Political candidates are forbidden from running their campaigns in coordination with independent expenditure committees (IECs), which are groups that support or oppose individual candidates or issues. Based on what we’ve seen the last couple years, it would be naive to think political consultants for IECs never coordinate with a preferred candidate’s campaign. But nothing has come quite as close to the near mirror image mailers sent out by the Chavez campaign, the South Bay Labor Council Committee on Political Education (COPE) and the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee United Democratic Campaign (UDC).
In several cases, the only delineation to prove no coordination exists between the three groups comes in a single line that notes which group paid for the flyer. As a result of a complaint from the campaign of Teresa Alvarado, Chavez’s biggest competition in the special election, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) is now looking into the matter, according to the Mercury News. With absentee balloting already in full swing, Alvarado’s camp is hoping for a swift decision.
In one recent mailer focused on Chavez’s dedication to children in Santa Clara County, the piece notes that it was “Paid for by Cindy Chavez for Supervisor 2013.” But the Democratic Central Committee’s UDC group sent out the exact same mailer—word for word and picture for picture.
Another flyer paid for by the Chavez campaign touts her former vice mayor credentials, and it includes the candidate’s website address. The South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council Committee on Political Education (COPE) paid for a nearly identical flyer. (The picture and bullet points are the same, but it substitutes Chavez website’s URL with a quote from a retired police captain.)
Chavez campaign manager, Ed MCGovern, argued to the Merc that the DCC and SBLC pieces were member-to-member communications, which means they shouldn’t be subject to campaign restrictions. But both the SBLC’s COPE committee and the DCC’s UCD committee receive union dues and political contributions, which seems to go outside the scope of McGovern’s argument. Here’s some info on how the DCC group threw around cash in 2012.
Also, Alvarado’s camp says that some of the people who received the mailers have no association with the SBLC or the DCC. While the DCC is the official body for Democrats in Santa Clara County, just because someone is resgistered as a Democrat does not mean they are part of the party, which requires paying dues.
According to campaign filings with the Secretary fo State, the DCC’s UDC committee does not limits its contribution sources to just party member dues. In filings with SOS, the DCC’s UDC committee received contributions as high as $5,000 apiece from the campaigns of Paul Fong, Nora Campos and Bob Wieckowski, and $10,000 on May 2 from the political action committee (PAC) for the Santa Clara and San Benito Counties Building & Construction Trades Council.
Another couple of mailers citing Chavez’s experience, sent out by the candidate’s campaign and the DCC, again include the same picture, fonts and arrangement. The only difference is the DCC’s piece includes a picture and quote from Guadalupe Gonzalez, president of the Millview Neighborhood Association, instead of Buu Thai, the vice president of the Franklin-McKinley school board, who is featured on the Chavez campaign mailer. Pictures and quotes of Juan Estrada and Ron Golart remain consistent.
Going for the trifecta, the Chavez campaign, the DCC and the SBLC all teamed up on a flyer touting the candidate’s “record of fighting crime.” The picture and bullet points on all three pieces is the same, while an inset quote changes depending on the piece. Otherwise, the layout, colors and fonts are all consistent.
“Maybe the law says that endorsement box is enough to avoid accusations of coordination,” a source close to Alvarado’s campaign told San Jose Inside, “but the perception is pretty damning.”
Below are all the referenced images of flyers sent out by the Cindy Chavez fo Supervisor 2013 campaign, the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee United Democratic Campaign and the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council Committee on Political Education (COPE).