Richie Ross will have to pay $5,000 in penalties after the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) ruled that he purposely placed an elected official—in this case termed-out state Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-San Jose)—under personal obligation by never collecting a debt.
Since Fong’s 2008 win, the legislator has owed Ross $100,000. Apparently, that six-year-old six-figure past-due sum worked out fine for Ross, who never made any efforts to collect the cash after the first invoice. He’s invariably been able to count on Fong’s vote. Of the 42 bills Ross lobbied for between 2009 and 2013, 35 moved to the Assembly floor. All 35 got a “yes” from Fong.
Now, Ross will have to write off that debt, which won’t matter much considering he got his money’s worth from Fong. Meanwhile, Fong’s off the hook, which is a nice parting gift as he winds down after a failed shot at San Jose’s City Council.
The penalty, meanwhile, is nothing but a rap on the wrist for Ross, who should probably be barred from lobbying altogether. According to the FPPC ruling, Ross told investigators that he didn’t even realize that his dual professions as lobbyist and campaign consultant presented any conflict. Really?
Ross was also subject to an older complaint from 2006 alleging a similar violation. The case was dropped, however, after the FPPC concluded that he made reasonable attempts to collect debt from the candidate.
Back in San Jose, Councilman Xavier Campos dodged any major violations, but got cited for a spate of questionable practices that will cost him $5,500 in FPPC fines.
Campos, together with his campaign manager, Linda Delgado, didn’t have receipts for some $10,000 he loaned to his campaign, as well as invoices or receipts for nearly $40,000 in expenditures.
He also routinely missed deadlines for campaign statements and failed to keep accurate, complete records. And the fact that he was taking cashier checks raises some eyebrows—donations are supposed to come directly from donors’ bank accounts.
Leading up to his 2010 election to the District 5 seat, Campos accepted eight cashier checks and money orders totaling nearly $2,000, including one from developers, a night club, former San Jose council member Manny Diaz’s wife, Sandra Diaz, and a cinnamon bread bakery.
Neither the Ross nor the Campos ruling would have come about had it not been for San Jose Inside first reporting on both cases.