Someone decided to troll Santa Clara County supervisor candidate and terming-out San Jose Councilman Don Rocha by buying a domain name similar to his campaign website’s and redirecting it to a gossipy blog about his years-old divorce.
It’s unclear what’s so scandalous about the domestic matter, which the blog tries to spin as proof of Rocha’s sleaziness. Regardless, it’s a low blow and reflects more on the sleaziness of the author than anyone else. But in a Sept. 27 email to supporters, Rocha lands what some saw as a low blow of his own by blaming his rival—San Jose Unified trustee Susan Ellenberg—for the hit piece.
“As we get closer to election day … campaigns typically heat up and get tense, and some, regrettably, even resort to questionable tactics,” he wrote. “Our opponent has unfortunately chosen to purchase a domain of my name ... in order to divert voters to her own campaign website.”
Rocha also took the occasion to criticize his opponent’s fundraising.
“Furthermore, there is/was a voluntary expenditure limit that all seven candidates agreed to in the primary,” he wrote in the email. “Six of us adhered to it, but our opponent chose not to, and spent around $120,000 of her personal funds, and approximately $70,000 above the $250,000 expenditure limit for an estimated $320,000 total amount.”
That didn’t sit well with the accused.
“I want to be very clear: neither I nor any member of my campaign team, had anything to do with this,” she replied on her public Facebook page. “I did not purchase this domain, I am not controlling it and I have never asked anyone to do it or been told by anyone that they are doing it. Whoever is doing it should stop.”
Ellenberg said she was disappointed that Rocha sent out a mass email before reaching out to her directly. The two quickly made amends, however, and Rocha even backed down from his allegations about her fundraising.
“I did make an assumption,” Rocha said, “and that was a mistake.”
Ellenberg and Rocha have since been working together to find out who’s behind the anonymous mudslinging. “We’ve been doing a little digging,” Rocha said, “and that was very nice of her to offer to help.”
Below is an email update Rocha sent to his supporters on Monday.
I want to thank everyone who continues to send notes of support and encouragement to me and the campaign team, it means a lot to us. With that said, I also want to bring to your attention that our last newsletter spoke to two issues of concern to my campaign.
One being that a domain address with my name had unfortunately been rerouting it to my opponents website. Shortly thereafter, it was rerouting to a webpage that is making personal attacks and accusations against me. These are very sad and terrible tactics, and it is truly tragic that people feel they need to try and hurt others for their own benefit—whatever that benefit may be. On one level I feel pity for them, and wonder what circumstances have happened in their life that led them to this type of behavior. On the other hand, I was very upset and got caught up in the stress and tension of the campaign and assumed it was my opponent.
Immediately after informing the public of this situation, my opponent reached out to me personally and unequivocally stated that she has nothing to do with it. I take her at her word and want to thank her—Susan Ellenberg—for her offer of help and her immediate condemnation of this act. From my vantage point, she has been understanding of the situation given the circumstances, and I should have reached out directly to her first before making this assumption.
And in the case of the second issue previously mentioned, I want to also acknowledge that technically my opponents campaign has not legally violated the voluntary expenditure limit by spending her own money above the voluntary expenditure limit. While I have chosen to abide by what I believe is the spirit of the limit and kept to the maximum $250,00 allowed, it is true that candidates are free to spend as much of their own money as they want. I do want to emphasize, however, that I truly believe when one agrees to a voluntary spending limit—which allows you to take in larger individual contributions because of that, it should be a true “limit,” personal money or not. There is another path where you don't have to agree with the voluntary expenditure limit, whereby you are only restricted by smaller maximum individual contribution limits. This is where I feel it is appropriate for candidates with greater financial means, to be allowed to spend over the cap.
Should I be elected, I commit to you that in 2019 I will ask my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors to change the current regulations to remedy this disparity. I think this allowance for wealthier candidates to “agree” to a voluntary expenditure limit, only to spend thousand and thousands of dollars, or even a hundred thousand dollars over the cap, is completely inequitable. As I understand it, in this scenario they get the best of both worlds, larger individual contribution limits allowed, while also not having to abide by the expenditure limit. I strongly believe that this has to be remedied.
I am grateful that I’ve been able to run a campaign funded by the small dollar contributions of supporters like you (almost 400 different individuals to date), and fueled by the thousands of doors we’ve knocked in the past year. I wouldn’t be able to do this without your ongoing support—so thank you once again!
All my best,