James Rowen just can’t seem to quit Magdalena Carrasco. The political operative who was sued off the Internet for defamation has once again taken aim at the San Jose councilwoman’s fundraising before taking office this year.
Previously, Rowen sent out dozens of emails to media and city staff excoriating Carrasco for taking an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City, courtesy of the San Jose/Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce and Yellow Checker Cab. The trip, taken in September 2014, forced Carrasco to declare a conflict of interest that bars her from voting on taxis this year. Rowen’s now calling out Carrasco for exploiting a fundraising loophole for her East Side school board campaign from 2012.
Campaign disclosure forms filed this week show that Carrasco spent the end of 2014 collecting contributions as large as $5,000 a pop from companies of local developers, including Michael Van Every and Chris Neale, as well as $2,500 from Yellow Cab, to help close out $25,000 in debt. Had this been done for her council campaign, she would have been limited to raising $500 per donor. Carrasco says everything was done by the book and she’s had enough of Rowen and his backers, who she suspects include her vanquished campaign foe, Xavier Campos, along with big-sis Assemblywoman Nora Campos and brother-in-law Neil Struthers.
“They’re just angry people,” Carrasco says. “It’s like, get over it. You’re not a freaking dynasty.”
She added that the Campos Clan’s continued attacks against her—while not even mentioning Xavier’s rigged election victory in 2010—are “illogical,” but “maybe it’s a way they think they can stay relevant.”
Nora terms out of the Assembly at the end of 2016, but she’s apparently filed papers for a state Senate run in 2020. Hard to say who she will berate between now and then.
Rowen says he’s never worked for the Camposes or Struthers, but he does do contract work for their consultant, Ed McGovern, on Santa Clara issues.
“If I'm supposed to be working with labor, why is (county Democratic Party chair) Steve Preminger calling me and telling me to lay off Magdalena?” says Rowen.
While the money Carrasco raised from developers for her school board campaign could be seen as potential conflicts worth disclosing, she actually voted against Van Every’s land conversion proposal in May.
“I think he gave me a substantial contribution,” Carrasco says. “I haven’t had a conversation with Michael after that vote. I think Michael has done some good work. In that particular instance, I don’t think it was a good fit for the city. I think we needed to maintain that property and not convert it. I’m sure Michael was not happy with the verdict. I voted my conscience.”
Van Every tells Fly he made a contribution to help Carrasco retire school board campaign debt, and he never expects campaign contributions to lead to automatic support.
But to add a final twist, Carrasco’s fundraising may not be done quite yet. She raised $16,500 in the final weeks of 2014, which is short of the $25,000-plus debt she owes her school board consultant, John Shallman. In fact, all of that money sat in a bank account untouched the first six months of this year. Carrasco says she prefers to pay off the debt in one lump sum rather than installments.
Bringing things full circle, Shallman also happened to run the independent expenditure committee that supported Carrasco's council run and spent more than $100,000 to help kill Xavier Campos’ career.
UPDATE: City communications director David Vossbrink provided this answer in response to Fly’s questions about the matter:
“I checked with the City Attorney’s Office regarding your question about any legal conflict of interest issues associated with Councilmember Carrasco’s campaign contributions.
“The short answer is: no, there is no legal conflict from campaign contributions, and there is no requirement for recusal. Actual material and legal conflicts (such as a financial stake or property interest that could be affected by a specific decision) are defined by City and state laws.
“In addition, the City and ESUHSD are different jurisdictions with different rules. If she is compliant with the District (or not) that’s their responsibility to determine or enforce, not the City’s.”