Chamber of Commerce PAC faces Fine of $43,250+ for Failing to File Campaign Reports for Four Years

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)

That FPPC info was in our October 9 report.

But it must have been missed by the Chamber PAC. Now we know how Diridon feels.


  1. I’m not surprised Carolyn Schuk got it wrong. Maybe she’ll do better with the next “round.”

  2. Everyone seems to be having fun at the Chamber’s ineptness. I get it. They are clearly the gang that can’t shoot straight. This website has clearly pointed out all their blunders big and small — from not filing reports to writing checks that were too large they had to be returned. Mostly, the reporting shows that the people in charge of the Chamber and neither competent nor smart, at least when in comes to politics. They may indeed have successful businesses. But it’s clear they are fish out of water when it comes to running a political committee.

    But I write this as a lament. I believe every city needs a strong and vibrant chamber of commerce who plays politics well. So I ask the good people of the local business community to rethink and reinvent an organization that can help balance the needs of Santa Clara. Labor groups do a admirable job fighting for their interests. Without a counter balancing force, our city will drift toward an agenda that will be costly to local businesses and workers and ultimately residents. Maybe it’s time for the Chamber to exit the stage and let a new group of competent and smart leaders take over.

  3. Typical male organization led by dumb men.

    Guys — when you have a limited load, don’t waste it. Your wives and ex wives should have taught you that.

  4. Everyone get on the bus ’cause this gang of stooges is going to make sure they throw everyone under the bus before they go over the cliff like Thelma & Louise. If you can’t beat em, take ’em down whatever the cost!! Yuk! Yuk! Yuk! Yuk!

  5. Why would the chamber allow this group of geriatric idiots to have a PAC. I suppose idiots don’t fall too far from the tree.

    I hope this misguided group of relics look good in orange after their last Act of defiance.

    No pudding for you!

  6. Isn’t John Mlnarik, the man who ran against Teresa O’Neill for city council and made the insensitive remark about her being gay at the candidate’s forum ?? No wonder she beat him resoundingly. It is so easy to connect the dots.

  7. Robert, I wanted to thank you for this information. All the “so called news” about the chamber fighting with the city now makes $EN$E. Giving us the website made it CRYSTAL CLEAR that Santa Clara Chamber PAC board members (ALL MEN) have continuously attacked the powerful leadership (ALL WOMEN) of Mayor Lisa Gillmor and city council, how neanderthal and misogynistic can you get!
    Boardmember Miles Barber should be held accountable for the last years of “his opinion” of our mayor and council. Seek help Miles, you have an unhealthy obsession about powerful woman leaders. Time to retire.
    Boardmember Andy Ratermann, you are despicable, sad no one was running against you. Now we have to wait four years.
    Boardmember Dave Tobkin, you are the ringleader (Chair) of this disgusting group of women haters. Obviously you need a career change, you would rather beat up the mayor than pay the bill.

  8. It’s not fair for Dave Tobkin to take the fall and pay the bill himself. Here are the other guilty guys who should divide the fine.

    Miles Barber
    Rahul Chandhok
    Dave Delozier
    Lou Mariani
    John Mlnarik
    Jan Eric Nordmo
    Christian Pellacchia
    Andy Rattermann
    Joe Siecinski

    It’ll only be about $5K per person.

    • Hello Robert Smith Jr.

      I just caught wind of this blog. Lou Mariani, Christian Pellecchia, Jan Nordmo,and Joe Siecinski quit the PAC a long time ago. Get your facts straight before you post nonsense. If you’d like, i’ll meet with you face to face and let you know what is happening.

    • CP,
      The person you responded to was simply citing what’s listed on the Chamber PAC website, which obviously needs to be updated.

    • Thank you Robert. The website has been corrected so please leave those name out of these types of discussions.

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