Cindy Chavez Campaign Pieces Break FPPC Laws on Coordination?

Political candidates are forbidden from running their campaigns in coordination with independent expenditure committees (IECs), which are groups that support or oppose individual candidates or issues. Based on what we’ve seen the last couple years, it would be naive to think political consultants for IECs never coordinate with a preferred candidate’s campaign. But nothing has come quite as close to the near mirror image mailers sent out by the Chavez campaign, the South Bay Labor Council Committee on Political Education (COPE) and the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee United Democratic Campaign (UDC).

In several cases, the only delineation to prove no coordination exists between the three groups comes in a single line that notes which group paid for the flyer. As a result of a complaint from the campaign of Teresa Alvarado, Chavez’s biggest competition in the special election, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) is now looking into the matter, according to the Mercury News. With absentee balloting already in full swing, Alvarado’s camp is hoping for a swift decision.

In one recent mailer focused on Chavez’s dedication to children in Santa Clara County, the piece notes that it was “Paid for by Cindy Chavez for Supervisor 2013.” But the Democratic Central Committee’s UDC group sent out the exact same mailer—word for word and picture for picture.

Another flyer paid for by the Chavez campaign touts her former vice mayor credentials, and it includes the candidate’s website address. The South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council Committee on Political Education (COPE) paid for a nearly identical flyer. (The picture and bullet points are the same, but it substitutes Chavez website’s URL with a quote from a retired police captain.)

Chavez campaign manager, Ed MCGovern, argued to the Merc that the DCC and SBLC pieces were member-to-member communications, which means they shouldn’t be subject to campaign restrictions. But both the SBLC’s COPE committee and the DCC’s UCD committee receive union dues and political contributions, which seems to go outside the scope of McGovern’s argument. Here’s some info on how the DCC group threw around cash in 2012.

Also, Alvarado’s camp says that some of the people who received the mailers have no association with the SBLC or the DCC. While the DCC is the official body for Democrats in Santa Clara County, just because someone is resgistered as a Democrat does not mean they are part of the party, which requires paying dues.

According to campaign filings with the Secretary fo State, the DCC’s UDC committee does not limits its contribution sources to just party member dues. In filings with SOS, the DCC’s UDC committee received contributions as high as $5,000 apiece from the campaigns of Paul Fong, Nora Campos and Bob Wieckowski, and $10,000 on May 2 from the political action committee (PAC) for the Santa Clara and San Benito Counties Building & Construction Trades Council.

Another couple of mailers citing Chavez’s experience, sent out by the candidate’s campaign and the DCC, again include the same picture, fonts and arrangement. The only difference is the DCC’s piece includes a picture and quote from Guadalupe Gonzalez, president of the Millview Neighborhood Association, instead of Buu Thai, the vice president of the Franklin-McKinley school board, who is featured on the Chavez campaign mailer. Pictures and quotes of Juan Estrada and Ron Golart remain consistent.

Going for the trifecta, the Chavez campaign, the DCC and the SBLC all teamed up on a flyer touting the candidate’s “record of fighting crime.” The picture and bullet points on all three pieces is the same, while an inset quote changes depending on the piece. Otherwise, the layout, colors and fonts are all consistent. 

“Maybe the law says that endorsement box is enough to avoid accusations of coordination,” a source close to Alvarado’s campaign told San Jose Inside, “but the perception is pretty damning.”

Below are all the referenced images of flyers sent out by the Cindy Chavez fo Supervisor 2013 campaign, the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee United Democratic Campaign and the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council Committee on Political Education (COPE).

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


  1. Also, what’s up with the South Bay Labor Council Comittee on Political Education?  When I searched for them on the CA Secretary of State’s web site, I got a bunch of matches:

    Entities 744711 and 12343364 were still “ACTIVE”, but had no contributions or expenditures made in the current election cycle as well as from 2011 through 2012.  How does that work?  Does everything they spend on count as “member to member communicaiton”?

    • Please head over to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters Office on Berger Drive in San Jose.  Go to the counter and ask to see the campaign finance file on the South Bay Labor Council COPE.  You can request photocopies of any pages in which you’re interested.  Copies are 10 cents per page.  Unfortunately, the county does not scan and upload FPPC campaign finance reports to its website.  You have to go to the office in person and view hard copies.  There is a wealth of information in those campaign finance reports.

  2. This explains the very “cordial, direct, and honest” mailers I’ve been receiving…

    “Out of our respect for your standing in the community, we feel obliged to advise you that your public endorsement of Cindy Chavez will prevent the public airing of some very nasty rumors about you.”
    —paid for by the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee United Democratic Campaign.

    “You live in such a lovely neighborhood. Do you realize a large cash contribution to the Chavez for Supervisor campaign will help convince the minority community that its future remains in the east side?”
    —paid for by the Cindy Chavez for Supervisor 2013 campaign.

    “We understand how much we need Cindy Chavez on the Board of Supervisors; considering your firm’s upcoming construction project, you need to understand that you do too.”
    —paid for by the South Bay Labor Council Committee on Political Education.

  3. Wait when Mayor Reed got caught stealing lying and cheating you said nothing?  What a smear campaign…  Victor Ajlouny, comes to mind on promoting smear campaigns…

    • Smokey I suppose that since you don’t think the Mayor was as undone by the accusation (and subsequent reporting) that now ALL San Jose & Santa Clara candidates & officials should just get a free pass to thieve, lie, cheat, embezzle and break the laws of campaigns and worse?  Because you think the Mayor got a pass now all these other cheats should just be able to go unchecked?

      Give me a break.  The Mayor’s story was reported, the difference seems to be that he responded (not avoided the reporters like Chavez, Campos & Shirakawa et al do when they’re accused, all of a sudden its “no comment”) then he paid it back (not the “I didn’t know nuthin’ no time no how” that Campos wanted to push with MACSA millions that vanished, not the Eddie Garcia excuses of “Shirakawa’s check is in the mail”outright lie when he was called on to repay the money he stole) 

      Chavez is shady as they are.  This isn’t her first time at the plate either.  The Gonzalez scandal was partially her fault too.  She seems to always have her hand stirring the pot when there’s something shady going on in Santa Clara County and now she’s trying to bully, lie and cheat her way into the Supervisor seat. 

      If all those candidates think they’re so awesome and so one with the people, why is it that they constantly have to cheat and break the rules?  If they’re that loved and supported shouldn’t they be able to win following the rules?  Every victory is hollow, they aren’t truly the vote of the people, they’re cheaters and liars.

  4. Didn’t Ed McGovern receive a $$$ fine from the City of San Jose for doing the same thing on another campaign several years ago? Yup. I hope the fine is 10 or 20 times more this time.

    The whole organization that Chavez heads up is rotten and dirty, from the top down. She’s been powerful for so long, she clearly doesn’t think laws apply to her. She’s wrong.

    Cindy Chavez is clearly the embodiment of all that is wrong with politics in Santa Clara Valley. She’s no more than a thug in a pants suit.

  5. If you look at the contributions made by the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee United Democratic Campaign on the CA Secretary of State’s web site, you will see that in the latest reporting period, they have only made contributions to “Cindy Chavez for Supervisor 2013”.  No one else got anything from them.

    I downloaded the information in a spreadsheet and summed up their contributions.  They have given $46,024.68 worth of “non-monetary” support to Cindy Chavez’s campaign.

    This isn’t small potatoes cheating.