until its next meeting in January.

Jane Nho covers student government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @JaneNho.