SC Chamber PAC Hires Political Consulting Firm for 2018 City Races (opinion)

Santa Clara Chamber PAC Hires Political Consulting Firm for 2018 City Races

By Robert Haugh

On June 14, the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee (PAC) met at Mariani’s Inn with a newly hired political consulting firm. According to informed sources, they are laying the groundwork to run a slate of candidates for city council in 2018 and are trying to recruit a challenger to Mayor Lisa Gillmor who is up for re-election.

We were initially tipped by a City Hall source who was given information about the meeting by Andy Ratermann, a Chamber PAC member and Santa Clara Unified School District Trustee. Ratermann responded to us via email, giving us an explanation about the PAC’s moves.

“We have hired consultants, some earlier this year, and more recently a consulting firm to help us identify and develop plans to support business interests in Santa Clara,” he said. “We want to be sure that we are representing the best interests of local business as a whole, not just a few vocal voices.”

But Dave Tobkin, the chair of the Chamber PAC, wrote us that “Mr. Ratermann is not a spokesman for the PAC,” which Ratermann confirmed. Tobkin would only confirm a meeting was held at Mariani’s, the site of a controversial development proposal that has yet to be brought to the City Council. He would not provide additional details, including the name of the consulting firm. He declined answering several questions.

We we have since have learned that Clifford Moss of San Francisco has been hired by the Chamber PAC. They previously ran the successful 2011 bond measure for Santa Clara Unified, working with Ratermann.

This effort seems similar to a “secret meeting” that Mercury News reporter Ramona Giwargis reported in 2016. That group met at the Santa Clara County Realtors Association with the goal reportedly meeting to plan to knock off Councilwomen Debi Davis, Teresa O’Neill and Kathy Watanabe.

The “secret meeting” group ultimately did not  form to engage in any collective political activity in 2016. Some of the individuals participated in other PACs, but ineffectively. All the Councilwomen were re-elected in 2016 in landslides.

This year, according to our sources, the Chamber PAC seems to be united by an interest in more development, particularly the massive Mariani’s development proposal. They consider the Mayor and council majority to be too neighborhood friendly and too concerned about a few community leaders. Two of the PAC leaders (names below) attended the “secret meeting” in 2016.

We’ll continue to track their efforts and any other political groups forming for 2018.

Santa Clara Chamber PAC Board members

Dave Tobkin, Chair

Certified Public Accountant

Miles Barber

Santa Clara Weekly

(formerly a registered lobbyist for Mariani)

Rahul Chandhok


(attended 2016 “secret meeting”)

Dave Delozier

Peterson Insurance

ArLyne Diamond

Diamond and Associates

Larry Fargher

Realcom Associates

Joe Head

SummerHill Housing Group

Lou Mariani, Jr.

Mariani’s Inn

John Mlnarik

Mlnarik Law Group

Christian Pellencia

Slatter Construction

Andy Ratermann

Santa Clara Unified School District Trustee

Vince Rocha

Santa Clara County Association of Realtors

(attended 2016 “secret meeting”)



  1. In 2016
    Mayor gillmor got Police and Firefighter unions to support her slew of candidates who yes won by a landslide but only because the waters were diluted in each council seat up Davis, O’Neil, and Watanabe. They donated hundreds of thousands to this PAC derived of developers, Tino Silva’s (who lost) 460 form exposes the donations from the developers when he preached open space. Mayor Gillmor rigged the election, did you report this ? No you only reported on Niner influence and the chamber influence. You should report both sides.

    I was a candidate for seat 6 and your reporting and the other news never gave myself a fair shot, an outsider, someone you often speak of …but don’t actually cover especially when they are actually In the running, right in front of you, you write them off. yourself and the other paper show two sides of the city but don’t report without bias topics, it’s like watching CNN for liberal reporting and Fox News for conservative, yet neither will reveal a story that hurts their constituents. Your paper attacks the chamber, the other attacks the police union last year. Both sides were wrong last election.
    It’s about the money, all about the money and not the people, but did you report me saying this?, not once.
    I ask that you cover fairness and not show your bias and stop portraying yourself as a Gillmor PR machine. I reached out to mayor Gillmor to work together to help Santa Clara achieve more but she refused to meet.
    This election year 2018, I ask that you give fair treatment and not towards Gillmor herself and her slew of candidates which we know she is preparing if the chamber is.

    I will be a candidate for council so I would love to hear your opinions on how bad I would be for council ? Or I’d love to hear for your support to finally return Santa Clara to the people and taking our city back. I respect your writing but I feel it is unfair that you reporting neglects the voice that matches what the residents want. Media is controlled and pushes only selective inclusion individuals.
    Count on me on the campaign trail and I hope for fair reporting on someone who really cares about my city.

    • What are your qualifications? Last you mentioned movie director and Uber driver. Any new developments?

