Story of the Week: How Candidates Make Their Money

Mitt Romney announced today that he would release his tax returns for 2011, boosting the transparency of his personal economic dealings to a whopping two years. The Republican candidate for President of the United States previously released only his 2010 returns and an estimate of last year’s filing.

This comes just days after Mother Jones released a secretly taped recording of Romney at a fundraiser in May, when the former Massachusetts governor said the following:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it—that that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. ... These are people who pay no income tax. ... [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Aside from saying that half of the people in this country feel like victims who don’t “care for their lives,” much of Romney’s comments were misleading if not flat-out false. Many of the people who pay no income tax are senior citizens and families in poverty, which make up a fair share of people who—against their own interest—plan to vote for Romney. And I’m not sure when the day arrived that health care and food became “entitlements”—especially for someone as “devout” as Romney, who pays an effective tax rate of just 14 percent while donating millions to the Mormon church—but let’s get away from the national scene and drill down into our local candidates’ economic dealings.

Each candidate for San Jose’s City Council is required early in the race to submit a Form 700, which lists their economic interests within city limits, from salary to stock investments to property holdings (not including the home they live in). According to the City Clerk’s office, the truthfulness of the report is dependent on the filer. The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) instructs the clerk’s office only to receive the report, not audit or investigate.

With just two races going to a November runoff, District 8 and District 10, let’s look at the four remaining candidates’ forms:

District 10: Robert Braunstein vs. Johnny Khamis

According to Robert Braunstein’s Form 700, his production company, Annabelle Productions, which puts on the high school sports show Cal-High Sports Bay Area, earned him a personal salary between $10,001-$100,000 last year. The company itself made more than $100,000, with sources of income over $10,000 including the San Jose Sharks, Wells Fargo Bank and Bank of the West.

He also owns property near Alma Avenue worth between $100,001 and $1 million, which netted him rental income between $1,001 and $10,000. Braunstein’s wife, Ann, also had her income listed on the forms, because she works for San Jose Unified School District. Ann’s salary was listed in the same range as her husband’s.

Braunstein and his wife hold stock in the following companies:

— ADP stock valued between $2,000-$10,000.
— Cisco stock valued between $2,000-$10,000.
— Ford Motor Company stock valued between $10,000-$100,000.
— GE stock valued between $2,000-$10,000.
— Corning Inc. stock valued between $10,000-$100,000.
— Merck & Co. stock valued between $2,000-$10,000.
— Microsoft stock valued between $2,000-$10,000.
— Oracle stock valued between $2,000-$10,000.
— Pfizer stock valued between $2,000-$10,000.
— QQQ Powershares stock valued between $10,000-$100,000.
— Intel stock valued between $10,000-$100,000.
— Yahoo stock valued between $2,000-$10,000.

Johnny Khamis earned between $10,001 and $100,000 for his role as vice president of Western International Securities, located in downtown San Jose, as well as income in the same range from his insurance brokerage, Johnny Khamis Insurance. Khamis also listed ownership of stock in insurance brokerage Western Benefits Solutions in the range of $2,000-$10,000. He listed his business position as CEO. The company reportedly made more than $100,000 in gross income last year.

Khamis’s real estate holdings include a house in Almaden and a home near Communications Hill, each valued between $100,001 and $1 million. The latter home netted rental income in the amount of $10,001 to $100,000. Khamis took out 30-year mortgages on both homes

District 8: Rose Herrera vs. Jimmy Nguyen

Rose Herrera, the incumbent in District 8, made $87,507.72 in salary during 2011, according to the city’s annual salary database. In her form 700, she reported stock holdings from the following sources:

— Sonasoft Corporation stock valued between $2,000-$10,000.
— Cisco stock valued between $2,000-$10,000.

Herrera also listed property she owns in the Alum Rock area that resulted in $0-499 in gross income received. She did not list the fair market value of the property.

Jimmy Nguyen didn’t report any economic interests on his Form 700. Nguyen, who said he lives in a house with his brother currently, last worked for Santa Clara County as a mediator after passing the State Bar of California exam in 2011. (Toni Taber, of the City Clerk’s office, told San Jose Inside that listing income received from local government entities is not required because it is already public record.)

Nguyen says he made “less than $5,000” in income last year. When asked how he affords to live, Nguyen said, “Credit cards,” admitting that he has racked up a fair amount of debt.








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


  1. This site is so biases for Obama it is a joke.  You are so tied to the Mercky News that it is a joke.  Rich finally wrote a true post, about time. It was good.  This city is in crisis mode, and Chuck could care less.  Some good from Deb, but she cannot vote.

    She like the COP will leave with a huge retirement package.

