Sam Liccardo Campaign Admits Fundraising Violation, Promises to Return Money

Sam Liccardo’s campaign admitted Friday that a violation occurred in the councilman’s collection of contributions for the San Jose mayor’s race. Ragan Henninger told San Jose Inside that a supporter’s email announcing a fundraiser before the campaign window began is “totally a violation” and “we’re going to return the money.”

Henninger said that the campaign believes $2,200 was improperly collected, but the total might be more.

Earlier this week, labor-sponsored blog The Left Hook published an email that was sent out by Alex Tourk, a public relations consultant in San Francisco, asking people to attend a fundraiser on Liccardo’s behalf. The email went out the day before Dec. 5, the date such activity is allowed by city election law, but may have been posted as early as mid-November.

According to Henninger, Tourk’s email was not the message approved by the campaign and its attorney.

“That’s not what we asked for folks to send out,” she said, noting that the campaign’s attorney signed off on a carefully worded message, which supporters could then use to invite people to “events”—not fundraisers.

“They were meet-and-greets for Sam,” Henninger said. “We were doing events before December. That’s campaigning.”

The first round of campaign disclosure forms became public at the end of January, and Liccardo’s campaign surprised many political observers by hauling in more than half a million dollars in just 26 days. The total was made more impressive by the fact that individual contributions are capped at $1,100.

It’s not clear how many people received Tourk’s email, which invited people to attend a Dec. 12 fundraiser at his wife’s art gallery, but Henninger said half of the $2,200 collected at came from Tourk.

“We asked Alex to look at our list of donors and see if anyone on our list received that email, because we’ll return those checks, too,” she said.

Henninger added that the campaign believes this was an isolated incident and sees nothing wrong with lining up “events” before the fundraising window started.

“We’re sorry if our opponents haven’t been doing events and campaigning and have only raised $169,000,” she said. “This is what winners do.”

City Attorney Rich Doyle would not confirm or deny if any complaints have been come into his office or the city’s ethics commission, which handles campaign complaints. When a complaint is filed, the commission hands over information to an outside law firm. After an independent investigation is conducted, the commission holds a public hearing. This is almost certain to occur.

Henninger said an ethics commission review would be unnecessary, because the campaign is in the process of returning funds.

“I don’t know what the ethics commission would do other than what we’re already doing,” she said.


Tourk sent this email statement: “I’ve looked back at that email I sent and it was simply a mistake to call it a fundraiser. So I’ve spoken with the campaign, I’m sending them the email list I used, and they are going to return all the checks received from individuals on that list and the people who attended the event.”

San Jose Inside asked Tourk if he would supply a list of people who received that email. We will update when more information comes in.


Sam Liccardo told San Jose Inside on Friday afternoon that his campaign did not solicit any contributions before the Dec. 5 fundraising window opened. He added that his team immediately began steps to rectify the situation after hearing about Tourk’s email.

“I learned about this when someone indicated that one of the blogs had reported that an email had gone out a few hours before Dec. 5,” Liccardo said. “We immediately reached out to Alex to find out of it was true and who he solicited, so we could return those checks.”

Josh Koehn is a former managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley.


  1. Geez.. I don’t see what the big deal is Sam & his campaign only cheated a little bit!!

    Plus.. “$2,200” is only a drop in the bucket when we’re talking about “winners” who rake in half a mil (that’s $500,000 for those who enjoy their numeral representations).. C’mon losers! Whatever.. Make a complaint to the ethics commission! What are they gonna do make us give the money we’re giving back, back?

    Henninger should get a one way, expedited ticket to the end of the unemployment line for quotes like those!

    This is all especially comical coming from the guy who withdrew his hat for the local democratic endorsement because of “ethical” concerns. BTW Sam.. November 16th was more than a couple hours away from December 5th!

    I’ll be adding this one to my pile of dimwitted retorts when caught red handed. This one will sit right below the list between “those aren’t my pants you just found drugs in” and “I was going to just park the car around the corner cause I didn’t want anyone stealing it”.

  2. Cheat on small things=cheat on big things. We want honesty and transparency in our next mayor. I guess this is just giving us a little “looksee” into what we would be getting if he is elected mayor. Like everyone has been saying, we don’t want more of the same. Sam would be more of the same. We want a new, fresh start so we can move forward and climb out of the mess we are in. Elect Sam and we will be stuck in the same h-ll hole.

