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Stand Up for Santa Clara Claims it Did Nothing Wrong

Stand Up for Santa Clara has answered the City’s request to explain its failure to report political spending. Stand Up for Santa Clara official Dana Caldwell wrote the City on Nov. 1 and claimed, “Stand Up for Santa Clara was incorporated as a 501(c)3 in 2022.”

Despite its insistence on its 501(c)3 status, Stand Up for Santa Clara has offered no actual proof of its claim. The group has not produced an IRS Determination letter — the only authoritative proof of tax-exempt status. [IRS-determination-letter SAMPLE] Nor has it offered a filed application for 501 tax-exempt status — IRS forms 1023 and 1024.

A search of the IRS’ Exempt Organization Search (as of Nov. 17) returns “Your search did not return any results.” Nor does a search for tax returns (Form 990). This has been the case since 2022, when Stand Up for Santa Clara began claiming tax-exempt status. Currently, 501(c)3 applications are backed up about six months, per the IRS website. Likewise, the group doesn’t appear on the California Registry of Charitable Trusts: an IRS Designation letter is required to start.

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All Stand Up for Santa Clara has offered is its California corporation registration, a form they filled out themselves.

In his response to the City, Caldwell further wrote that Stand Up for Santa Clara’s spending for political ads on Facebook wasn’t political.  “… numerous examples in the complaint demonstrate we have followed our mission and the law by educating the public on important local issues like the Santa Clara  County civil grand jury report and the 49ers stadium debt. None of our communication supports or opposes a candidate or ballot measure.”

A review of Stand Up for Santa Clara’s “educational” posts tells a different story. They have included a “get out of jail free” monopoly card with late mayor Patricia Mahan’s picture on it, council members pictured with demon horns and a campaign to oppose changing the city charter to appoint the city clerk and police chief. The group operates a series of websites, including SaveOurSantaClara.com, which campaigned to recall three city council members.

“The City is still assessing next steps in conjunction with the associated complaint that was filed with the FPPC,” City Clerk Hosam Haggag told The Weekly.

Stand Up’s Link to Related Lobbyist Jude Barry

Related lobbyist and Mayor Lisa Gillmor political advisor, Jude Barry, played a role in creating Stand Up for Santa Clara.

Barry advised Stand Up for Santa Clara when it first appeared in 2016, promoting a Move On petition about the Santa Clara Youth Soccer Park, and through the group’s evolution into a reliable megaphone for Mayor Lisa Gillmor and her political allies. Also in 2016, Barry advised Robert Haugh in starting his Gillmor-allied blog and has advised the Santa Clara police union PAC – as well as selling them software – and conducted push polls for the PAC.

Previously, Barry was a political advisor to San José Mayor Ron Gonzalez and part of San José Mayor Sam Liccardo’s “kitchen cabinet,” advised Steve Westley’s failed gubernatorial campaign, and was a 49ers lobbyist for Measure J — the 2010 ballot measure that paved the way to build Levi’s Stadium.

In 2018, he conducted townhalls to test the potential persuasiveness of different ballot statements for a parcel tax that would finance a $250 million rebuild of the International Swim Center on the Northside. Barry has been a lobbyist for Related since 2012.

The City hired a Barry business partner, Steve Churchwell, to defend the City in the 2018 California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) lawsuit, despite Churchwell having no experience in CVRA litigation. The losing litigation cost the city $6 million, including the $1 million it paid to Churchill’s firm.

We have asked Barry if he is currently involved in Stand Up or Santa Clara politics but didn’t receive a reply as of deadline. We will update this story if we get additional information.

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6 Comments
  1. Fred 3 months ago
    Reply

    Their excuse is going to be: the 49ers made us do it!

  2. CSC 3 months ago
    Reply

    According to the IRS Exempt Organization Search Database this morning, there are 882 tax exempt organizations registered in the City of Santa Clara, Stand Up for Santa Clara is not listed as one of them. https://apps.irs.gov/app/eos/
    .
    From the IRS’s web site: “Generally, organizations required to apply for recognition of exemption must notify the Service within 27 months from the date of their formation to be treated as described in section 501(c)(3) from the date formed.” https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/application-for-recognition-of-exemption. On SUSC’s website (StandUpForSantaClara.com) the oldest post titled “Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews’s latest proposal is to short changes kids” [sic] is date stamped April 16, 2015. SUSC appears to be out of compliance with the IRS’s rule(s). By law, the public has a right to inspect, and obtain a copy of, a tax-exempt organization’s annual returns (Form 990), exempt status application materials, and non-profit status under section 527(i) of the tax code.
    .
    The poster child of SUSC is Burt Field who, on October 9, 2023 stated, “Don’t get me started, I had almost a full Half Year at West Valley College.” Dana Caldwell’s comments on Robert Haugh’s blog seem a lot less emotional, a bit more intelligent, and better constructed than Field’s comments but both appear synchronized in their political messaging to smear Council Members, city executives, and community members who oppose their views. If either Field or Caldwell had put a fraction of effort into complying with tax-exemption rules as they have with commenting on blogs Ms. Schuk’s inquiry would have been answered months ago.
    .
    Most legitimate non-profits openly post their Employer Identification Number (EIN) on their website, social media, and most of their communications especially collateral soliciting support. It would take the administrator of SUSC’s online channels less than 15 minutes to publicly post SUSC’s 1023 Application, EIN, Determination Letter, and financial statements if they have those items. https://www.anafp.org/resources/Documents/ANAFP%20Guide%20to%20Understanding%20Financial%20Statements.pdf. This would make validating a non-profit’s status easy for the public, the leaders of SUSC should consider doing so over the holiday weekend.

  3. Jim 3 months ago
    Reply

    Laws are for you little people.

    • Yougotthatright 3 months ago
      Reply

      I believe that was how one of the former chamber presidents liked to talk at Council pointing out that ‘we were the little people’ had no say in it, no say in it at all!

  4. CarolynforMayor 3 months ago
    Reply

    Carolyn. great work digging into this, they are definitely covering up things, its such a shame a Grand Jury wasn’t looking at this organization or LG, lets hope that changes in time.

  5. Will S. 3 months ago
    Reply

    Let me get this straight—they respond to an inquiry from the City with just a letter?? No evidence for any of their claims.

    They just say we “incorporated as a 501(c)3 in 2022” but provide NO evidence that they have even filed the paperwork to obtain 501(c)3 status? It’s clear they have not RECEIVED this status yet. Do they not understand what they are doing?

    And they claim that their mission is simply to educate “the public on important local issues like the Santa Clara County civil grand jury report and the 49ers stadium debt,” even though their numerous ads and postings are almost ENTIRELY centered on opposing or supporting elected officials, candidates, and ballot measures in Santa Clara. Their website has a post from August where they attempted to circulate a petition to get a councilmember to resign. Do they really think anyone is stupid enough not to see this as political activity?

    I sincerely hope the City Clerk’s office does not allow this sham response to stand. Stand Up for Santa Clara needs to be held responsible for their illegal actions.

    I hope we will be getting news very soon that the FPPC is also going after this shady organization.

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