Illegal A1 campaign poster on City property overlooking I-580

An investigative report by the East Bay Express published today indicates that executives of the Oakland Zoo have been found to have violated several election campaign laws, and suggests that they may have illegally commingled taxpayer and campaign funds or used public funds for campaign purposes.  According to the story, the posting of numerous campaign signs at the Zoo (which is city property) violated prohibitions on using city property for campaign purposes.  This also violated the Zoo’s contract with the city, says the report, which requires that the Zoological Society “shall not use the property for political purposes, including, but not limited to political fundraising and campaigning.”

The full report is available here:

The report also notes that the Zoo violated campaign laws by headquartering the campaign on Zoo grounds:  “the Zoological Society’s actions are akin to a city council member operating his campaign for reelection out of his council office in City Hall,” says the report.

Perhaps most concerning, the report suggests that the Zoo may have commingled campaign funds with public funds, but notes that “because it’s a private nonprofit, the Zoological Society does not have to fully open its books to the public.”

Since we have tried for over a year an a half to get more financial information from the Zoo, and have long urged that the public should have the right to know more about the Zoo’s finances before signing a $100 million-plus blank check, we hope that this report will draw closer scrutiny from the media and from the public officials who are supposed to be protecting the interests of the public.  We urge you to contact your city and county representatives–many of whom had already endorsed this measure without ever reading the fine print–and demand an independent public investigation into Zoo finances.

Please share this story with others on your listserves, Facebook and Twitter networks, and send letters to the media.  Zoo executives have long operated with impunity as though Knowland Park were their private fiefdom, and city representatives have allowed them to do so, despite numbers violations being called to their attention.  It’s time for that to change.  Maybe a resounding defeat of Measure A1 will wake up the sleeping politicians, too!