Developers, tourism major contributors to Bloomfield campaign
With debate over the future of the Martis Valley and tourism heating up, attention has turned to the sources of campaign contributions funding the Placer County board of supervisors.
A review of who funded District 5 Placer County Supervisor Rex Bloomfield’s most recent reelection campaign in 2000 reveal a large percentage of donations coming from interests rooted in development and tourism.
Bloomfield’s two single largest contributors in the last election cycle, according to county election records, were Northstar-at-Tahoe and Lahontan, each to the tune of $5,000. The Resort at Squaw Creek and Sugar Bowl were close behind; Squaw Creek gave $3,500 and Sugar Bowl gave $2,000.
According to the Friends of Placer County, a local watchdog agency, nearly 30 percent of the $64,000 raised by Bloomfield for his 2000 reelection bid came from the tourism industry. Twelve percent of his contributions were from the development and real estate industries. Labor interests accounted for 17 percent of Bloomfield’s campaign war chest.
Bloomfield denies that contributions have affected his decisions as a county supervisor.
He said he is one of East West Partners’ biggest critics, and points to a 1994 vote against the Lahontan development in the Martis Valley. East West Partners, the developers behind the massive buildout currently underway at Northstar, gave $500 to Bloomfield’s most recent campaign.
The sizable contributions from Lahontan came years after he first voted against the development.
“I have not been influenced by who gives me money,” Bloomfield said. “I have always been very fair and straight forward with whoever I deal with. When they’re asking for things that I feel are inappropriate I will tell them they’re not getting help from me.”
Bloomfield was first elected to the board of supervisors in 1992 with a reputation as a slow-growth environmentalist. His left-leaning critics say he has abandoned the environmental tenets he was first elected for.
Asked whether his politics have changed over the years as a result of campaign contributions or any factor for that matter, Bloomfield said, “I’m probably a lot more pragmatic in my approach. Instead of just saying no to a lot of projects I try to make sure that we can work something out that has a benefit to the public.”
Bloomfield, representing the more liberal and environmentally conscious fifth district in a staunchly conservative county, is still viewed as the most slow growth and eco-sensitive supervisor. As he himself said, “I’m still the biggest tree-hugger on the board, bar none.”
Still, critics of the Martis Valley plan say the decision making process has been heavily weighted in favor of developers and point the finger of blame largely at the board of supervisors.
“Those businesses that best benefit from massive development are the ones funding our local campaigns,” said David Kean, the North Tahoe Sierra Club’s conservation coordinator.
Along with Bloomfield, Kean was referring to District 4 Supervisor Ted Gaines, who received sizable contributions from Northstar, East West and Intrawest in 2000, and to District 2 Supervisor Robert Weygandt, who when he last ran opposed in 1998 received over 10 percent of his contributions from the Truckee-North Tahoe area.
As Tom Mooers, executive director of Sierra Watch said, “development companies are the Enron of campaign financing in Placer County.”
Paul Shigley is the managing editor of the California Planning and Development Report, a Ventura-based newsletter that focuses on development issues throughout California. Shigley has covered the Martis Valley debate and other land-use issues throughout California. He too said development interests wield a disproportionate weight with local politicians in Placer County, but that it is a common theme in local politics throughout the country.
“The two groups who typically finance local government and campaigns for local office are land use developers and land owners, because those are two groups with very large stakes in what’s decided by a city council or a board of supervisors,” he said.
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