By Robert Haugh
The City warned residents in January about “dark money” efforts in Santa Clara for the 2020 elections. That’s an expenditure that tries to influence Mission City voters but the funder tries to do it anonymously. That’s a big no-no.
Now, it looks like that January warning may have caught a big fish: Jed York and the 49ers.
Yesterday, City Clerk Hosam Haggag released this statement:
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.
Here’s a timeline of what happened according to the press release:
— In December 2019, residents were called by an anonymous polling firm. No group reported the expenditure. That’s required by law because the poll asked about Measure C on the March 2020 ballot. Measure C is the opportunity for Santa Clarans to create three Council districts with two representatives in each.
— At the January 14 Council meeting, Haggag reports the poll to the Council. He then sends information to residents asking for information.
— On Friday, January 31, Haggag sent letters to seven “individuals reportedly involved in the poll.” On that list were 49ers owner York and his team executives: Al Guido, Jim Mercurio and Rahul Chandhok.
Also on the list was Kevin Moore, the former Councilman. Moore is the team’s longtime political friend in Santa Clara. So was Ed McGovern, the team’s former lobbyist. McGovern was also disgraced former Councilman Dominic Caserta’s consultant. (Both Moore and McGovern were co-lobbyists for the controversial All Vision billboard contract, too.)
Haggag also sent a letter to a pollster: Dave Metz, Partner and President of FM3 Research.
— On Monday, February 3, the City Clerk’s Office received a campaign reporting form for No on C – Santa Clarans for Voting Rights. The committee was created by York and the 49ers. They are the only contributor and gave $17,125 on February 3. Wow. This was all done just one business day after Haggag sent his letters to the 49ers and their consultants.
— On Tuesday, Feb. 4, “the City received notice of a letter, dated Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020, from the Asian Law Alliance (ALA),” according to Haggag. It was to the attention of 49ers exec Chandhok requesting that the 49ers assist in defeating Measure C in the March 2020 election.
This is weird. It’s also really suspicious. In my two decades of covering local politics, I’ve never seen a letter like the ALA letter. It was also sent on a Saturday — the day before the Super Bowl — and one calendar day after Haggag’s letters to the 49ers. It looks like someone trying to cover up something.
According to the City, a request for fines will be issued for late registration and contribution reporting to the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). That’s the state watchdog for campaigns.
“The City will fully cooperate with the FPPC on pursuing this potential violation, in addition to any other legal action necessary by the City,” according to the press release.
This was a late breaking story. So, we’ll be writing more about this tomorrow and in the coming days.
P.S. The City Clerk’s Office has asked for information about the poll or people involved with the poll. Sources can report to 408-615-2220 or Clerk@SantaClaraCa.gov. Of course, you can also contact your favorite Santa Clara news website at SCNewsOnline@gmail.com.