    I hope this city goes outside for a new COP, question is how in the hell wants to come here. 

    Chuck, this is not in the top 10 safest cities so cut your BS, Rose you represent the most violent area in SJ and you are the best liar next to PO and Constant.

    Still don’t understand why Pete is not disciplined for lying on his time sheet. Would be fraud for any other city employee

    Romney – yes

    Robert Braunstein – yes

    Jimmy Nguyen – yes

  2. This is about San Jose stuff.  I understand.  But can I just talk about a guy, John Mlnarik in Santa Clara who is using his law firm to campaign?  There are spending limits, but Mlnarik is using his law firm to advertise his campaign, posting large banners, and also making personal attacks on his opponents.  He literally stated that one candidate was listing a domestic partner on her conflict forms, and it turns out, she lives alone.  As far as money goes, Mlnarik has a spouse who works for Devcon, and that is the firm building the 49er stadium.  Isn’t that a conflict?  Candidates get money, and use money very unethically.  Time for public financing of all local campaigns.

  3. Oh, I understand in San Jose there was some talk of a reward from the Chamber dealing with Carrasco, well, in Santa Clara, Mlnarik offered 10,000 dollars.

    Yes.  His lawn signs were confiscated.  So, Mlnarik posted a reward from his law firm for over 10,000 dollars for information about his lawn signs.  And he thanked his own firm for doing so!

  4. Josh,

    I don’t live in D8, and I don’t know Jimmy Nguyen, but I’m confused about your article. Can you answer a question for me?

    Unless the Santa Clara County Dispute Resolution Program has changed their policies, all mediators used in mediation are volunteers. They don’t receive a salary or benefits. Did/does Mr. Nguyen work in that office as a full/part time employee? Was he a private contractor for this program?

    Also, I know that the Office of Human Relations, like many offices has suffered huge budget, and staff cuts. I volunteered in that office as a mediator, and did contract work for them. I only received money when I ran the program, when my supervisor was out on medical leave, or I did contract work for trainings.

    I stopped working there a few years ago, but still have friends there. The information you have in this article just isn’t jiving with what I know of this office.

    Now I thought I heard that the DA’s Office has a mediation program, did he work for them? I think they do pay a salary but I’m not sure. Can you give us some clarification on his “salary” as a mediator?

    Having said that, I am curious to know why he is running for Council, especially given that he has zero experience in what this job requires. Is he running because he is unemployed?

    I am concerned when anyone runs for Mayor or Council because their vote on issues affects ALL of us, regardless of what district they live in, and well, anyone who is using credit cards to survive scares me. I know it’s tough for everyone right now, but even retail stores are hiring!

    I don’t want to see a Council Member come into this office thinking we can use bonds instead of bringing business revenue in as an answer to a financial problem, or thinking we can kick the can down the road until the economy improves.

    I’m not knocking him mind you, but his present employment/financial status, and his lack of skill sets is very disturbing to me.

    • I agree Kathleen. We don’t need any more politicians with the “I’ll buy stuff I can’t afford” mentality.
      I’d be real suspicious that this guy is running not to get an opportunity to help his community but to get $90,000 per year.

      • I wonder how the Union leadership that is using tons of money to try to force Jimmy Nguyen down the throats of D8 residents with their all out Anyone But Rose campaign can even look themselves in the mirror when this guy is an unemployed moocher living off his brother’s kindness with a law degree but only $5K in annual income and admittedly surviving on credit cards (which he seems to have no way of actually paying back) as the solution to D8’s problems??????? This is who they want making critical budget decisions for the city? 

        Give me a break, its not even funny anymore, its just tragic.  Get a better candidate or expect the D8 residents to vote for someone they may not like (Herrera) but is definitely less of a loser than Nguyen. It is embarrassing that the good union workers would back such a deadbeat with no qualifications who just is looking for a job.

  5. Actually making money on the 49er stadium is the conflict, pal.

    Look at Mlnarik’s advertising.

    He is bound to keep campaign budget limited to 35k.  However, Mlnarik Law Group is spending well over 50 grand to advertise itself, and they even posted a 10,000 dollar reward for campaign signs.

    This guy literally accused another candidate of being a lesbian during a candidate forum, and he is supported by a vast collection of stadium boosters.

    “Since the Garden of Eden”  Yeah, the serpent is still alive and well, with a law group.

  6. In the fall of 2011, Jimmy Nguyen was a student at San Jose State University working on a Masters in Library Science.  Before that he was at the University of LaVerne Law School, where he graduated in 2010.

