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.