Unions, Santa Clara Democrats’ disclosure reports don’t match

Unions, Santa Clara Democrats’ disclosure reports don’t match

Mismatch State Building and Construction TradesA Bay Area Democratic campaign committee, which has transferred tens of thousands of dollars to targeted legislative candidates, is facing questions about discrepancies found in its campaign finance disclosure reports.

In at least two instances, the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee United Democratic Campaign has accepted large checks from influential state labor unions, but failed to report those contributions in a timely manner. The potential violations are easy to spot because the party’s disclosure reports for receiving funds don’t match the unions’ disclosure reports for giving money.

On Sept. 15, the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California PAC distributed $153,000 to various Democratic campaign committees. All of the contributions were reported on a late disclosure report, Form 497, filed on the same day with the Secretary of State’s office.

Among the contributions was a $25,000 check to the Santa Clara County Democratic Party. However, that contribution wasn’t reported by the Democratic central committee until Oct. 7, more than three weeks after it was sent. In the 90 days preceding an election, state law requires both parties in a campaign transaction of $1,000 or more to file a Form 497 disclosure report within 24 hours.

The $25,000 from the Construction Trades Council isn’t the only contribution filed late by the party. A second contribution of $34,000 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO (MPO) committee was disclosed by the union on Sept. 26, but not reported by the Santa Clara Democratic Party until Oct. 2, nearly a week late.

Ultimately, those funds helped fund two State Assembly candidates running in targeted seats. On Oct. 14, the Santa Clara County committee transferred $65,000 to Tim Sbranti and $25,000 to Ken Cooley. Both Democrats are running in competitive races and have relied on union money transferred through county central committees.

Santa Clara Democratic Party denies wrongdoing

The Santa Clara County Democratic Party has denied any wrongdoing, claiming it is in compliance with state law.

“The two contributions you referenced were received and reported timely and in compliance with all campaign finance rules and regulations,” said Steve Preminger, chairman of the Santa Clara County Democratic Party. “Both contributions were received directly by our accounting firm, Henry Levy and Co., and reported within 24 hours of receipt.”

When pressed for an explanation for the discrepancies, Preminger said, “I repeat that when a check is received, the proper filing takes place. It is that simple.”

It is logical that a recipient campaign committee will lag behind the contributor in filing a disclosure report. Checks must go through the mail and be processed by the campaign treasurer. In most circumstances, the processing time takes a few days.

Indeed, the other six campaign committees that received contributions from the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California on Sept. 15 reported the funds within 10 days. The Democratic Central Committee of Marin, Democratic Party of Mendocino County and Sacramento County Democratic Central Committee, which received checks from the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, reported their $25,000 contributions on Sept. 18. Assemblyman Rob Bonta, who received $3,000 on the same transaction report, also reported the check on Sept. 18.

The Stanislaus County Democratic Central Committee claimed to have received the funds on Sept. 19, and thus, used the weekend to report its contribution on Sept. 22.

Only the Los Angeles County Democratic Party pushed the limits of “processing time” by reporting its $25,000 contribution on Sept. 24, nine days after the contribution was made.

Santa Clara County Democratic Party pattern of questionable campaign behavior

So, why did Santa Clara County Democrats wait three weeks to report their pass-through union contributions to Cooley and Sbranti?

The Santa Clara County Democratic Party has a history of testing the limits of campaign finance laws. Last year, San Jose Inside, the best independent news source in Silicon Valley, reported the county party “became the target of a FPPC investigation for coordinating with the South Bay Labor Council” to funnel money to Cindy Chavez’s campaign for county supervisor. The coordination was revealed “after identical mailers were sent out by each of the three entities,” according to San Jose Inside.

In recent weeks, the Fair Political Practices Commission has targeted several Republican legislative committees for questionable transfers between political party committees. Yet a spokesman for the state’s political watchdog said it is not currently investigating the Santa Clara Couny Democratic Party.

“If we are made aware of any discrepancies by the Secretary of State’s office, as does happen, or if anyone files a complaint, then we will look into the matter,” said Jay Wierenga, FPPC communications director.

Maybe that complaint could come from Santa Clara County Democrats. After all, Santa Clara Democratic central committee members routinely decry “money in politics.”

“I gave a well-attended talk on how money in politics is the single biggest obstacle to legislation dealing with the climate crisis,” Craig Dunkerley, a member of the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee, wrote in a recent post on the party’s blog. “Being on a train gave rise to the useful metaphor of parallel tracks, representing the need to work on fixing the money-in-politics problem along with whatever else anyone in the audience might rate as their #1 priority.”

Mismatched Reports: State Building and Construction Trades Council

Mismatch State Building and Construction Trades

Mismatched Reports: AFSCME
MisMatch AFCME 9-26

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