Torres-Walker, Wilson get big support from network of Oakland- and SF-based left-wing special interest groups, out-of-town donors

The re-election campaigns for incumbent Antioch Councilwomen Tamisha Torres-Walker and Monica Wilson have received a huge boost in support from out-of-town special interests.

$22,202 for each candidate funded mainly by self-described unrepentant liberal from the 60’s Lafayette investment consultant and billionaire’s daughter from Atherton

By Allen D. Payton

Incumbent Antioch Councilwomen Monica Wilson and Tamisha Torres-Walker’s campaigns for re-election have been beneficiaries of major independent expenditures in the amount totaling $21,776 during this year’s elections. According to campaign finance disclosure reports, known as Forms 460 and 497, Oakland-based Lift Up Contra Costa Action, a Project of Tides Advocacy, PAC spent $20,426 for “canvassing” or door-to-door campaigning for each of the two candidates, plus another $1,776 each for “walkcards” which are fliers distributed door-to-door.

That brings the total to $44,404 that the organization has spent in Antioch as of the end of the most recent filing period on October 22, 2022. Lift Up Contra Costa Action paid $40,852 to another Oakland-based organization, ACCE (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment) Action for the canvassing and BaughmanMerrill in San Francisco was paid $3,552 for printing the walkcards. ACCE’s leaders, members and attorney spoke during council meetings advocating for the city’s rent stabilization ordinance which both councilwomen voted for and have highlighted on their campaign websites. (See related article)

According to Lift Up Contra Costa Action’s website, the organization also supported Diana Becton in her re-election campaign, earlier this year and receives major funding from Sandor Straus. This year, he contributed $66,000 to the organization, while Elizabeth Simons of Atherton contributed $20,000. She also contributed the maximum $4,900 directly to Torres-Walker’s campaign. Another $30,001 was contributed by Progressive Era PAC of San Francisco, $25,000 by the Service Employees International Union Local 1021 Candidate PAC, and $5,000 was contributed to Lift Up Contra Costa by Oakland-based Bay Rising Action Committee sponsored by Center for Empowered Politics which also contributed $1,000 directly to Wilson’s campaign (See related article)

According to TransparencyUSA.org, of the almost $700,000 raised by the Progressive Era PAC most of their funds were received by nine individuals, including $250,000 from Eva K. Grove, the wife of former Intel chairman, Andrew Grove and $200,000 from M. Quinn Delaney. According to Influence Watch, Delaney “is a philanthropist, fundraiser, and major donor to left-of-center causes and Democratic politicians. In 2000, Delaney and her husband, real estate mogul Wayne Jordan, Delaney co-founded the Akonadi Foundation, a left-of-center racial justice grantmaking group primarily.” In addition, “Starting in 2018, Delaney was part of a four-person Democratic mega donor group in California that supported prosecutor candidates who committed to increasing leniency in prosecutions, including Chesa Boudin in San Fransisco and George Gascon in Los Angeles.”

Additional funding for the Progressive ERA PAC includes $85,000 from Karen Grove, chair of The Grove Foundation, founded by her father Andrew Grove. Also, according to Influence Watch, “The foundation is primarily a grantmaking organization[2] and makes millions of dollars in grants annually to many organizations, including funding many of the nation’s most notable left-leaning groups such as the ACLUPlanned Parenthood, and Everytown for Gun Safety[3] The Packard Foundation, a prominent left-leaning foundation, has provided funding to the Grove Foundation.” [4] Ms. Grove is also president of the Grove Action Fund which, according to Influence Watch, is the “lobbying and election-advocacy arm” of the foundation which “donates hundreds of thousands of dollars to various left-leaning organizations and fund at least one left-leaning political organization that supports liberal candidates in state races.” [2]

Ms. Grove is also a board member for the Groundswell Fund which, according to Influence Watch, is a “’pass through’ grantmaking organization that funds advocacy and direct-services groups working on reproductive issues—especially those that advocate for increased access to abortion for minority groups—and transgender interests.” Finally, according to the Groundswell Fund’s website, Ms. Grove “is a board member and former board chair of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte. She is an advisory board member for the California Donor Table, and an active member of Voices for Progress, Way to Win, and the Women Donors Network.”

According to Influence Watch, “Tides Advocacy (formerly The Tsunami Fund, The Advocacy Fund, and the Tides Advocacy Fund) is a left-of-center advocacy organization associated with the Tides Nexus, a collection of center-left pass-through funders and fiscal sponsorship nonprofits grouped around the Tides Foundation. While Tides Advocacy has disavowed any affiliation with the Tides Foundation and Tides Center (the fiscal sponsorship arm of the Tides Nexus), it maintains close connections with the other Tides organizations through its leadership and board of directors. Tides Advocacy received $23.8 million in funding from the Tides Foundation between 2013 and 2018.

“The Tides Advocacy has been described as an organization that ‘washes’ away the paper trail between its grants and the original donor.[1] Tides Founder Drummond Pike stated, ‘Anonymity is very important to most of the people we work with.’ [2]

“Tides Advocacy is the sole 501(c)(4) social welfare organization in the Tides Nexus and focuses on the creation, financing, and consultation of various left-of-center organizations.”

Also, according to Influence Watch, Sandor Straus, of Lafayette, “is a California-based mathematician and financial investment consultant who is a major donor to Democratic Party candidates and affiliated organizations in the United States. [1] A former campaigner for the left-wing insurgent 1968 Presidential candidacy of U.S. Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-MN), Straus is also a major contributor to progressive-left immigration, social policy, and environmental organizations.”

According to the website for The Marine Mammal Center for which he serves as Board Treasurer, Straus “is President of the Firedoll Foundation, a private foundation founded by himself and his wife Faye” which, according to the non-profit’s website was “founded by two unrepentant liberals from the 60’s”.

According to Influence Watch, Elizabeth “Liz” Simons “is the daughter of billionaire retired hedge fund manager and Democratic political donor James Simons and the wife of Mark Heising, the founder of Medley Partners and chair of the Environmental Defense Fund.

Simons has promoted a number of left-of-center education policies. Simons also founded Stretch to Kindergarten, an early childhood education program. Simons is the chair of the Heising-Simons Foundation, an organization she formed with her husband in 2007 that supports a variety of left-of-center environmentalist, education, and social policy causes.”

According to the Heising-Simons Foundation website, Liz Simons currently serves on the boards of The Foundation for a Just Society – which “advances the rights of women, girls, and LGBTQI people and promotes gender and racial justice,” the left-of-center Smart Justice California, another project of Tides Advocacy, and the Learning Policy Institute. According to Influence Watch, the “Learning Policy Institute (LPI) is an education research and policy advocacy group that focuses on diversity and equity outcomes. It is a proponent of ‘deeper learning,’ an educational approach that rejects traditional methods such as rote memorization of facts in favor of ‘real-world problem-solving skills.’ The emphasis is instead placed on conflict-resolution, ‘self-management,’ and ‘a sense of community responsibility.’ [1] During the push to reopen in-person schooling following the COVID-19 pandemic, LPI was a vocal proponent of mask mandates, contact tracing, and vaccination of children aged 12 and older.”

Wilson has served 10 years and Torres-Walker has served two years on the city council. The election is next Tuesday, November 8.

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