    Jimmy is the first in his family to graduate from law school.  He has served as a mediator, worked in the San Jose’s Neighborhood Clean-Up Program and until recently was employed as a professor at DeVry University.  He left that position last month to campaign full time for City Council.

    Jimmy has the potential to make a lot of money as an attorney, but like President Barack Obama, he actively decided he would rather serve his community.  That is the reason he is running for City Council in San Jose.  The decision was fully supported by his family.

    There is no question these are tough times and Jimmy understands the dire consequences of the severe recession.  Being poor is not a crime and choosing to serve your community over personal wealth is a noble choice.

    That is the Jimmy Nguyen story.

    By the way, what was Rose Herrera’s history of personal finance before she became a Councilmember?  Is there anything relevant that voters need to know that the post might have omitted?

    • Respectfully, we don’t need any more people in public office who have never worked for a living. The President is a prime example of someone who has no understanding of the way economies work because he’s never worked in the private sector. He thinks government programs and regulations are the answer to every problem, real and imagined. Jimmy Nguyen ought to go out there and get 10 or 20 years experience in the real world. Then he might have some knowledge, understanding, and ability to offer.

    • Richard A. ,
      I get that you like Mr. Nguyen, and that your loyalty to him is admirable, but that doesn’t mean he is the best person to represent D8.

      Also, you said, ” Being poor is not a crime and choosing to serve your community over personal wealth is a noble choice.”

      No one said it was a crime, and no one said serving this city wasn’t noble. I am questioning his employment as a mediator, and exactly what qualifies him to be on the Council.

      If you want people to support him, you need to   tell us his stand on the issues facing our City, rather than bringing Rose Herrera into this. She isn’t the topic of conversation, Nguyen is.

    • He was going to be a librarian.  Then a lawyer.  Then a politician.  Oh and ‘professor’ (but only makes $5k a year) and volunteers as a mediator with no income and lives off the brother and credit cards (with no visible means to repay them).  Its not the recession that has put Mr Nguyen on hard times but his own lack of focus.  Trying to equate him to President Obama is an interesting strategy since all the while the President could have cashed in his chip for a lucrative trial lawyer he instead opted for FULL EMPLOYMENT as community organizer with pay that contributed to the support of not only himself but his family.

      Mr Nguyen may well be a very nice fellow with admirable ambition but he’s a few years of respectable and reportable personal success to sway citizens to trust him with the city’s financial woes. 

      I remember reading that Herrera had a personal bankruptcy a decade ago, so is the reason to vote for Nguyen over Herrera supposed to be I-haven’t-filed-for-bankruptcy-because-I-don’t-have-real-jobs-and-live-off-others?  Is that supposed to make D8 residents feels any more confidence in either candidate?

  7. Romney hasn’t worked for years.  Personally, I’ll take the President—because this mytholosgy that we were better under George Bush—though they refuse to mention his name is horse manure.

    And Jimmy is a lawyer—and as Richard Alexander knows, if you can get through law school and pass the Californai State Bar—you have all the talent it takes to succeed.

    Just sayin’

  8. As a fellow attorney, I know how much time, effort, commitment, and money it costs to not only complete law school but to pass the CALIFORNIA Bar – out of all the states. 

    I think it shows how much Jimmy really wants to make a difference by campaigning FULL time for this City Council position.  He could of just continued working as an attorney/mediator, but he has put that on hold to dedicate himself to this campaign full time.  He wants to knock on every door in District 8 by Nov 6th!

  9. One thing to note about Jimmy Nguyen.  He is campaigning as a candidate who is a lawyer, not a lawyer who is a candidate.

    So I support him.

    However, Mlnarik is Santa Clara is using his associates and clerks to campaign and advertise his law firm.  They all wear law firm shirts and market the law firm at the same time, getting paid by the law firm to campaign.

  10. I still don’t see how being a lawyer, mediator, a teacher at DeVry University, and working on a Neighborhood Clean Up qualifies Mr. Nguyen to be a Council Member. Many people running for office spend decades working in the community, have law degrees, and aren’t qualified to run.

    BTW-I still have not received an answer from Josh as to his employment as a mediator.

    • Keep asking Kathleen, you are a voice of reason in this discussion.

      I am not drinking the kool-aid the unions would serve that make us think that an anyone-but-Rose campaign means they can force an unqualified, no experience, ‘nice guy’ on the city and think that would somehow be better for us.

      • Mediator, teacher, neighborhood clean = serving and helping his community.  Would you rather he be a con artist making millions off of you!  Why don’t you go try to pass the bar and then come back and tell me he has no skills or intellect.

        He’s a young guy with fresh ideas.  This is what the city needs, not the same old politics that has dragged this city down. He didn’t ask for union’s help, they decided to help him.

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