  3. Interesting that a former prosecutor thinks bending the rules is justifiable if you only bend them a little bit. Criminals do the same thing to minimize and justify their behavior, and make their actions seem more acceptable. I don’t necessarily blame Mr. Liccardo for trying, as his mentor, Mayor Reed, has done the same things many times with no consequence. I am sure that is will happen with this too. It will get no main stream media coverage, and will be forgotten in short order. If SJI had not covered this, there would be no coverage. Hopefully, City Attorney Doyle follows up on this violation, and there is a consequence for this blatant disregard of campaign laws by Mr. Liccardo’s campaign.

  4. To quote another who hits the nail on the head: “Councilmember Liccardo raised $513,152.00 that includes $3,353.00 in in-kind contributions and spent $36,282.13 leaving him with $485,093.49 cash on hand.
    HALF the contributions were from outside San Jose. This is concerning, yet not surprising considering his proclivity to be a shill for his developer mafia, San Jose SPUR, and Rocketship schools/Launchpad development.
    Sam is for sale and he makes no qualms about it. The Sheeple graze while the wolves contribute, fattening the sheeple for a fulfilling feast.”

  5. More of same.  Reed was caught lying stealing, Oliverio caught stealing, Liccardo caught stealing… And they all say oh I will pay it back or squirm and worm.

    • He hates public safety? Okay, you’ve jumped the shark. And what of the police union which tells officers to leave San Jose for cities with wealthier residents who can pay for more generous benefits? What’s more important to them, public safety or their checkbooks? Because they’re obviously attempting to harm public safety as a bargaining strategy to win back pensions which the City couldn’t afford to promise them in the first place.

      • This city council and mayor have created a system, under Measure B, which fires an officer for a job related injury if they are permanently disabled and not able to return to duty after a year. The SJPOA has told its membership that they should consider working for a city where there is a safety net to care for their family if they are permanently hurt while carrying out their law enforcement duties. Sam Liccardo helped orchestrate they new policy that strips San Jose Police Officer of this safety net if they are permanently hurt at work. Even if the SJPOA said nothing to its membership about this, officers would still flee the SJPD; they want to see that their family is taken care if they are permanently hurt at work. Measure B has made this extremely important provision substandard. Unfortunately, it is now part of the city charter and the only way to undo it is to take it to the voters. It is fascinating though watching the same city council members who are now running for mayor (Liccardo, Nguyen, Herrera, Oliverio, and formerly Constant) and pushed this issue now getting on the bandwagon to rebuild the department they destroyed. The sad part is they were all very ignorant, and painted themselves into a corner by making this part of the city charter, and despite their rhetoric, there is nothing they can do to quickly change this. SJPD officers will continue leaving here in droves, even if the SJPOA never said another word on this issue. All of Liccardo’s grand plans to hire more officers and have a data base of civilian security cameras are just window dressing and a diversion.

      • Carthagus,

        CHECKBOOKS, DAMN RIGHT!!!!!  Otherwise work for minimum wage.  Why put your life on the line every time you go to work.

        You must work for the clown, the POA is doing what is best for officers.  Get out of town because the city couldn’t care less about you.

        Hell yes I would jump ship for a better place and more money and a better retirement!

        And yes your guy hates the PD and wants to cut them to the bone.  Get real this is not about being committed to San Jose, this is about a long term job to support thier family like any other job.  You are in it for the rest of your life.  And yet SJ council gives you the finger, hell yes I would leave, I have no desire to work here.  I need to do what is best for my family.

      • Whoa.. You’ve been mislead sir. Let me guide you back to reality.

        The POA is not telling its members to leave for more generous benefits. The majority of the cities officers are leaving for DO NOT HAVE WEALTHIER RESIDENTS THAN SAN JOSE! The POA is advocating for officers who either 1- cannot afford the loss of pay (although that issue is slowly being resolved), 2 – are new hires in the Tier 2 retirement plan and encompassed by Measure B’s disability provisions, or 3 – current officers who don’t know if they’ll be stuck with the Measure B disability provisions and are tired of the treatment provided by the city.

        If you haven’t been closely following this mess over the past 5 years, the city of San Jose went on an all out assault on public safety in an effort to cut costs and save money.

