A complaint filed against Sam Liccardo’s mayoral campaign alleges the San Jose council member violated election law by failing to report an in-kind contribution for the second time.
On Oct. 1, Liccardo’s campaign sent a mass email to supporters. The bottom of that message indicated that the contact list came from Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen, according to union activist Carol Garvey, who reportedly filed the complaint earlier this week. (The day and date on her letter do not match.)
The Fair Political Practices Commission has said such mailing lists constitute an in-kind contribution at fair-market value, Garvey wrote, meaning Nguyen's list should cost the campaign as much as a similar list would on the open market.
Garvey, who earlier this year was recognized for her work as a union activist, estimates that the fair market value of such a list exceeds $1,100—the contribution cap in municipal elections. But Liccardo never noted such a contribution on his 460 forms, Garvey says, which could violate both the contribution limit and the reporting requirement.
A complaint filed against Liccardo earlier in the year led to an investigation by the Ethics Committee, which cleared him of any wrongdoing except for receiving an in-kind contribution that was not listed due to an "oversight."
Garvey finished her letter by stating that "the email’s message references San Jose City Hall," which would violate the city election code’s ban on using public resources to promote a campaign.
Reached for comment Friday afternoon, Nguyen called the inclusion of her work address a simple mistake. The vice mayor, who finished third in the June primary behind Liccardo and county Supervisor Dave Cortese, said her former campaign manager, Eddie Truong, used the free MailChimp email service to send a letter to her personal friends and supporters on Liccardo's behalf, and an address was required. Truong did not want to include her home address, Nguyen said, so he provided the address of City Hall.
"[Garvey] assumed that we were using our work email distribution list, but, no, we don’t do that," Nguyen said. "I’ve been doing this too long. I know the rules."
Nguyen said "probably about 500" people received the email and she sent Truong a note "right away," letting him know he shouldn't have used the City Hall address. Truong now works for Chappie Jones' District 1 council campaign.
Nguyen said she does not consider the email list she provided to Liccardo an in-kind contribution, because the email service is free.
Liccardo's campaign manager, Ragan Henninger, called the complaint "baseless and without any merit."
She added, "Madison used a free email service and it was to her personal contacts list. It wasn’t a a voter file that you pay for."