City fines Vice Mayor $6000
The Libertarian Party of Santa Clara County discovered that when the Vice Mayor of San Jose ran for re-election, in the June primaries, she and her campaign failed to comply with Federal Election Commission rules. Five allegations were brought forward including accepting donations over the $600 limit, failing to report large contributions within the required time period, failure to report donor information, receiving contributions after the end of the campaign contribution period, and filing critical forms late. All but one allegation was found to be true; checks were deposited past the contribution period, of election day, but were received the day prior.
The official investigation, conducted by outside counsel firm Hanson Bridgett LLP, interviewed Ms. Carrasco who quickly pointed the finger at her campaign treasurer, Omar Torres. Torres, who is also on the Vice Mayors staff and an elected school board trustee, denied responsibility for any of the allegations - pointing the finger at the City Clerk’s Office. The clerk’s office however had “substantial evidence” showing that they not only gave Mr. Torres the proper information but he that he signed in receipt of such.
The more critical of the complaints submitted to the City of San Jose Fair Campaign and Political Practices Commission reporting was that Magdalena Carrasco campaign for re-election deliberately excluded details about the campaign donors. The official complaint filed cited 33 entries that did not properly identify donors. Upon further investigation by the city hired investigator an additional 59 donations lacking critical donor information was found in the previous filing period.
Donations made to campaigns over $99 require that the donors name, address, employer and occupation all be documented. This assures that donations are not being made from restricted sources; like card rooms, foreign banks, or other organizations whose donations can dramatically sway policies. The Federal Election Commision rules state that failure to provide this information should require the campaign to return the donations in question within 30 days. In total $19,269 was accepted without proper information. In addition, the campaign code identifies additional fines for the other three allegations.
“The ethics of an elected official never surpasses the standard set by their campaign.” says Jennifer Imhoff, chair of the local party. “The purpose of these rules to assure the integrity of the number one right in America - the right to vote.”
Magdalena Carrasco made headlines last December for record-breaking fundraising for her re-election bid. By June 5th she had acquired over $80,000 for this one campaign; nearly 10 times higher than the average spent on San Jose council seat elections. The former wife, and still close friend, to state Senator Candidate Kevin De Leon has a habit of disregarding campaign rules. This was the 4th political campaign for Ms. Carrasco establishing a history of federal election violations, fines, and complaints under each one.
In an unorthodox move, The City of San Jose Fair Campaign and Political Practices Commission chose to only fine Magdalena Carrasco $6000 with the opportunity to reduce the fine to $3000 if they can provide the missing donor information before the next hearing in November. The commission cited that even though Mr. Torres had to explicitly enter the space bar in order to bypass the required data warning when submitting the report; it was still a “clerical error”. The commission further cited that the reduced penalty was appropriate because the Vice Mayor’s six-figure salary was low enough to be considered a hardship.
The Libertarian Party of Santa Clara County is disappointed that this board has refused to follow the guidelines of Title 12 and require the campaign return all fundings received inappropriately. Requiring that a candidate retroactively update campaign statements after an election, and only imposing a fine which is a fraction of contributions received, sends a strong message to future candidates: Following the election code will be met with minor penalties, encouraging future candidates to violate the law.
City of San José Board of Fair Campaign and Political Practices - 11/10/2018 Meeting Agenda: http://sanjoseca.gov/DocumentCenter/View/80348
Report from Hanson Bridgett LLP 10/1/2018: http://sanjoseca.gov/DocumentCenter/View/80343