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Follow the Money: More Money For No on C in Santa Clara, Details on Sunnyvale’s Spending

The No on C Santa Clarans for Voting Rights committee added $330,000 to its treasury, bringing that campaign’s total to roughly $660.000.

The donation came from Jed York and the 49ers Football company and was reported on Feb. 25 on an FPPC form 496.

The only local political consultant who has been engaged in the No on C campaign is McGovern Associates, owned by longtime Bay Area political advisor Ed McGovern. McGovern was first engaged by the 49ers during the Measure J campaign, which brought Levi’s Stadium to Santa Clara, and has been working for them ever since.

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Committees formed for ballot measure campaigns don’t have to file the 496 form, according to the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), despite the Santa Clara City Clerk Hosam Haggag’s assertions. Haggag has already been informed by the FPPC that City campaign finance ordinances only apply to candidates for City offices — not ballot measure committees.

Stand Up for Santa Clara, which appears to running a social media and an email Yes on C campaign, hasn’t filed as a political committee. The committee — which calls itself a “grassroots group” and appears to believe that this exempts it from FPPC and IRS filing and reporting rules — hasn’t reported the donations of services it has received; including website management, graphic design, copywriting and email services used in its digital campaign pieces.

 

Measure C Debate Raises Questions 

There has been some question about last week’s City Hall debate on Measure C and the group sponsoring it, Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association (SVTA).

The SVTA is a political committee that generally campaigns against tax increases and bond measures. The committee, however, isn’t involved in voting rights issues. They offered their services to moderate last week’s debate, according to spokesman and Board Member former San José City Council Member Pete Constant.

“Here’s an issue of significant concern and it seems that no one was bringing the two sides together to debate it,” said Constant. The group has long been active in county politics and has been “looking for ways to improve our visibility.

“It’s not an issue we’d take a position on,” Constant continued. “But when our board discussed it, the consensus was that the more we’re visible, the more we’ll be a known quantity on tax issues.”

Other questions have arisen about the venue — City Hall. In 2018 City Manager Deanna Santana nixed Santa Clara’s longstanding candidate forums on the grounds that City-sponsored candidate forums were an improper use of public funds.

The debate was a permitted use because, according to Santa Clara Director of Communications Lenka Wright, “Neutral organizations may conduct candidate forums. In the past, the League of Women Voters has held similar forums to enable public information and education on local issues.

“Since this organization is neutral on the Measure C ballot measure, the group was treated as past groups that have held neutral forums and were not charged for use of a public facility,” Wright wrote in an email. “The City Clerk’s Office reviewed this request against the existing policy and found that it was in accordance with the City’s Policy and Procedure 008.” 

The City Clerk’s office “determined that the organization was a neutral party on the topic of Measure C and holding this forum would comply with City policy. Further, the group stated that it has not and will not take a position on this local measure.”

The City has aired the forum on Santa Clara City Television, on Comcast cable channel 15 and AT&T U-verse channel 99, as well as the City’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

The City’s 2003 policy resolution No. 6059 allows the City Council Chambers to be used at no charge by public agencies and school districts, but that other groups will pay $15 to $20 an hour for the venue.

 

More Insight into Sunnyvale’s Measure B Consulting Contract

Details have emerged about the $88,000 worth of services that political consulting firm TBWB Strategies provided to the City of Sunnyvale for Measure B, the charter change to create six single-member Council election districts with a directly elected mayor — Sunnyvale’s mayor is currently appointed by the Council for two years.

According to City records obtained by the No on Measure B, the deliverables provided by TBWB included:

  • Information to be published on SunnyvaleElections.org, as well as through social media, email and newsletters
  • Informal guidance regarding the legal guardrails of advocacy flag if and when the city should get advice from an attorney
  • Strategies and plans to inform and engage influential external groups including elected leaders, business leaders, neighborhood leaders, faith community leaders and taxpayer groups
  • Determining whether there is sufficient community awareness of the need for this change or more active outreach is needed
  • Identifying controversies and competing issues that must be considered “while moving forward.”

“We believe that the Consultant Services Agreement provides an additional window into the true nature of the relationship,” said No on Measure B Principal Officer Steve Scandalis. “A relationship which, from the start, was designed to build a strategic communications, messaging, outreach and advocacy program supporting the passage of Measure B, while giving the appearance of an unbiased information program.”

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