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City Clerk Statement on Potential Campaign Expenditure Reporting Violation in Relation to March 2020 Special Election

Post Date:02/04/2020 5:20 PM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, February 4, 2020

CONTACT: Hosam Haggag, City Clerk, 408-615-2220 or clerk@santaclaraca.gov   

Statement from City Clerk Hosam Haggag: On May 15, 2018, the City of Santa Clara passed a first-of-its-kind Dark Money ordinance. This new ordinance is designed to root out dark money influence in local politics in the form of unreported campaign expenditures. Dark money is political campaign expenditures that are made where the public is not able to determine who is funding it.

As the City’s election official, I recently discovered that San Francisco 49ers’ CEO Jed York and affiliated entities, including the Forty Niners organization, potentially expended campaign funds, including a sponsored poll in December 2019 designed to influence and affect voters’ decisions to vote against Measure C, but did not report the formation of any political committee to the City until months later. The campaign filing only happened after I, in my official capacity as the elections official, sent these parties a warning letter on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020.

The City will soon report this possible violation to the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). The City will also notify residents of any additional information that’s discovered about other political expenditures in Santa Clara elections that’s meant to conceal the source of funding as well as meant to influence and affect voters' decisions.

The following are the facts of what has transpired:

• In December 2019, Santa Clara residents reported receiving an anonymous poll that sought to influence and affect voters' decisions around Measure C, Councilmembers and the City Manager.
• At the Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020 meeting, I brought forward an informational report to inform the City Council and residents of the poll, reminding the community of the Dark Money ordinance and the legal requirements around reporting of campaign expenditures. I also made a call to action to the community to come forward with any information residents might have on who was behind the anonymous poll, given there was no reporting of that campaign expenditure to date.
• On Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, I sent a letter of notice to seven individuals reportedly involved in the poll - Jed York, CEO, San Francisco 49ers; Al Guido, President, San Francisco 49ers; Jim Mercurio, VP, San Francisco 49ers; Rahul Chandhok, VP, San Francisco 49ers; Kevin Moore, Santa Clara lobbyist; Ed McGovern, Santa Clara Lobbyist of McGovern & Associates Consulting; and David Metz; Partner and President, FM3 Research (a political research and consulting firm) – and informed them of potential violation of the campaign expenditure reporting requirements. The letter also informed these individuals of the repercussions of failure to report including but not limited to: prosecution as an infraction or a misdemeanor; civil action for injunctive relief or for damages by any City resident that can include recovery of treble damages; cost of litigation including attorneys’ fees; disqualification of an elected official who benefited from the contribution from voting on a matter in which the contributor has a financial interest; and material breach of any contract the violating party may have with the City of Santa Clara or the Santa Clara Stadium Authority and be grounds for termination of said contract.
• On Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, the City Clerk's Office received an official campaign reporting form, informing the City of the creation of a “No on C – Santa Clarans for Voting Rights” campaign committee, sponsored by Jed York and affiliated entities including the Forty Niners Football Company LLC, and the NFL Franchise and Stadium Management as the industry group, affiliation or sponsor. In the forms filed with the City, they reported receiving funds of $17,125 on Feb. 3, 2020.
• On Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, the City received notice of a letter, dated Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020, from the Asian Law Alliance to the attention of Rahul Chandhok (VP, San Francisco 49ers), requesting that the 49ers assist in defeating Measure C in the March 2020 election.
• The City will pursue late filing deadlines and reporting requirements to the FPPC. That’s due to failure to register the campaign committee and failure to disclose political contributions and expenditures for the period of July 1-Dec. 31, 2019 by the Jan. 31, 2020 deadline. The City will fully cooperate with the FPPC on pursuing this potential violation, in addition to any other legal action necessary by the City.

Measure C will appear on the March 3, 2020 ballot, asking Santa Clara voters to decide whether to amend the City Charter to elect councilmembers by district. For more details, view ballot measure information on the City website.

The City is committed to ensuring fair and transparent elections in Santa Clara, and to ensure that residents are informed of all political activity leading up to and including elections.

If you have more information on this activity or any other political unreported activity in Santa Clara, please call 408-615-2220 or email clerk@santaclaraca.gov.

About the City of Santa Clara
Located at the heart of Silicon Valley about 45 miles south of San Francisco, the City of Santa Clara truly is “The Center of What’s Possible.” Incorporated in 1852, Santa Clara covers an area of 19.3 square miles with an estimated population of 129,498. Santa Clara is home to an extraordinary array of high-tech companies, including Applied Materials, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Nvidia, Oracle, and Ericsson. The City of Santa Clara is also home to Santa Clara University, California’s Great America Theme Park, and Levi’s® Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers and SB50. For more information, go to SantaClaraCA.gov.

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