Santa Clara Candidate Raises More Cash Than He Can Spend

Despite taking flak for over-raising campaign money during his second run for Santa Clara City Council in 2006, Dominic Caserta is at it again.

By June 30, the latest reporting deadline, Caserta had collected $60,099 with $53,974 cash on hand—about 56 percent more than the city’s voluntary expenditure limit of $38,300.

San Jose Inside reached out to Caserta, who said that of those surplus funds, “Every single red penny will be going to charitable and educational services in Santa Clara.”

The bulk, he promised, would go to a scholarship fund or endowment for the Santa Clara Unified School District—his employer—to help low-income students afford college. That’s perfectly in line with the city’s election code, he points out.

Caserta took a similar tack during his second council campaign, when he used some of the $24,000 in surplus cash to bid on charity auctions of sports memorabilia, including an autographed Willie Mays photo that he gave to his stepfather for helping him in the campaign. Turned out, though, that the move flouted Fair Political Practices Commission rules. He later acknowledged the mistake and re-paid the campaign account.

The rest of the money he divvied out to various nonprofits, including the charitable foundations of Santa Clara and San Jose public safety unions. Some of those same unions endorsed him in his current bid for council.

As for why people kept donating this year even after he reached the city-set limit: “I let them know we had reached our fundraising goals,” he said, adding that, “some people decided to give anyway.” San Jose Inside learned, however, that some donors weren’t offered that full disclosure.

The Santa Clara High School social studies teacher and former eight-year councilman is running again after a one-term break for the seat about to be vacated by longtime Councilwoman Patricia Mahan, who gave him her blessing.

Up against retired businesswoman Roseann LaCoursiere and engineer Kevin Park for the District 5 spot, he’s hit some bumps in the road. An early iteration of his campaign website was riddled with typos (e.g. ELECTD OFFICIALS), faulty titles and endorsements from people who’d been dead for years (senior advisory commissioners Edward L. Murphy and Patrick Driscoll, and former Assemblyman Victor Calvo).

But one thing that’s been very positive for Caserta is his fundraising. A heap of cash came from the 49ers top brass, including Co-Chairman John York and President Paraag Marather.

Caserta seems well-intentioned and ambitious, but he’s displayed some odd behavior in the past. Beyond the website errors and over-raising campaign cash, there were issues of him over-using his city-owned cell phone, which he admitted using a third of the time for personal calls. He also twice dialed a day spa/massage parlor in Hawaii back in 2007, racking up roaming charges and warnings from the city.

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

5 Comments

  1. I have never heard of Dominic Caserta and have no idea if he is a good guy or a bad guy.

    But I do wonder about . . .

    > about 56 percent more than the city’s voluntary expenditure limit of $38,300.

    The whole idea of a “voluntary” campaign expenditure limit seems arbitrary, manipulative, and oppressive.

    First of all, campaigns are all about informing and educating voters on issues and candidates.

    The notion that adequate information and education can be provided for just a few dollars per voter is not plausible. Especially when a corresponding amount of expenditures are being made to DISPUTE or CONTRADICT the education or information being provided.

    Secondly, campaign expenditure limits assume there is a parity in the complexity or subtlety on the opposing sides of an issue.

    This is almost NEVER true. One side typically has to work a LOT harder to explain the rationale and benefits for its position over the other.

    Limiting campaign expenditures simply limits campaigns to shallow, simplistic arguments and appeals to visceral instincts and prejudices.

    Notwithstanding that people who run campaigns, like Rich Robinson, can be pests and nuisances, and would benefit from the elimination of campaign limits, the concept of “self-government” argues that more information and explanation provided to voters will ultimately result in better understanding of choices and better governance.

  2. Why do we even have campaign limits when someone like Caserta can raise so much money. How can a real person who is not backed by say a Union, a developer or a football club even have a chance? how can this man claim he has a grassroots campaign when he has received;

    ~$18,000 from real estate, construction and developers,

    ~$5,000 from the San Francisco 49ers

    and this is this campaign, heaven knows what he raised last time, and then gave $5,000 to his own school after the campaign because he could not keep the money in the account according to FPCC rules. But not only did he give it to his school he gave it to his department. How ethical is this? This is the same person who bid on TVs with his campaign money at an event and gave that TV to his father in law. We the informed see discrepancies but your average voter is impressed with his large smile and teeth. I hope that they see Kevin Park or Roseanne a great option and that this race is between these two choices vs the dubious Dominic.

    And while we are at it let’s not forget Patrick Kolstad who received a healthy injection into this campaign from the the 49ers – he has received:

    ~$3,750 from the San Francisco 49ers

    Kevin Park said in his league of Women Voters debate that he was receiving small amounts from local people. That too me is a true grass roots campaign. I would remind you that it is obvious with these huge injections of money from say “I’m owned by xxxx” fill in the blanks, you get the picture. He’s a bought and paid for candidate no shame there.

    As for Patricia Mahan supporting him, I suggest you review that data. Mr Caserta took it upon himself to put up his signs in her lawn, and many other students homes lawns, then after doing so he called and said “I hope you don’t mind I left my lawn sign at your place yadda yadda” , I’ve personally spoken to neighbors why they had his lawn sign up and a couple days later it was gone. They took it down because they never authorized it Mr Caserta just stuck it there, sometimes late at night. I hope people read this and read exactly what I am saying here, this man is NOT who you think he is. Put your vote behind either Roseanne or Kevin Park, any vote given to Kolstad or Dominic is a bought and paid for vote

  3. I recently saw Dominic at a local restaurant in San Jose and I had no idea who he was. I could not but hear this boisterous person sitting at the table next to me. After HAVING to hear his conversation I was able to piece together who was sitting near me. I figured out he was running for Santa Clara City Council. Oh my God This person was so loud and arrogant I would be ashamed to have this person on my City Council. After doing some research on this arrogant person my opinions were confirmed. He does not care if he exceeded campaign expenditure limits. He is going to do whoever he wants that will serve himself best. Do you really want to have this self absorbed person on your City Council? Best wishes Mission City.