Dark Money Matters – BLUPAC Pays Fine; Questions Remain on Dark Money Donors
By Robert Haugh
Just a month after fining the notorious “dark money” group BLUPAC over $9,000 for late reporting of expenditures in the 2016 Santa Clara municipal races, the Santa Clara City Clerk’s office received a full $8,380 payment from BLUPAC. It is the largest fine in Santa Clara municipal election history.
The original fine, issued Feb. 17, was for $9,340. According to the City Clerk’s office, due to “ambiguity in some FPPC laws” and other regulations based on postmark dates, the fines were reduced by four days, thus dropping the overall fine by about $1,000 total. BLUPAC’s legal counsel questioned the severity of fine.
Here’s where it gets interesting. BLUPAC reported $49,264.97 in the 2016 political races on independent expenditures in Santa Clara elections. A nonprofit that spends less than $50,000 may hide its donors from public scrutiny according to state law, as BLUPAC has done. But now, because of the fine, they may have crossed the threshold requiring public reporting of their donors.
To date, what we know of BLUPAC is that San Francisco based attorney Doug Chan is their public face. Chan is an associate of local consultant Rich Robinson’s political consulting firm. Robinson has done work for the 49ers and a couple of the candidates that BLUPAC supported in 2016: City Clerk Rod Diridon, Jr. and City Council candidate John McLemore. Robinson told the Mercury News that he has done “legal work” for BLUPAC. The 49ers won’t say if they are behind BLUPAC.
This fine keeps the story going. But major questions remain:
- Will City Clerk Rod Diridon, Jr. and Interim City Attorney Brian Doyle take action on behalf of the City?
- Will they ask the FPPC to open an investigation?
- Will the FPPC act on their own since BLUPAC has gone over the $50,000 limit?
- Will we finally find out if the 49ers were financially behind BLUPAC?
- Will we find out if the candidates who denied receiving help from BLUPAC, actually knew about it?
The fine was levied in 2017, so it is currently unknown if the fine will push BLUPAC’s 2016 election spending over the $50,000 mark.
As we reported earlier, revealing BLUPAC’s donors would be like legendary Lucha Libre icon Blue Demon having his mask pulled off and revealing his identity. Here’s hoping the fines issued by City Clerk Diridon allows us to discover the identity of the mysterious donors behind the dark money.