Who Funds Mendo Politics?

by Will Parrish, April 20, 2016

The people who fund American politics are already breaking spending records in the 2016 election season, collectively pouring billions of dollars into national, state, and even some local contests as they attempt to tighten their existing firm grip on the country’s political windpipe. At the same time, top candidates in each major party – namely, Trump and Sanders – have made opposition to the influence-peddling and favor-dispensing role of so-called “special interest” campaign financiers one of their signature issues.

To what extent do large campaign contributions factor into Mendocino County elections? Not much. For comparison's sake, consider the fundraiser George Clooney hosted over the weekend for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, perennial favorite of Democratic Party right-wingers, that cost $33,400 per person to attend. That's roughly as much as each candidate raised overall in the most recent competitive Mendocino County Board of Supervisors race, the Third District contest of 2014.

In that election, Willits real estate broker Tom Woodhouse raised $32,518.57 in the course of handily beating liberal Willits City Councilmember Holly Madrigal, whose haul was $38,304, in an election year broadly favorable to conservative candidates.

Despite the comparatively small sums in question, the candidates' donor rolls lend plenty of insight into their respective allegiances. Woodhouse's main cash cow was the real estate influence group the California Real Estate Political Action Committee (CREPAC), which furnished his campaign with $7,000. While that sum is less than one percent of the roughly $757,000 CREPAC spent to influence state, local, and federal contests statewide in 2014, it amounts to more than 22 percent of the total Woodhouse amassed in his campaign coffers.

Woodhouse's second largest benefactors were Willits auto mechanic Randy MacDonald, Laytonville motel owner R. Gene Geisler, and Willits-based attorney Christopher Neary, who contributed $1,000. Neary, whose clients include the Millview Water District, was also Woodhouse's campaign secretary in the election. Willits lumberman Rich Padula chipped in $975.

Woodhouse also received minor sums from individuals with a financial stake in some of his most controversial votes to date. In one of Woodhouse's first notable moves as a supervisor, he fast-tracked Grist Creek Aggregates' proposed rubberized asphalt batch plant along Outlet Creek and Highway 162, between Willits and Covelo. With Woodhouse in the lead, the Supes voted 5-0 to approve the plant without conducting an environmental impact statement. Sure enough, the plant was an air quality nightmare, with emissions, particulates, noise, dust, noxious odors, round-the-clock activity, and health impacts resulting from the plant's first few months of operation. During the final weeks of the 2014 election, Woodhouse had received a $500 donation from Grist Creek Aggregates owner Brian K. Hurt of Covelo.

In April 2015, Supervisor Dan Hamburg introduced a meek measure asking Mendocino Redwood Company to suspend its use of hack-and-squirt on a voluntary basis while the county studied the possibility that herbicide-killed tan oaks pose a fire danger. During the supervisors' deliberations, Woodhouse starkly asserted that the government ought not be involved in regulating private landowner activities, and then cast the swing vote against the measure. Mendocino Redwood Company attorney James King of the law firm Mannon, King, and Johnson donated $200 to Woodhouse's 2014 campaign.

Holly Madrigal's top donors were Willits retiree April Twedell, who donated $5,849.46, and an apparent relative of hers named Gabriel Madrigal, who gave $2,300.

The other three supervisors – Dan Gjerde, Carre Brown, and Dan Hamburg – ran unopposed or faced no strong challenger in their most recent elections so did not raise any significant sums. John McCowen raised just shy of $10,000 in his 2012 race against Andrea Longoria, a county substance abuse counselor and local Service Employees International Union chapter leader. Longoria outspent McCowen by a greater than four-to-one margin but received only about one-third of the vote in the Ukiah district.

In 2016, the only contested Board of Supervisors seat is in the First District, where incumbent Carre Brown is defending her spot against an attorney named Montana James Podva. The latter's candidacy prompted “Vote Carre Brown — 1st District Supervisor” signs to sprout virtually overnight on the fringes of vineyards from Ukiah to Potter Valley, many of them not even located in Brown's district.

12 Responses to Who Funds Mendo Politics?

  1. Robo Reader Reply

    April 21, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    News Flash

    1. April Tweddell is Holly Madrigal’s mother.She was a realtor.

    2. Gabriel is married to Madrigal.

    3. Some people really don’t like Madrigal.

    4. Things are not what they seem.

  2. Hal No Reply

    April 21, 2016 at 8:32 pm

    Boner Alert!! Robo Reader is right!!

    “Holly Madrigal’s top donors were her mommy April Twedell who donated $5,849.46, and her hubby Gabriel Madrigal, who gave $2,300.”

    Now, Mr. Parrish, is this an honest flub or did you “forget” to tell us something, eh?

  3. Will Parrish Reply

    April 22, 2016 at 11:10 am

    By which I assume you mean that I didn’t mention that April Twedell is her mom. Thanks for bonering me with the info. I’ll make note of it in next week’s AVA.