  2. I think it’s fair to cover this activity, though I don’t think it’s a big deal if the PAC hires a consultant. One issue I have is that it seems you were reluctant to cover the POA PAC at the same detail as you have with the COC PAC. The POA PAC is also not the same as the POA itself, though they clearly presented themselves as that. It did coordinate contributions from developers (90% of the total) and one could question why the developers did this. I still am disappointed that the 2016 election was so focused on the 49ers vs. all the other broader issues that we have, including development. I’m looking for the SC News to cover issues and layout the arguments of both sides; all legitimate opinions. I especially appreciate the timeliness of your updates. Fair enough if you have an opinion, but that should be a clearly separated write up. I do think you’ve gotten a SC Weekly response to get their own info out on the internet and to clearly identify opinions as is appropriate. I recognize that all reporters have a natural bias as to how (& what) they report news & issues, but they should still strive to cover all sides in an objective manner. Although I appreciate competing coverage, but if it’s so obviously slanted, I’ve sometimes wondered why I even bother to read it. I personally don’t care what your past is with the Weekly. I’m more interested in what’s happening now. Best wishes to you, Robert.

    • Thanks Mike. You’re one of the few objective readers/voters out there! I do strive to cover many opinions and sides of stories. I don’t know many places that have allowed the police chief and other police members to share differing opinions as well as opinions of local elected leaders and candidates. You’ll see many more guest articles coming soon as well.

      I do think you’ll see much more news reporting, in due time, as well. I’m one person with no revenue and no budget, so time is limited!

      I very much respect that you don’t care about the history … As its a moot point. I’m honestly sick of people saying I have a vendetta or gripe. I don’t and have even shared story ideas with people who work for my apparent competitor … But to each their own! Some people truly believe rumors they’ve heard … I always try saying believe none of what you hear and only believe what you see and hear first-hand. I know, total cliche. But it’s true.

      I’m positive the SC POA contributions will be addressed by Santa Clara news online in the near future … I’m just one guy with no staff and no budget though. Maybe that’ll change eventually (I hope so, as I would love having a full time job reporting for the Santa Clara community). But for now this is a labor of love. Opinions will always be that. Opinions. And I strive to provide we many viewpoints as possible!

      Anyone is welcome to pitch a guest column – I’ve published an array of various guest columns over the last 9-1/2 months or so. And remember, some folks said this site was started only because of the November 2016 election race. You can go back and read about that elsewhere. I’m still here and plan to stick around and continue providing another option for people to follow news and opinion in Santa Clara! I love the mission city!!!

      Mike I thank you for your always honest feedback, suggestions and ideas. If we all took constructive criticism to heart, we’d all be better people …

  3. Robert is right and Ravinder Lal is wrong. The PAC if they were smart, would have sent out a press release about hiring a consultant, rather than trying to hide it. This is why the PAC and by extension the Chamber is considered a unprofessional organization.

    • The chamber PAC is a separate entity from the Santa Clara Chamber. You’d think it would have broader representation and broader transparency though. It does affect how people view the Chamber though, as though separate, is still a reflection of the chamber.

      The chamber does do good things … Maybe they can share those things with the community better … We aren’t attacking the chamber – but when chamber officials and board members don’t respond on requests for comment …

  4. Robert,

    Every chance you get you want to try and bash the Chamber and try and make us out to be an evil organization. Our members do a ton of work in this community. When did reporting become someone told someone else so now it’s a story? If the Chamber Pac wants to hire a consultant to be a more effective organization, that is their choice. Why does it have to be an ominous secret meeting? I am proudly a member of the Santa Clara Chamber and I am also a proud supporter of Mayor Gillmor. Please don’t report on hearsay, it doesn’t do anyone any good and honestly it affects your credibility as a reporter.

    • Ravinder,
      This is about the Chamber PAC, not the chamber itself. Mr. Tobkin was asked several questions, which he dodged. He didn’t answer simple questions and he is the chairperson and spokesperson.

      I’m aware of your involvement with the chamber. This isn’t hearsay, this meeting happened, and a consultant was hired. Look at the Pac members yourself …

      By the way, I still haven’t received a guest editorial from the chamber of commerce to publish on my site.

      I asked chamber PAC board members about the consultants and the meeting(s).

      Totally different from the Chamber itself. Though they do represent the hard work and effort of Chamber members like yourself. FYI I still haven’t received any information on chamber events, outside of the awards dinner … Help me out and send me a list of events and activities …

    • You act like a petulant child because you are not getting these “guest articles”, maybe you are not getting them because you are merely a gadfly and not a real journalist.

    • We’ve had no problem getting guest articles and quotes from several other folks, including the police chief, current elected officials and other individuals with interesting points of view. Are you upset that those with opinions similar to yours haven’t shared their opinion here? You are here commenting. If I was such a gadfly, why are you even paying attention and commenting? I guess 16-plus years experience in journalism isn’t enough for your liking. To each their own.

      Thank you for reading and sharing your opinions.

    • You are giving a platform to opinions that are anti-community and should not be given a voice, like Mr. Oliverio. Did you even see the horrendous stunt he pulled at the Rose Garden parade this week? Utterly appalling.

