South Bay journalists are getting a lot of mileage out of recycled stories about Dominic Caserta’s re-cycled 2006 campaign donations, with speculation about what he’ll do with money he’ll have left after the 2014 Santa Clara City Council election. As of Sept. 30, Caserta had raised about $64,000, more than $24,000 over the $38,000 limit.
San Jose Inside headlined the $60,000+ donations for the 2014 election, and then fell back on tried-and-true snipes at Caserta’s 2007 expense reports. Unfortunately, the City of Santa Clara doesn’t have those records anymore, so Caserta’s can’t be compared with anyone else’s.
San Jose Mercury columnist Scott Herhold dusted off a 2008 column – written when Caserta was running against Paul Fong for the State Assembly – and spruced it up with a new headline and this year’s donation records.
But so far no one has provided the detail on how Caserta donated the money – categorized as civic donations – or reported how any other candidates donated excess campaign money. (All of this is public information, and accessible through santaclaraca.gov.)
We looked at the data (in the following table) and found no discernable pattern of donations to the charitable arms of campaign donors, either in 2006 or 2014. Caserta did make donations to firefighters’ and police foundations, and firefighter and police unions and associations are reliable members of Caserta’s support base. But one example isn’t a pattern.
Another candidate who found himself with cash on hand after an election was Santa Clara City Clerk Rod Diridon Jr, who ran unopposed in 2012. Of the $12,358 he raised, Diridon donated $4,480 to civic organizations.
Although it’s perfectly legal, donations by political campaigns to charity can raise eyebrows. Donors may prefer to give to these charities directly and take a tax deduction – which they can’t for political contributions. Big donations can lead to speculations that candidates are securing support for future campaigns. And not all donors may support the organizations these donations are being made to – especially if they’re overtly religious groups.
For example, in 2008 Caserta donated $200 of his excess campaign funds to the San Jose-based St. Juan Diego Society, a Roman Catholic anti-abortion group, “consecrated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Pro-Life movement and protector of unborn children and their mothers” and which invites people to “join us in our life-saving mission as a prayer warrior or sidewalk counselor.”
Another group that received post-election Caserta campaign money ($250) is the Evangelical Protestant relief organization World Vision, an “international partnership of Christians whose mission is to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God” and “the redemption offered only through faith in Jesus Christ.”
Caserta says that he plans to use this election’s bounty to create a scholarship fund at Santa Clara High School, where he teaches. He says he’s also turned away additional donations and is considering returning excess campaign money to the donors after the election.
Below is the list of organizations that received donations from Caserta’s campaign committee. For comparison, we’re also included a list of organizations that received donations from Diridon’s campaign.