Mudslinging in City of Santa Clara Persists Months after Election

Santa Clara political operative and legally banned blogger James Rowen has accused council members Kathy Watanabe and Debi Davis of trying to hide payments to a shared political consultant, Gabe Foo. Rowen, who described himself as the “Black Joker of Santa Clara” in an avalanche of emails to media outlets and elected officials, threatened to file complaints with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) claiming that the two councilwomen paid a combined $6,000 to Foo after the Dec. 31 cutoff for campaign spending. Given Rowen’s record of libel and harassment, Davis said “he has nothing to stand on.” Watanabe called the FPPC filings—or, in this case, the mere suggestion of them—a thinly veiled vendetta. “It’s extortion,” she said. “He’s mad because we didn’t hire him as a political consultant.” The two used to be friends, she added. “I’ve made food for him, I’ve delivered things for him. I’ve supported him over the years. But he makes it very difficult.” Davis said she initially hired Rowen for $200, but dumped him after finding out that he was pulling double duty by advising John McLemore, her challenger in the last election. Foo started volunteering for the two councilwomen, but he became indispensable once a shadow group called BluePAC—with suspected ties to the San Francisco 49ers—began attacking their reputation, Watanabe explained. Foo helped her produce a video and social media campaign to respond to the political volleys. “I wanted to pay him for that,” she said. Foo submitted paperwork to register his marketing company with the Secretary of State before the end of 2016, but the records didn’t post online until 2017. But everything was submitted before deadline as required, City Clerk Rod Diridon Jr. ruled. “These complaints have no merit,” Watanabe said. Rowen, for his part, told Fly he had no intention of working with Watanabe. Robert Haugh—a former Santa Clara Weekly writer who left the paper and later launched a citizen journalism project called Santa Clara News—said Rowen’s incessant trolling and FPPC complaints have undermined whatever point he has to make. “His knowledge of politics is great,” Haugh said. “He just doesn’t present himself well.”

UPDATE: In an email asking for a “corrective retraction,” John McLemore disputes Debi Davis’ statement that he received advice from James Rowen in the 2016 election cycle. He and I did NOT have a professional agreement between us during this last political 2016 season nor have we EVER had a formal professional political agreement or services between us.”

Send a tip to The Fly

The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.

One Comment

  1. LOL,
    Wouldn’t it be nice if we could heard politicians into a closet and leave them there till there was only one left we could try for murder?

Leave a Reply