Ann Ravel Sends Cease-and-Desist Letter to SD15 Rival Dave Cortese Over Obama Photos

With the November election just weeks away, California State Senate candidate Ann Ravel has sent rival Dave Cortese a cease-and-desist letter for using what she calls misleading photographs of former President Barack Obama in campaign materials.

Ravel, the former chair of the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), and Cortese, who serves as the District 3 supervisor for Santa Clara County, are both vying for state Sen. Jim Beall’s open District 15 seat this fall.

The letter signed by Ravel’s campaign manager Andrew Berthelsen accuses Cortese of deceptively using images of the former president in mailers and television and online advertisements in order to mislead voters.

One of the photos, which sits front and center on the supervisor’s campaign website, was taken at Moffett Field shortly after Air Force One landed on the tarmac. In it, Obama is seen placing his hand on Cortese’s left shoulder.

The photo of Cortese and Obama is pictured on the supervisor’s campaign website.

“By using these photographs, you are clearly attempting to imply the support and endorsement of President Obama for your campaign, which is false and misleading,” Berthelsen wrote in the missive.

In August, the former president included Ravel in his “first wave” of endorsements for the 2020 general election. In 2009, Ravel was named the deputy assistant general for the Torts Branch and the Office of Consumer Litigation under the Obama administration.

A few years later in 2013, the president appointed her to the FEC where she served until 2017 when she resigned over partisan gridlock.

Berthelsen said Cortese’s political use of the photo violates rules set by the Obama White House, the National Archives and Records Administration and the Obama Presidential Library. Per policy, photos of Obama “may not be used in any commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.”

Ravel said that Cortese’s use of the image is “deceptive” and confuses voters. She told San Jose Inside that she’s heard from multiple District 15 residents who thought both candidates were endorsed by Obama. “Those sorts of things first off, it’s illegal to be utilizing those photos unless he’s endorsed,” she said. “There’s a clear statement and it’s a federal policy so there’s that. But other than that, I think more disconcerting is the willingness to essentially defraud the public.”

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who has endorsed Ravel’s SD15 bid, also hit back at Cortese for using the misleading photos.

In a statement, Liccardo said he was present when the supervisor greeted Obama on the tarmac—in one of the photos used by the Cortese campaign, the mayor is seen in the background. “Cortese introduced himself, and spoke briefly with the president—as we all did—and I never heard any suggestion by President Obama that he would politically support Dave Cortese for any office,” Liccardo said.

“A ‘rope line’ picture used in this way—juxtaposed with assertions that Cortese is ‘endorsed’ by different groups—is intentionally misleading,” the mayor added. “I ask Supervisor Cortese to make clear to the voters that he has NOT been endorsed by President Obama and to denounce the misleading campaigning being conducted.”

Ravel’s campaign also sent the cease-and-desist warning to Amber Parrish Baur, the treasurer of the pro-Cortese Opportunity PAC. The political action committee has sent out multiple mailers in recent weeks with photos of the supervisor and Obama.

An Opportunity PAC mailer uses one of the same photos of Cortese and President Obama.

According to the mailer, the PAC has received a majority of its funding from the SEIU California State Council, the California Teachers’ Association and the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO. The PAC is an independent expenditure committee, which means it is not directly connected and doesn’t coordinate with Cortese's campaign.

The cease-and-desist notice asks Cortese’s campaign and the Opportunity PAC to remove the images from all online and television advertising and halt the production of any future mailers with the photographs.

Berthelsen said Cortese and the Opportunity PAC have three days to respond to the letter to confirm they’ve stopped using the image.

If they fail to do so, Ravel’s campaign plans on contacting Obama, the National Archives and Records Administration and the Obama Presidential Library to alert them of the “clear violations of the provisions of the use of the photos.”

Cortese, his campaign manager and a spokesperson for the Opportunity PAC could not immediately be reached for comment.


  1. Former President Barack Obama is the deportator in Chief! He deported more non-criminal immigrants than any other president including racist Trump. ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS! He decided to ignore the Bacha Bazi or rape of boys in Afghanistan in the name of “their culture” way of living for privileged males living in that Muslim State. Go to hell for that Obama! Ravel and Cortese are the case of evil fighting evil and both are a piece of sh!t…

  2. I’m confused. I thought misleading the public was Job #1 of today’s Democratic Party. I would think Ann Ravel’s complaint, calling out Dave Cortese for his deceptive tactics, would elevate his status within his party. In fact, I fully expected his next campaign ad to feature him and the misleading photo, accompanied by his voice-over claim, “I’m Dave Cortese and I approved this deception.”

