A Letter from District Attorney Dolores Carr

This is to correct and clarify several points contained in your article “SBLC Helps Big Political Contributors Erase Their Tracks,” [Sept. 22].

The City of San Jose and its Elections Commission have direct and primary jurisdiction over its own campaign contribution laws:

Your article states: “Enforcement of city election laws falls on the Government Integrity Unit of the District Attorney’s Office.”

That is inaccurate. Section 12.06.260, which prohibits contributions from card rooms to candidates or candidate controlled committees is found in the San Jose Municipal Code, Title 12. Enforcing violations of Title 12 fall within the jurisdiction of the City of San Jose and its Elections Commission. Title 12 lays out an entire regulatory framework for the investigation of Title 12 violations, including campaign contribution violations.

For example, section 12.04.070 specifies the duties and responsibilities of the Commission. Section 12.04.080 specifies what authority the Commission has regarding how investigations and hearings are conducted. It also provides that the City Council will establish regulations and procedures for investigations and hearings as well as provide funding for the Commission’s operation. Section 12.04.085 gives the Commission subpoena power. Section 12.04.080 D provides for the appointment of an independent neutral evaluator to investigate complaints. Section 12.04.100 allows the Commission to make findings and impose civil penalties described in Section 12.04.110. Under Section 12.04.120, the City Clerk and City Attorney may put persons on notice of a potential violation of the requirements of Section 12.06 whether or not a complaint is filed with the Commission. Section 12.04.120 provides the criteria for how penalties will be imposed for campaign contribution violations. This framework does not provide any delegation of City authority to the District Attorney.

The allegation of an improper payment of $3994 from the South Bay Labor Council to Xavier Campos is subject to the jurisdiction of the Elections Commission.

Title 12 was decriminalized in 1998 by the passage of Ordinance 25525.

Your article also overlooks the fact that a violation of Title 12 is not a criminal offense. San Jose City Ordinance 25525 passed in 1998, decriminalized the campaign contribution laws contained in Title 12 that were previously subject to misdemeanor sanctions. The only remedies available under the municipal code are civil penalties, which the Elections Commission may initiate. (See Section 12.04.112).

My office has not received any complaint, police report, evidence or facts supporting an allegation of a crime.

At this time no complaint from anyone whatsoever has been filed with our office concerning an alleged illegal contribution from Bay 101 to Xavier Campos. The only potential violation mentioned in your article would fall under Section 12.06.260, which again is exempt from criminal prosecution and is subject to the direct jurisdiction of the Elections Commission.

We contacted Mayor Reed who advised that he has no facts about any illegal Proposition K transfer of funds. Councilmember Sam Liccardo acknowledges in your article that he knows nothing about how money moves within the South Bay Labor Council. Neither has initiated a complaint to our office.

A corporation or card club can give money to a PAC.

There is no legal prohibition against the transfer of funds from a corporation to a political action committee. This has been the source of much discussion in political circles and in various legislatures and is considered a loophole in restrictions on campaign contributions.

In addition, the recent United States Supreme Court case of Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission held that a federal statute barring independent corporate expenditures for electioneering communications violated the First Amendment, and that a government may not suppress political speech on the basis of the speaker’s corporate identity. We believe this ruling likely raises questions about the enforceability of some of the Title 12 provisions which may restrict contributions by corporations, including card club corporations, to political campaigns or candidates.

The District Attorney does not initiate criminal investigations to support or oppose candidates for office.

A common tactic during election season is for a candidate or their supporters to attempt to get the District Attorney to initiate investigations against their opponents. Many issues brought to our attention are based on rumor, conjecture and innuendo. We try to be as thorough as possible in vetting these complaints. There is nothing on the face of the information described in your article that describes a criminal violation. Obviously, a newspaper has a privilege not to reveal its sources. But if a complaint is filed with my office, we will look at the allegations and any evidence provided and evaluate whether there is a potential crime and whether we have jurisdiction to proceed with an investigation. Your article does not contain sufficient facts to justify undertaking an investigation.

Experience has shown that these types of matters should be examined carefully, especially during election season. Many allegations turn out to be untrue. For example, we investigated an allegation that an elected official was not residing in the proper jurisdiction. We investigated the allegation, including conducting surveillance, and determined the allegations were unfounded. The elected official’s detractors would have found it politically beneficial for the District Attorney’s Office to announce that we were investigating the person. This is precisely why these types of investigations must be handled cautiously so that we do not interfere with the election process or harm a person’s reputation based on false information, rumor, conjecture, innuendo and political posturing by various candidates and their supporters. Rather, we will continue to make decisions based on evidence and the law.

—Dolores Carr, Santa Clara County District Attorney


  1. Is the DA saying that her government integrity unit must only investigate political misdeeds if they are criminal violations?  This wasn’t George Kennedy’s standard.  Hope it won’t be Jeff Rosen’s either because that means only really bad stuff gets investigated and rule breaking at the lower levels is okay.  That standard would lead to a political system with lots of mischief and dirty tricks.

    • No, she’s saying that she and her office don;t have jurisdiction. Quite a bit, actually almost all, of SJ’s campaign laws don’t fall under the DA’s jurisdiction.

  2. Thank you Ms Carr for that explanation.  Care to tackle the reasons why your office has failed to produce the investigative report on the MACSA pension theft situation that was promised by you early June?  Not only did you fail to produce that before the primary (in which one of the key officers of MACSA was running as a candidate) but now as he enters into the runoff the investigation still drags on and the teachers are still out their money. 

    Misapproriated?  Embezzled?  Lost?  Stolen?  What happened? Don’t you care or is that not your jusidiction either?

  3. wow talk about a bitter comment.  do you make a habit of reading peoples writing then trying to slam them. this isnt a political campaign. comments are meant for discussions. if you not gonna speak on the topic then why waste your time and everyone else’s at that to say anything at all. no need to spread you bitterness to everyone you can.

    that said it was a good explanation but i dont see how its out of the DA’s jurisdiction. it would take for ever for the federal or even state government to do anything about it.

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