The Santa Clara Police Officer (POA) Association PAC has revved up the developer gray money machine it pioneered in Santa Clara in 2016 with $55,000 from the same four local developers that donated in 2016 and a gray money developer PAC whose single largest donor is the Irvine Company. All of the developers have current projects in Santa Clara.
The POA PAC has gotten 88 percent of its money from developers, and only 8 percent from union members. The remaining 4 percent comes from the Santa Clara Firefighters PAC.
So far this year the POA PAC has spent about $38,000 on mailers for: City Council District 2 candidate Nancy Biagini ($11,756), mayoral candidate Lisa Gillmor ($6,354) and City Clerk candidates Hosam Haggag ($6,354) and Robert O’Keefe ($12,708).
So far the take is less than the POA PAC’s 2016 haul of $85,000 from developers, but the money campaign is not over. The Weekly has reported that the 2016 money was solicited by a phone committee organized by Mayor Lisa Gillmor.
This year developers Steve Scott (Citation, SCS Development), George Marcus (SummerHill), De Anza Properties and Prometheus each contributed $10,000 to the POA PAC. De Anza Properties owner John Vidovich is a long-standing business partner of the Gillmor family.
The top donor to the POA PAC this year — $15,000 — is a Sacramento-based gray money PAC, Build Jobs. And Build Job’s biggest donor is the Irvine Company.
This year Irvine donated $50,000 of the PAC’s $250,000 — 25 percent. Irvine’s donation is even more notable in a sea of $625 and $400 donors. The PAC’s donors come largely from the building and real estate industries and related businesses including finance, banking and law firms. In previous years PG&E was among Build Job’s donors.
Build Job’s donation to the POA PAC is an anomaly because the only local issues the PAC has spent money on are ballot measures related to regional traffic problems and affordable housing. The only other local group that appears to have received money from Build Jobs is the Silicon Valley Organization.
The Neverending Story of Interconnected PAC Dollars
Gray money is independent campaign expenditure money that travels through other PACs to make it more difficult to identify the original source.
Build Jobs also donated over $100,000 to the California Apartment Association’s Californians For Responsible Housing PAC.
The Responsible Housing PAC has spent almost $44 million to defeat Prop 10, repeal of a state law that limits municipal and county governments in imposing rent controls. Local developers and the Apartment Association have donated almost $15 million to stop Prop 10.
Build Jobs also donated $45,000 to another gray money PAC, VoteNow Action, a shadowy group — its URL, votenowaction.org, is currently for sale — that appears to have been formed to defeat a slow growth measure earlier this year in the City of Irvine.
The Weekly asked the POA PAC, SummerHill, Citation, Irvine, Prometheus, De Anza and the Build Jobs PAC for comment. By press time none had responded.
Correction: Several independent expenditures were reported yesterday as we going to press. We reported on three of them, but missed the fourth, an $12,798 independent expenditure by the Santa Clara POA PAC for City Clerk candidate Bob O’Keefe. The article has been updated to reflect the most current information. We regret these omissions.
I really cant tell if this is supposed to be a factual news report or if it’s an outright editorial. But from reading, it sounds like it’s somewhere in between.
First off – you keep using the term Gray Money in what seems like an attempt to liken it to Dark Money. They are simply not the same. The fact that you are able to follow the paper trail – or follow the money so to speak – is because this money is not Dark Money. You can follow exactly where the money originated from and who it went to. With Dark Money, you simply do not know where the money originated from (while you can trace back up through its intermediary, you cannot go all the way to the source).
Second – Gray Money is an actual term that means: “Money one derives from tax evasion. For example, gray money includes illicit deductions or funds hidden in an offshore bank. Gray money is similar to, but distinct from, black money, which is the revenue from a criminal enterprise, such as drug dealing.” So using the term Gray Money isn’t factual at all, and is editorializing what you should be calling these: independent expenditures.
Third – in editorializing your report, you conveniently leave out that Bob O’Keefe was also a recipient of the POA PAC’s independent expenditure monies. But of course that doesn’t fit your editorial narrative that “Lisa and her gang” are the only recipients of this so-called “gray money”, so you conveniently leave Bob O’Keefe out. The 496 form for Bob was filed at the same time as it was for myself, Lisa and Nancy, so you couldn’t have possibly missed it.
Fourth – if you had done your due diligence, you’d have learned that I graciously declined (and returned) PAC money paid directly to my campaign, while my opponent did not. If the acceptance of PAC money was the crux of your story, then you’d have reported both the fact that my opponent took PAC money directly to his campaign while I refused it and returned the checks that were cut to me. Also, why haven’t you reported on the Chamber PAC money that was spent to yet another one of my opponents, or the opponents of the other folks you list in this article? For goodness’ sake – the Chamber PAC ads promoting those other candidates are plastered all over this article. Once again the editorializing preceded your factual reporting.
Fifth – independent expenditures (or as you incorrectly refer to as “gray money”) are simply that – independent. No candidate has any influence, say or collaboration into what other organizations say about them (good or bad). If they do have any input in the process, it would be illegal and punishable by law. While I personally elected not to receive PAC contributions to my campaign (which is fully legal within the donation limits) there is nothing wrong nor anything a candidate can do to prevent independent expenditure spending. I, for one, appreciate the endorsements given to me by the South Bay Labor Council and the Santa Clara Police Officers’ Association and Santa Clara Local Firefighters 1171, and am honored that they would support me in such a public way.
I do sincerely hope you correct the inaccuracies in this article (excluding Bob as a recipient of the funds), and do wish that in future articles you’d label them as an op-ed when the contents reflect them to be as such.
Thank you for being such a faithful and careful reader, and for taking the time to post your comment. We appreciate our readers alerting us to mistakes and omissions. We have corrected the story.
We commend you for not taking PAC money. Other candidates, including Raj Chahal, Karen Hardy and Peta Roberts have done so as well. We have noted more than once that all your donors are individuals.
The Follow the Money article, however, does cover the Chamber of Commerce PAC’s and the AFL-CIO CORE PAC’s direct spending and donations. This report, however, is about the police PAC.
The term “gray money” in this usage has been around since at least 2016. See this article from the Atlantic Monthly: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/06/the-rise-of-gray-money-in-politics/489002/
Although technically one can’t stop other people’s spending, such spending can be repudiated — as Police Chief Mike Sellars and Rod Diridon, Jr did when the dark money PAC BUPAC endorsed them in its offensive campaign website and mailers.