1. He’s Dishonest. Throughout the campaign this fall, Ignacio De La Fuente has portrayed himself as the “tough-on-crime” candidate and has blamed his opponent, Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, for the city’s crime spike. He also has attempted to trick voters into believing that she is the reason why the Oakland Police Department is understaffed. In truth, of all of Oakland’s elected officials, De La Fuente is the most responsible for why the police department now has so few officers. He was the primary backer of the 2010 police layoffs, while Kaplan voted against them. De La Fuente also helped kill a plan last year by Kaplan and other councilmembers to rehire all the cops who were laid off and were still looking for jobs.
2. He Engages in Shady Dealings. In 2006 and 2007, De La Fuente was the prime target of an FBI bribes-for-contracts probe at City Hall. At the time, local businessman Maurice Himy had been caught on an FBI wiretap saying that his close friend, De La Fuente, was going to steer a $1 million Oakland government contract to a car dealer named Donald Cooper. In exchange, Cooper was to pay Himy $65,000 and sell De La Fuente a black 1997 Porsche Turbo coupe at far below the retail price of $100,000. Ultimately, Himy went to prison as a result of the probe and De La Fuente helped Cooper get the contract, but the councilman ended up buying his coveted Porsche elsewhere.
3. He’s a Machine Politician. For nearly two decades, De La Fuente’s closest ally and friend was ex-State Senator Don Perata, who was the subject of a wide-ranging, five-year FBI investigation for public corruption. Over the years, De La Fuente had been on Perata’s payroll; for example, in 2009 and 2010, Perata paid him $37,500, purportedly to drum up union support for a cancer-research ballot measure. However, it was never clear whether De La Fuente, who is strongly disliked by most public-employee unions in Oakland, ever delivered union backing for the cancer measure.
4. He’s Undemocratic. In late 2009 and early 2010, De La Fuente attempted to block city voters from using ranked-choice voting — even though Oakland residents had overwhelmingly approved the new system several years before. De La Fuente knew that Perata would be at a disadvantage with ranked-choice voting.
5. He’s a Hypocrite. De La Fuente has repeatedly criticized Kaplan this fall for missing some city council meetings. But in the past twenty years, no councilmember has missed more government meetings than De La Fuente. In 2006 and 2007, after De La Fuente lost the mayor’s race to Ron Dellums and his son was imprisoned after admitting to raping several women, De La Fuente went missing from City Hall for several months.
6. He’s Expedient. For much of the past decade, De La Fuente’s fiercest enemy in Oakland politics was Councilwoman Desley Brooks, and the two often traded charges of corruption. But then after De La Fuente made it clear that he would challenge Mayor Jean Quan if there were a recall election, he suddenly became Brooks’ most ardent backer as he sought to gather as many endorsements as possible. He rushed to Brooks’ defense when she was ensnared in a scandal involving an East Oakland teen center, and he now lists her as his top supporter and prominently features her in his campaign literature.
7. He’s Responsible for Bad Deals. Like Perata, De La Fuente was one of the primary backers of the worst financial deal in Oakland history. In 1995, the city and Alameda County floated $200 million in bonds to finance a massive remodel of the Coliseum to get the Raiders back from Los Angeles. The deal was supposed to cost taxpayers nothing, but the total cost to the city and county is already more than $340 million, and it will eventually top $600 million.
8. He Protects His Cronies and Donors. Over the years, De La Fuente has worked hard to land government contracts for friends and donors. One of the prime examples is ABC Security, a private security firm owned by his good friend Ana Chretien. De La Fuente voted to award contracts to Chretien even though city staff had said that other firms were more deserving. In 2001, De La Fuente also lobbied successfully to secure a contract for Chretien at the Port of Oakland, but his actions turned out to be an embarrassment for the port when federal officials threatened to shut down the Oakland Airport after 9/11 because they had found ABC Security guards asleep while guarding the airport’s fuel farm.
9. He Tries to Bend the Rules. De La Fuente has never liked good-government regulations. In 2010, he tried to do change city campaign finance rules so that Perata could spend twice as much as allotted on the mayoral election. And this year, De La Fuente tried to convince the council to vote for a ballot measure that would have overturned ranked-choice voting this November. If the council had agreed, De La Fuente wanted his own campaign manager, Larry Tramutola, to run the campaign — a move that effectively would have allowed De La Fuente to circumvent the city’s cap on candidate spending.
10. He’s Not Interested in the Job. De La Fuente has made it abundantly clear that he does not have a strong desire to be the city’s At-Large councilmember. After all, the At-Large position is virtually no different from the District 5 council seat he held for two decades. The real reason he’s taking on Kaplan is that he wants to position himself for a run in 2014 against Mayor Quan. De La Fuente also hopes to regain the council presidency if he defeats Kaplan, and many City Hall insiders contend that, if he does, he will then make sure the council opposes Quan on every possible front so that she has no political successes in the next two years.