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Sunday, September 13, 2015

EmPAC Folds Up Tent: Last Vestige of the Emeryville Chamber of Commerce Collapses

The Once Mighty EmPAC Quietly Folds

News Analysis
The Political Action Committee known as EmPAC, used for more than a decade by Emeryville's right wing to consolidate and expand its political power, has quietly folded last week, ending the last vestige of the recently closed Emeryville Chamber of Commerce and bringing to a close an era of runaway development for the town. The termination of EmPAC ends speculation about whether the once powerful and widely recognized election game changer would continue on without its Chamber of Commerce progenitor and partner.  After the death of the Chamber of Commerce in August and with the rolling up of EmPAC, the business community in Emeryville is now left without any official local lobbying capacity and without a way to effectively and clandestinely influence City Council elections.

The Chamber of Commerce invented EmPAC many years ago as a way for businesses and especially developers to secretly donate to City Council candidates of their choice.  Before EmPAC, out-of-town developers with development proposals impending would have to give directly to the candidates of their choice at election time but rival candidates could and did make use of the donations by publicly 'outing' the contributors to draw votes away from the Chamber's candidate.  In response, the Chamber introduced EmPAC.
EmPAC made large corporate political campaign contributions in Emeryville much harder to trace in a direct way.  As a consequence, EmPAC was used in every election to funnel lots of money to their candidates and in so doing, the outcomes of many elections were presumably changed.
The left wing side in Emeryville has never made use of a Political Action Committee it should be noted, probably because their candidates generally receive small donations from Emeryville residents exclusively and as a consequence, there's no need for attempting to hide anything.

It has been widely reported the rise of the resident activist group RULE brought great difficulties for the powerful and secretive Chamber of Commerce and EmPAC and grassroots democratic electioneering helped spell its end.  With election season starting in a few months in Emeryville and given EmPAC's rousing past success however, the termination of EmPAC does not preclude a new right wing PAC from rising up to replace it if developers and the business community so deem it.

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters received the 410 form officially disbanding EmPAC on September 3rd and Chamber members Jason Crouch and John Gooding were listed as assistant treasurer and principal officer respectively.  Both those men have been heavily involved in Chamber and EmPAC business over the years including an unsuccessful attempt in 2005 to defeat Measure C, Emeryville's 'living wage for hotel workers' ordinance, an election that cost the group some $140,000.
The Ignominious End of the Once Mighty EmPAC
Will its demise bring a rise of transparency?
Will developers and businesses now donate to City Council
candidates directly and openly like everybody else?


  1. I've read the Tattler for years and I've noticed you've reported how what's happening in Emeryville seems to mirror what's happening in Washington. Wall Street's power seems to be followed by developer power in Emeryville. But there's been a change begining last election. Emeryville upped the minimum wage and went for a development moritorium and so on. Now you report the political base that kept the developers in power is gone. Maybe it's actually Washington following Emeryville. My question to you: Are you predicting Bernie Sanders will win?

  2. "their candidates generally receive small donations from Emeryville residents exclusively"

    Is this really correct? Didn't the currently seated city council majority receive significant sums from organized labor for their campaigns? I remember looking at the filings, and if my recollection serves me, the labor unions were very active in our last local election.

    1. That is incorrect. Labor union contributions represented only a very small percentage of total campaign contributions the winning candidates received. I can't speak for the losers last time but generally, labor unions only donate to candidates who receive the endorsement of the Democratic Party and the two winners last time were the only ones who got the Democratic endorsement. In Emeryville, the Democratic Party and labor unions are usually pretty closely aligned. Labor unions historically have not been much involved in Emeryville elections over the years. Corporations, especially development corporations on the other hand have been huge players in our elections historically.

  3. EmPac has folded, but there is still the *Emeryville Property Owners
    Association... "*The Junior Chamber of Commerce..."

    Richard Ambro
    64th St