A campaign mailer that landed in mailboxes Thursday attacks Sacramento mayoral candidate Darrell Steinberg for criminal charges brought against three Democratic state senators while Steinberg was leader of their caucus. The mailer also tries to use his support of the McKinley Village development in East Sacramento as an example of undue influence by a developer.
The independent expenditure ad was produced by the California Taxpayers Coalition, a political committee operated by a San Diego-area consultant. It was funded by the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee; the Western Electrical Contractors Association, a coalition of anti-union contractors; and Central Valley farming giant Gerawan Farming, which has battled Steinberg and the United Farm Workers union in the past.
The three groups combined to contribute $65,000 for the ad, according to campaign finance records filed with the secretary of state’s office. Metro Chamber has endorsed Councilwoman Angelique Ashby for mayor, although she was not responsible for the mailer. The contractors group and Gerawan Farming would not comment.
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Below is text of the ad and an analysis from The Bee’s Ryan Lillis.
Text: One side of the mailer has a smiling picture of Steinberg in the Senate with the title “Darrell Steinberg: The Worst of State Politics.”
The mailer has an airplane cutout with the header, “Political Junkets & Gifts.” It says, “As the President Pro Tem of the State Senate, Darrell Steinberg took over $23,000 in gifts and travel expenses – bought and paid for by special interests.”
Beneath that is a cutout of handcuffs with the header, “A ‘Culture of Corruption.’ ” It says, “Under Steinberg’s leadership, the State Senate developed what the Sacramento Bee called a ‘culture of corruption’ with several members either convicted or charged with dozens of felonies.”
At the bottom: “Darrell Steinberg – We can’t afford his pay-to-play politics in City Hall.”
The other side of the mailer says, “In Sacramento, Darrell Steinberg sided with a special interest donor.”
It shows a picture of Steinberg in the Assembly and says, “The McKinley Village development is one of the most controversial projects in recent Sacramento history – raising serious concerns about: More traffic on already congested neighborhood streets. Increased Carbon emissions with thousands of additional daily vehicle trips. Permanently destroying open space and seasonal wetlands.”
A picture of graded dirt has the words, “Steinberg supported the McKinley Village development after accepting thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from a wealthy developer.”
The bottom of that side says, “Say no to unethical pay-to-play politics. Say no to Darrell Steinberg.”
Analysis: Three senators in Steinberg’s Democratic caucus – Leland Yee, Rod Wright and Ron Calderon – faced criminal charges related to their acts as legislators while he was Senate president. In 2014, Calderon alone was indicted on 24 charges, including bribery.
Republican critics said Steinberg should have tried to expel them, but Steinberg said he acted appropriately and within his legal limits by having the Senate suspend all three with pay when the charges were revealed. Steinberg was never connected to the cases.
The mailer skews the message in The Bee’s editorial. While the editorial board criticized the Legislature for a “culture of corruption,” it did not say the culture developed under Steinberg. Instead, the editorial board said the issues had been festering for years.
It is true that Steinberg accepted more than $23,000 worth of meals, travel expenses for conferences and gifts as Senate leader, based on disclosure forms he filed between 2009 and 2013. Those gifts came from various groups and individuals, including law firms, friends, colleagues and interest groups. Among Steinberg’s travel destinations were China, Vietnam and Washington, D.C.
Such practices are common among state legislators, who collectively accepted more than $550,000 in travel expenses in 2013, a Sacramento Bee analysis found. Some legislators accepted more than $20,000 that year alone.
By comparison, Ashby has accepted $6,400 worth of gifts and travel to conferences since becoming a councilwoman in late 2010, according to forms she filed with the city clerk.
Steinberg has expressed support for McKinley Village this year while campaigning for mayor.
But the mailer implies that Steinberg supported the development through a legislative act, showing a picture of him in the Capitol. The development was approved by the Sacramento City Council in 2014, when Steinberg was still in the Senate.
The ad cites donations Steinberg accepted from McKinley Village developer Phil Angelides between 2003 and 2007. Angelides donated to Steinberg seven years before the development was approved and while Angelides was a Democratic flag-bearer as a statewide officeholder and the party’s 2006 gubernatorial candidate.
Ashby voted against the McKinley Village development. However, the Metro Chamber supported McKinley Village and lobbied the City Council for it to be approved.
PoliGRAPH is The Bee’s political fact checker, rating campaign advertisements and candidate claims as True, Iffy or False.