When a criminal grand jury last week indicted Christopher Schumb and three others on charges of bribery in exchange for concealed weapons permits, 15th State Senate District candidate Dave Cortese quietly distanced himself from the prominent political donor.
Late last week—after Santa Clara County DA Jeff Rosen announced the charges—Cortese reportedly discussed the best course of action with his wife, East Side Union High School District trustee Pattie Cortese. Together, according to Cortese’s campaign manager Alex Maykowski, they decided to redirect whatever Schumb donated to a good cause.
The couple chose to hand the cash over to two locally based nonprofits.
Some went to Bright Futures, a youth mentoring program, Maykowski said. The rest went to the Enough is Enough Voter Project, a group founded by Stanford law professor Michele Dauber to hold elected leaders accountable for the way they treat women.
Financial disclosure records show that Schumb donated $3,250 to Cortese’s bid to succeed soon-to-term-out Jim Beall.
In the absence of an announcement about regifting Schumb’s money, Cortese fielded criticism from his D15 opponent, former Federal Elections Commission chair Ann Ravel.
Ravel—who helmed California’s Fair Political Practices Commission before Obama appointed her to the FEC—has made government transparency and campaign finance reform a prominent part of her platform. On Monday, the lifelong good-government advocate publicly called on Cortese to return all contributions from Schumb.
“This clearly crosses the line,” she told San Jose Inside in a phone call earlier this week. “I would not take money from any organization or group where it’s clear they are engaged in essentially violating the trust of the public.”
The Cortese camp dismissed the call-out as a publicity stunt.
“This is just politics as usual,” Maykowski said. “Ann will do anything to try to attack Dave and our campaign. This won’t be the last political Hail Mary she attempts.”
But Ravel’s camp was unaware that Cortese redirected the money and criticized him a second time on Tuesday for staying mum on the matter.
In an afternoon email to Ravel’s supporters, her campaign manager, Andrew Berthelsen, said Cortese’s “silence speaks volumes.”
“The people of Santa Clara County deserve better than the old pay-for-play politics,” Berthelsen wrote. “Both Governor Brown and President Obama trusted Ann Ravel to be the top watchdog to stop corruption in our elections, and voters can expect the same when she’s our next state senator.”