By Robert Haugh
Last week, City staff concluded that the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce PAC failed to file campaign reports in the City for four years, 2010 to 2014. That investigation was because of our report on October 9.
Now, the City staff has calculated the potential fine. It’s a minimum of $43,250! Wow.
You’d think that would wake up the Chamber PAC. But they still don’t seem to get it. They put out a press release on October 31. Only the Santa Clara Weekly printed it.
The Chamber PAC calls the City staff “political nitpickers.” No kidding.
They also tried to blame former City Clerk Rod Diridon, Jr. for their mistake. No kidding. They say Diridon said they should only file forms with the County Registrar. But he didn’t.
In 2010, Diridon wrote:
“However, it is important to note that in some instances you may be obligated by the Elections Code to file with the City Clerk’s Office in the City of Santa Clara.”
We’re not sure how that line was missed. It was one line in a letter that contained a total of five lines.
The Chamber PAC also forgot to say in their press release why they started filing reports with the City in 2015 if they really didn’t think they had to. That’s also an obvious question Weekly reporter Carolyn Schuk forgot to ask. She wrote a story defending the Chamber PAC and its treasurer Dave Tobkin.
Here’s what’s not so obvious — how will the Chamber PAC pay $43,250+ fine? A couple of days ago, they spent $11,650 on a brochure opposing Mayor Lisa Gillmor. It looks like they’ll have about $5,000 left in their account.
They knew they were going to get hit with a big fine. They know Gillmor is popular and going to win big. And they spent almost all their money. Huh?
We’re not sure who was smoking what to make that decision. But we know who’s responsible for the fine. Tobkin is the PAC’s treasurer. Here’s what the California Fair Political Practices Commision says:
Campaign treasurers sign campaign disclosure reports under penalty of perjury and are liable in enforcement actions for violations of the Act. It is important to understand the basic rules and requirements associated with transparent campaign disclosure. No individual should accept the position of a committee treasurer as a mere figurehead. (language is in bold on the FPPC website)
But it must have been missed by the Chamber PAC. Now we know how Diridon feels.