Perata Pro Quo?

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Did California state Senator Don Perata (D) push officials in Oakland to hire a lobbyist who would push for the pet project of a major contributor to Perata? The FBI is investigating what may have been quite an elaborate instance of quid pro quo which the San Francisco Chronicle sums up here.

The FBI is investigating the possibility that Perata, acting on the wishes of a major contributor to his campaign, Ron Cowan, pushed officials in his hometown of Oakland to hire a lobbyist, Don Mathis, who would push the Federal Aviation Administration to sign off on a project that would benefit the donor.

Details on the alleged favor-trading:

At the urging of the powerful Oakland Democrat, local agencies in 2000 hired former Georgia Rep. Dawson Mathis to lobby the Federal Aviation Administration regarding a multimillion-dollar expressway that today links Oakland International Airport with the Harbor Bay Business Park in Alameda.


The park's developer, Ron Cowan, has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Perata and other politicians, and for years he had sought this access road.

Mathis' hiring to the $135,000 lobbying job has emerged as a significant area of inquiry in the FBI's long-running probe of Perata, the state Senate's president pro tem.

As The Chronicle has reported, for more than four years agents have investigated Perata, his business associates, his favored political consultants and lobbyists, and even his son, attempting to learn whether the lawmaker improperly obtained money in exchange for official actions.

Cowan needed the FAA to sign off on the road construction in order to continue to receive county money to build the road linking the airport with his business park. Without approval, the money wouldn't be forthcoming. When the money from the county got cut off, Perata asked the state Senate leader at the time, John Burton, for a recommendation of an FAA lobbyist. Burton recommended his old friend, Don Mathis. Then Perata went after Oakland officials to hire Mathis to push the FAA to approve the road so the Cowan, Perata's donor, could keep getting county funds.

How convenient!