        At the inception of this mess, the POA and the Fire Union (Local 230) acknowledged that there was a problem and drafted multiple solutions to appease the city council as well as preserve services and keep union members competitively compensated. When the plans were not extreme enough for the city, they flat out stopped negotiating with the unions and drafted Measure B.

        Advocates warned Reed et. al that Measure B was illegal and would result in MILLIONS BEING SPENT ON LITIGATION. Reed went forth with the Measure – strategically rushing it to the election ballot where it would fall on the 2011 Republican Primary and he knew there would be EXTREMELY LOW AND EXTREMELY CONSERVATIVE voter turn out at the poles. Less than 10% of the city’s voters turned out (tons of GOP stalwarts in the Southbay huh?) and the Measure passed “overwhelmingly”. All the while, Reed went around publically LYING ABOUT A 650 million dollar FISCAL “CRISIS” as a result of city worker pensions.

        So fast forward to today – The $650 mil CRISIS never came to.. And it shrunk considerably with the economic recovery of the pension plans investments. The heart of Measure B was ruled to be illegal at the cost of approximately $2.7 mil (and climbing) in litigation fees. Officers who needed/wanted to leave left! SJFD, being sliced to the bone by Reed et. al cannot meet response time agreements with the county. Of the first 40 new police officers hired under tier 2 and Measure B, a little more than half (and dropping) remain here. (90% left to other agencies, some with less pay but better benefits!) And.. There you have it.

        The damage this Mayor and his council cronies have caused to this city will take a decades to repair. Until Measure B is repealed, and some REAL negotiations are conducted regarding a Tier 2 benefit structure for new cops & firefighters, this issue will sit stagnant. I have faith that Ed Shikada understands this mess and will take the necessary steps to rectify the situation in due time. SAM LICCARDO endorsed ALL OF THESE THINGS AND WATCHED THEM HAPPEN.. He cannot be trusted to be the next mayor of San Jose, nor can any of Reed’s cronies running for the position.

        Sam can’t even be trusted to follow simple fundraising rules.. What makes anyone think he can be trusted to honestly and ethically serve this fragile city as mayor?

  6. One more thing that is more disturbing to me than Liccardo’s campaign breaking the law has to do with his campaign’s Facebook page. I have noticed dissenting opinions posted on his page, which seemed polite and not out of line, but were eventually erased. I can understand if it were an over the top comment, or full of profanity, but not simple dissension. A leader should welcome these comments and answer them. With “sunshine” like this, we might as well all move to the North Pole.

  7. It is absolutely Pathetic that P.O.S. can lie/cheat/steal , or do what ever he likes and nothing happens. He can return some money and “all is forgiven” , “No harm, No Foul”. That is the reason San Jose is quickly becoming a Cesspool .
        “This is what winners do” , NO it what Cheaters do ! Its obvious he never studied ethics   because he has none

  8. what do you expect Reed stole $30,000 when caught he just gave it back and he did not even get a letter in his personal file nothing. Worse is the DA did nothing nor did a single member of the city council.
      Every member of San Jose’s elected body has lied, cheated, stole. One city council member said, ” if they ( elected member) is for something they are being paid buy unless your in the room at the time you will never know how”

      The truth is they are all crooks every last one of them …

  9. If People do not stop and think , really stop and think about lickardo’s lies/cheating , then san Jose is doomed to continue this downward spiral . San Jose has already had its fill of questionable if not down right Corrupt/Dirty Politicians . Its time for a change . San Jose can not and will not return to Prominence , Until we get rid of Reed , Lickardo , Constant , Hererra , Oliverio , Nguyen . (To be fair the list of crooked politicians includes more names, these just happen to be in position) People need to get and stay informed of all the issues facing San Jose. And Stop blindly following these leaders, that have led us astray.

  10. Here is the problem.  Very few in San Jose even care to research the ballot measures and those that support them and who are running for mayor/council.  They rarely vote and those that do probably do by flyers they get in the mail.  (Gee raise more outside money and you can send more mailers)

    Voters in San Jose, the few of you, remember we have almost 1 million who couldn’t care less to vote or are not registered to vote.  There is the problem, complain when we have no public safety when you did not vote, could car less or did not review the measures and just drink the mayor/council cool aid.