  4. Lazarus Reply

    April 22, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    Madrigal is damaged goods…she’s gone about as far a she can go. Willits City Council is it, Oh and she didn’t even carry Willits in the June primary or the general in November…all things being equal Jolly Holly should have won easily over new comer Woodhouse…but she didn’t…but you know all that Mr. Parish, this seems to be a lame attempt to muddy the waters and stay relevant for you.
    You failed to mention Woodhouse is basically responsible for getting that Ortner group run out of the county; but that’s not your ox is it?
    Move on to another bypass dude, you’re as dead in this county as Jolly Holly is…
    As always,
    Laz

  5. Will Parrish Reply

    April 23, 2016 at 12:39 am

    So, I’m discretely shilling for Madrigal, and that’s because I failed to identify her biggest donor in 2014, April Twedell, as Mother Madrigal.

    Also, I’m being unfair to Tom W. because I mention that he got “minor sums” from individuals who benefited from positions he’s taken as a supervisor, but I fail to mention his role in forcing out Mendo’s soon-to-be-former private mental health contractor, in a piece about campaign contributions.

    But if you guys have any points to make that are actually true or relevant, feel free to post those, too.

  6. Lazarus Reply

    April 23, 2016 at 8:01 am

    Look, it’s no secret you walk on the same side of the street as Madrigal does. She had 38k and change to win it, didn’t work…she got several thou from mommy and hubby but no mention of where the other money came from. I’d venture to guess it was laundered, tax free, untraceable donations from growers who were hoping to buy influence with the current MaryJane issues…ya think.
    No Will, two time loser, you just trying to keep her and you relevant. Your story is just a garden variety political hit piece on Woodhouse and others, poor Jolly Holly got screwed again…
    In regard to that Grist Creek mess, my sources say Woodhouse got conned by Hurt, the prick never mention a corporate partner, he play Woodhouse like a cheap guitar. He knew Woodhouse was green, gullible and ripe for a pick’n, it happened, he made a rookie mistake, but I’d bet a days pay it don’t happen to Woodhouse again…last I read the place is or going to be shut down, as it should be. Hurt and that corporate bunch shammed everybody from the BOS right on down…Woodhouse has addressed the issue on radio, in meetings, and in the papers, he knows it’s f**ked and he knows he got f**ked by Hurt.
    I got no dog in this hunt but you ain’t telling the whole story here…or worse, you don’t know the whole story…if you’re going to write this stuff at least get the facts straight and make an attempt to sound unbiased.
    As always,
    Laz

  7. Will Parrish Reply

    April 24, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    You aren’t doing your man Tom W any favors with all these unhinged assertions. I’ve never claimed to be unbiased, but my bias isn’t toward Madrigal. The only time I’ve ever weighed in on her record was to criticize her MCOG votes and many of her 2013-14 Willits City Council positions regarding the Bypass.

    My purpose here was to provide very modest insight into the issue of campaign contributions at the county level, given that Sanders and Trump have raised the profile of the subject. The idea that getting donations from family members is somehow a scandal worth reporting on is just silly.

  8. Lazarus Reply

    April 24, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    There’s nothing unhinged about telling the truth Will, and nothing I said about Woodhouse will or would have a negative affect.
    I merely stated the facts…The idea you’re floating a Trump Sanders connection in the Mendo is at best laughable. I’m sorry for your pain, now run along and play…
    As always,
    Laz

  9. Will Parrish Reply

    April 25, 2016 at 11:59 am

    So, “Lazarus,” where ya’ from and what’s your name there, sport? You certainly like to troll this fine publication’s web site whenever Woodhouse is the subject.

  10. Lazarus Reply

    April 25, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    I went to school with Otis Sistrunk…that should tell you something. Not just Woodhouse…I have varied interest, he just one of the many. Check out my FB page Will…HAHAHAHA! And I ain’t no troll, I just been around long enough to know…
    Safe travels…
    As always, Laz

  11. Robo Reader Reply

    April 25, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    We’ll never know for sure what Supervisor Holly would do. She may have been beholden to the evil Democratic machine that gave her $1,000 or the personal views or old business ties of Mother Madgrigal or the professional interests of hubby. Holly’s top donors don’t show any greater support in the community, it’s weakness. There is a certain moral responsibility to try and win on the support of others, not the checkbook of your mother and husband.

    Robo “Not Voting Trump” Reader

    • Lazarus Reply

      April 26, 2016 at 7:03 am

      We agree on Jolly Holly, but I believe if she had won and became the Supervisor her sights would have immediately been set on her self described higher calling. She allegedly actually thought she was destined for higher office, kind of the Hillary Clinton syndrome…
      Unfortunately for Clinton in 2008 she ran into “Hope and Change”, this cycle she has run into “Make America Great Again”. The polls are beginning to indicate Trump could be the next POTUS.
      Madrigal ran into “Kind of makes you wonder, don’t it”? Johnny Pinches, and next time out, she was not endorsed by one major political leader in the Mendo, and lost to a newcomer nobody…

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