Ford and Bonilla Lose

As young staffers for various South Bay Labor Council-backed candidates and office-holders, Rolando Bonilla and Ryan Ford learned a little bit about winning ugly. Recently, they also learned a bit about losing—and they just received another painful lesson. 

Following the lead of the SBLC-affiliated Bob Brownstein, Ford and Bonilla have helped turn local Democratic politics into a pretty nasty game. So it wasn’t a big surprise when, minutes after striking out on their own as political consultants, the pair slapped fellow Democratic poli-con Jay Rosenthal with a lawsuit.

Granted, Rosenthal had picked the fight: He registered the web domain “,” and linked it to a YouTube video of Ford angrily barking in the face of Aaron Resendez (one of the nicest men in local politics).

When Ford and Bonilla called him on the prank, Rosenthal offered to hand the domain over—and also offered to reimburse them for the complaint-filing fee of $1,300. But the newbie consultants demanded to be paid an additional fee of $125 per hour for 25 hours they said they spent filing the complaint. (Somehow, they totalled those figures and arrived at the sum of $4,125—shorting themselves by $400—but that didn’t matter in the end.)

Rosenthal responded by having his attorney, Josh Cohen, draft a drop-dead letter. Pointing out that the threat of a lawsuit was “premised on a basic misunderstanding of the law,” Cohen goes on to quote from ICANN rules governing domain-name disputes, applicable case law, and a California statute spelling out the futility of their claim: “[U]nless and until [the plaintiff] becomes a member of the Bar, his time and energy are not compensable in the legal marketplace.”

As it turns out, Cohen may have been right about Team Ford-and- Bonilla’s lack of legal expertise. Bonilla, who spent three years in law school, had recently flunked the bar exam.

Last week, the court dismissed the case with a cursory one-sentence ruling.

The Fly is the valley’s longest running political column, written by Metro Silicon Valley staff, to provide a behind-the-scenes look at local politics. Fly accepts anonymous tips.


  1. I’d like to thank these two misfits for all the unintentional comic relief they’ve provided over the last couple of years. Their next “consulting” gig will be stocking shelves at Petsmart.
    P.S.: Learn math.

    • I have to admit I actually laughed a little out loud reading that they did the simple “math” wrong in factoring the hourly rate they said they lost.

      Unintentional or not these two are certainly comic relief.

  2. In responding to this gratuitous slap at Bob Brownstein, it should be noted that he is employed by Working Partnerships USA, which was founded by labor but is independently funded.

    As an accomplished and respected government budget expert, his contribution to local politics is to convincingly show that there are legitimate alternatives to the agendas proposed by government officials, which are more favorable to and representative of the priorities of working families and the vast majority of residents of this valley.

    That San Jose Inside considers this much-needed contribution to political debate “nasty” says more about the publication than Mr. Brownstein.

    • For example, Brownstein’s contribution Tuesday night over Tier 2 CSJ pensions was huge. In fact, with careful facts, the conclusion that this action would both reduce the City to a Farm Team (as is already occurring) for other Municipalities and would actually increase the City’s subsidy of Tier 1 was so disturbing that I am sure Council will choose to ignore it. As Constant did afterward by offering the totally unfounded position that 5 year vesting is drawing private sector workers to hit and run with City employment. In fact it is the lack of private sector competence that has mired City operations in mediocre performance and promotions based on pure politics.

    • Jody: You identify yourself here as a representative of SBLC. Yet you yourself are employed by Working Partnerships. So … how is it any different when The Fly IDs Brownstein as an SBLC guy?

      As for the “nasty” edge that SBLC has introduced to local politics of late, that’s a matter of opinion. Clearly SBLC has demonstrated a high tolerance lately for Rovian attack politics.

      • Eric, I do work for both organizations. Bob Brownstein does not.

        As to your point about “nasty,” it’s true that word is a subjective characterization. But it was the writer of the original post that made that characterization, not me. And it was the writer of the original piece that claimed Brownstein shares responsibility for it. Brownstein is not mentioned in the piece you linked to.

        I share neither the original writer’s characterization nor yours as to the nasty level of local politics, but calling it “Rovian attack politics” is simply silly.

        • Fair enough, Jody. The text has been corrected. Thank you for helping straighten that out.

          I’ll admit it is difficult to pull these two organizations apart, given the fact that you all work out of the same office and report to the same boss.

          As to SBLC’s Rovian tactics, I’d like to offer you (and the SJI community) a friendly challenge: Gheck out this study by a team of journalism professors from Webster University in St. Louis. See how many instances you can identify where SBLC was reading straight from Rove’s playbook in 2010:

          I’ll list the top five Rovian tactics here:

          Tactic #1: Take the Offensive
          Tactic #2: Attack Your Opponent’s Strengths
          Tactic #3: Accuse Your Opponent of What He/She is Going to Accuse You Of
          Tactic #4: Go Negative, Then Cry Foul
          Tactic #5: The “Big Lie”

        • > I’ll list the top five Rovian tactics here:

          > Tactic #1: Take the Offensive
          > Tactic #2: Attack Your Opponent’s Strengths
          > Tactic #3: Accuse Your Opponent of What He/She is Going to Accuse You Of
          > Tactic #4: Go Negative, Then Cry Foul
          > Tactic #5: The “Big Lie”

          This gives Karl Rove too much credit.

          Way too much credit.

          WAY, WAY, WAY too much credit.

          It would be far more accurate to characterize these as “Saul Alinsky tactics”.

          Or, even “Leninist” tactics.

  3. Is it any wonder that Ford & Bonilla thought they could bill for hours as lawyers when in fact neither is?  It is pretty damn funny that they have the same overinflated egos that most of the candidates they work with do.  Over inflated egos with very little to back it up. 

    Their being part of Team Campos in the eastside is evidence of all of that.  Bonilla is still Campos’ mouthpiece for any and all questions relating to MACSA.  Is he on the newly elected councilman’s payroll now as his official spokesperson?

    These guys are jokes.

  4. ” Rumor has it both Ford and Bonilla are a regular fixture on the 18th floor.” 

    Probably consultants for Campos since they worked for his sister, know district and residents and need money

    Believe that – Revolving Door Policy only applies to lobbying before Council i.e land use, rezoning, tax subsidies, bailouts etc not working for Council member

    • The question remains, are they now working for Xavier Campos in an official capacity?  Bonilla regularly offers up statements from the councilman (mostly on the MACSA topic which Councilman Campos seems determined to not address personally). 

      There could very well be a conflict for a contract employee of the councilman being a privately hired “consultant/lobbyist” for groups that need council approval couldn’t there? 

      At the very least it has the look of impropriety.  Of course these two come from the camp of “barely legal” being ok.  You’d think Campos would realize his barely 200 vote win and contentious fight for his seat and still lingering legal woes over the MACSA issue make him vulnerable to public scorn and distaste.  He should err on the side of caution and be pristine in his actions rather than skating on the thin ice of Bonilla & Ford tactics.

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