Liccardo funder paid for recount, coordination alleged

Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo

Daily Post Staff Writer

Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo’s wealthiest supporter helped pay for the recount that knocked Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian out of the race for Congress, campaign finance forms show, and Liccardo has been hit with a second complaint alleging illegal coordination with the Super PACs that are backing him.

New York City billionaire Michael Bloomberg donated $500,000 to a Super PAC supporting Liccardo in February, and that Super PAC then gave $102,000 to another Super PAC, called “Count the Vote,” that funded a recount in April.

The donors behind the “Count the Vote” Super PAC have been a mystery, but campaign finance forms published on Monday can trace donations back to Bloomberg. Both Super PACs are represented by election law attorneys from the law firm Rutan & Tucker LLP.

The money was moved in six different transactions between April 12 and April 17, while the recount was underway.

Liccardo was hit with a second complaint yesterday filed by Brian O’Grady, an attorney based in Mountain View. O’Grady said that Liccardo and two Super PACs illegally coordinated with each other by not indicating that they were affiliated on campaign finance forms.

The Super PACs “may not have wanted to do so in order to hide the connections between Liccardo and the recount, but there was a clear legal obligation and the (Federal Elections) Commission should immediately investigate this matter and take all appropriate action,” O’Grady wrote in his complaint.

Connection denied 

Liccardo has denied any connection with the recount effort. Jonathan Padilla, who worked for Liccardo’s campaign for mayor, requested the recount after a tie for second between Simitian, 71, of Palo Alto, and Assemblyman Evan Low, 40, of Campbell.

Padilla, who lives outside the Congressional district in San Jose, said he was requesting the recount on Low’s behalf.

The recount broke the tie in the March 5 primary between Simitian and Low, giving Liccardo a single opponent in the November election.

Low’s campaign and Simitian’s supporters, including Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, have called for transparency about who paid for the recount.

Low has accused Liccardo and Padilla of misleading voters by not being upfront about their funding. “Liccardo doesn’t think he can win in a three-way race, and he’s trying to knock one of us off the ballot by requesting a recount — one that neither I nor the candidate I tied with called for,” Low said in an email to supporters on April 14. “Worse yet, he doesn’t even have the backbone to file a recount request himself.”

Initial complaint

Max Zarzana, president of the Santa Clara County Government Attorneys Association, filed the first complaint on April 19 with the Federal Elections Commission alleging that Liccardo’s campaign engaged in a “secret scheme to illegally coordinate” with the recount effort by conducting a poll that showed Liccardo was vulnerable in a three-way race. Padilla requested the recount a day later, Zarzana said.

Zarzana said in his complaint the move is in line with Liccardo’s “past anti-transparent behavior.”
The form showing that Bloomberg’s Super PAC helped pay for the recount was turned in on Monday.

Super PACs are set up so donors can exceed a $3,300 donation limit per election, which Bloomberg maxed out for Liccardo early on in the race.

Bloomberg, 82, was mayor of New York City from 2001 to 2009. He ran for president in 2020, spending $935 million, but dropped out after winning 61 delegates out of more than 1,000 that were available.

Forbes estimates that Bloomberg’s net worth is $106 billion, making him the 12th richest person in the world.

Liccardo worked closely with Bloomberg in San Jose to ban natural gas in most new buildings, campaign spokeswoman Julie Edwards said in an email in March.

Liccardo also worked with Moms Demand Action, a Bloomberg-affiliated organization, to pass gun control laws in San Jose, Edwards said.

“While we can have no control or influence over independent expenditures or their donors, we are not surprised Sam’s record of bold policy-making has won the support of leaders who care about tackling big challenges,” Edwards said.

Other donors

Daniel Warmenhoven, former CEO of HealthNet, also donated $50,000 to the “Neighbors for Results” Super PAC.

T.J. Rodgers, a billionaire founder of Cypress Semiconductor, donated $15,000 on Feb. 26, forms show. Rodgers, 76, of Woodside, is a registered Republican. He is a Stanford alum, scientist and entrepreneur.

Rodgers and Bloomberg couldn’t be reached for comment yesterday.

Bloomberg, Warmenhoven, and Rodgers were the only donors to the first Super PAC. The donors behind the “Count The Vote” Super PAC won’t be revealed until disclosures are due in July.

Liccardo also received direct donations from LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and the owners of at least four different sports franchises.

Liccardo has raised $2.7 million through March 31, and Low has raised $1.7 million, campaign finance forms show.

Melissa Michelson, a professor of political science at Menlo College, said yesterday that Liccardo stands a better chance against one opponent than two.

Simitian and Liccardo are considered more moderate than Low, and they have similar identities, Michelson said.

“They were probably going to be vying for the same votes,” she said.

The stakes for this race are high — Eshoo, 81, held the seat for 30 years after she won her first race.

“I’m sure for both candidates, for both campaigns, they’re going to go all out,” Michelson said. “Because once you’re in, you’re good to go … You’re in. So you’ve got to put it all out on the table to try to win, because you’re not going to get another shot.”

1 Comment

  1. Liccardo has a reputation for making backroom deals with no transparency. I guess things never change.

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