      I am here commenting because someone needs to point out the hypocrisy and NIMBYism on this blog and that you’re flaccid attempts at journalism need to be improved. I appreciate your intent but you are more gadfly than journalist, but again maybe you do not like a woman standing up and having a opinion and that is why you want me to stop commenting.

    • Everyone has an opinion.
      You seem to dislike Oliverio.
      Not sure what he did that was so appalling – the Mercury news was there – what did he do? Did they report on this “appalling” action?

      Bashing me for allowing all candidates for a local election a voice – that’s like the pot meeting the kettle. I encourage active dialogue and the sharing of different opinions here.

      I have zero issues with women having a voice. I have never once told you to stop commenting and have openly allowed your opinion.

      You obviously have no idea who I am personally, hence your misguided and misdirected comments about women and not allowing opinions. You want me to censor Olivero, yet allow you to attack him? Again, are you for or against opinions from all sides.

      Have you read other local media that has been attacking local elected leaders and community members? You should also be writing those outlets of you are so worried about negative community opinions. I read just today an attack to a few community activists in a local newspaper … I don’t see you writing letters to that paper.

      Hypocrisy? This site has allowed and published articles on so many people and activities in and around Santa Clara. You pick and choose select guest opinions to nitpick over, yet you likely don’t read any of the articles on here that have highlighted local businesses and events …

      Thanks again for your comments and for reading.

    • Robert is no reporter there is a Reason he no longer works for the SC Weekly. Also Gillmor needs an opponent not only is choice good for voters but Gillmor’s past must be exposed and she has simply divided the city not united it as promised. She has made million on shady real estate deals so corrupt and Robert is in here pocket!

    • That’s funny. I worked at the weekly for 10 years. No one is saying the Mayor should run opposed. Competition is good in all races.

      Care to provide some supporting information on the claims on mayor gillmor’s alleged “millions made on shady real estate deals?”

      I’ve never received one penny from Mayor Gillmor by the way. Some of you folks believe anything you hear … Maybe you should learn a little about me before believing whatever you hear from people …

      Why don’t you post your full name in your comments?

    • And pls remember Gillmor was APPOINTED to the Council in 2010 and APPOINTED Mayor because of her inside connections and flooding candidates with money. She is corrupt and has not run in a contested race since 1994 when she was blown out by Nadler! In a contested race Lisa loses and she knows it!

    • Robert you were fired by the Weekly who gets fired from the Weekly unless you are unprofessional which is reflective of the hatred and bias in your slanted comments. Let’s see if you pass this through moderation I think not!!! You were canned!

    • There are two sides to every story … Sometimes more than two … That’s all
      I’m Saying publicly on that matter. Those that know the truth, know. If you knew me, you’d know I have a lot more integrity and honesty than what you’ve been told.

    • Robert Ramona at the Merc covered the slimball Oliverio deception on 4th of July today in a piece. The question is are you going to as well or are you in the bag for Oliverio too? We know you would cover this deception if it was other candidates in the race if that did such blatant lies. Let’s see how biased you truly are my bet is you won’t write about it at all….prove me wrong!

    • I will write about it if I have enough information about the alleged incident.
      I’ll look into the Mercury article and may just report on it as well.
      However, unlike the Merc, I have a daily editorial calendar and only publish once a day, Monday through Friday. Thanks for letting me know the Merc did an article. I really respect Ramona’s work.

  5. As a resident who worked on Measure A and Measure H – a parcel tax and bond measure for the school district that Clifford Moss was hired by Santa Clara Unified to help pass successfully – this information is very disturbing. And to know that Andy Ratermann is part of the Chamber PAC that has now hired the same Clifford Moss group to take out Lisa Gillmor is disgusting. I believe Lisa Gillmor donated the use of one of her empty store front businesses for the school district to use for the Measure A and Measure H campaigns! Clearly, Andy Ratermann doesn’t think the school district’s relationship with the City is very important. Shame on you Andy Ratermann. Maybe a PAC should be started to take you out instead. Aren’t you up for re-election next year?

  6. The Chamber PAC is not an effective organization.The Mayor and the residents of Santa Clara have nothing to worry about.

  7. Thanks for keeping us posted on the neighborhood unfriendlies.

    Let’s hope they have as much success as they did with the election.

    Mariani has to be right sized.

  8. Secret meeting? Ha! Not if Andy Ratterman is involved. He talks out of two or three sides of his mouth. But the point is he talks. Sadly, he doesn’t do much … except talk. The District has had issues with leaks. Coincidence? Unlikely.

  9. Any effort Mr. Ratterman leads is bound to fail. He has been a wildly ineffective Trustee and a mediocre businessman. It’s a shame the school district has to be wrapped up in this.

  10. If the Chamber wants to get rid of Mayor Gillmor and push more development in our neighborhoods, we should boycott all their businesses. They don’t care about Santa Clara. They care about making a buck.

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