  3. WOW, talk about false and misleading. Ann Ravel is aware that the Santa Clara County DA engaged in outrageous conduct, misuse of funds and unreported in- kind donations during the 2018 election that recalled her client, Judge Persky. She said and did nothing for two years then took Jeff Rosen’s endorsement. If Ann is so worried about CA then why did she say nothing about her own county’s corruption. Ads must be working. Ann : Report it to the @FPPC , unless of course that agency doesn’t work either. Oh right , that one.

  4. > Ravel and Cortese are the case of evil fighting evil and both are a piece of sh!t…


    I blame you (again).

    You voted for the “top two” primary system.

    You never told us the “top two winners” would be duds.

  5. Given the deportment of today’s Democrats I would think Mr. Cortese’s deception would be celebrated by his party. Admittedly, misleading the public with a photograph pales in comparison to Hillary’s seeding of the Russiagate scandal, but it’s not really fair to judge the schemes of a local worm against those of a world-class psychopath.

    Still, were I Cortese’s campaign manager I would urge him to take full credit for his efforts, perhaps in an ad featuring the Obama photo along with the caption, “My name is Dave Cortese and I approved this deception.”

  6. Cortese has spewed a string of lies and deception throughout his “career”. Why does this latest ploy surprise anyone?

  7. If Cortese and Ravel were even a little serious about political and historical facts and evidence, they would be darting away from any association with Obama, rather than highlighting their affiliations to him and his administration.

    Contrary to Obama’s 2008 campaign rhetoric, promises and popular expectations, the Obama administration did not prosecute any Wall Street executives for their roles in crashing the financial system the precipitated the Great Recession of 2008-2009. Rather, the administration bailed out, lied to the public about prosecuting bankers’ illegal activities and covered for these same bad actors in their statements and actions ( Furthermore, the administration adopted policies in the midst of the Great Recession that actually helped gut home ownership, especially among Black households (

    Contrary to Obama’s 2008 campaign promise and popular expectations (, the Obama administration did not lift a finger to advance the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that would have enhanced the ability of workers to join unions, that passed the House of Representatives in 2009 and that eventually died in the Senate, then occupied by a 60-person Democratic majority (;

    Contrary to the Obama’s 2008 campaign rhetoric and broad popular expectations, his administration famously backed down without a fight in addressing income inequality in the U.S., something he described as an existential threat to the country and that had intensified in the Great Recession of 2008-2009 (watch the first three minutes of this: watch?v=LfgSEwjAeno);

    Contrary to Obama’s campaign rhetoric and popular expectations, his administration was deliberately weak on environmental protection and climate change (, while Obama presided over the largest increase in fossil fuel production in the modern history of the U.S. (; While mainstream media coverage attempted to shield the administration from blame, Obama eliminated all doubt in 2018 when he publicly bragged about his role and responsibility for the surge in climate-destroying fossil fuels production (

    And contrary to Obama’s 2008 campaign rhetoric and popular expectations, the Obama Department of Justice gave a free pass to Bush administration officials involved in corruption and crimes, including torture ( At the same time, Obama maintained the Bush-era “state secrets” privilege to block torture and rendition victims from seeking legal redress in the courts and his Department of Defense accelerated assassinations of alleged “terrorists” using drones (;, and expanded the geography of U.S. live fire military operations from two countries to seven (

    In making his electoral endorsements, including that for Ravel, Obama asserts that “…[T]hese candidates will help us redeem our country’s promise by sticking up for working-class people, restoring fairness and opportunity to our system, and fighting for the good of all Americans—not just those at the top.” In other words, to be true to their endorsement from Obama, these candidates would have to reverse all the damage inflicted by the Obama administration itself. In light of these realities, Obama’s endorsement of Ravel should be the kiss of death, not the Midas touch.

  8. Those photos of Cortese smiling are obviously photoshopped. No one has actually seen him smile in public in the last 10 years or so.

  9. > If Cortese and Ravel were even a little serious about political and historical facts and evidence, they would be darting away from any association with Obama, rather than highlighting their affiliations to him and his administration.

    I would imagine that from your assessment, a progressive would have to conclude that Obama is more Trumpian than Donald Trump.

    Maybe Trump IS going to win.

    • Hi Stephen – like the story notes, Ann has been endorsed by President Obama. According to the federal policy, someone is allowed to use his image like this if they’ve been endorsed.

  10. Paling around with Obummer, Cortese doesn’t get it. That’s the pat on the shoulder of political death.

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