Names Emerge in Search for New SVO Exec Amid Racist Attack Ad

The search for the Silicon Valley Organization’s next executive is on after CEO Matt Mahood stepped down last week over a racist attack ad published by the group’s PAC.

The political hit, which aimed to criticize progressive San Jose D6 challenger Jake Tonkel, featured a photo of Black men in the midst of a cloud of smoke or tear gas along with the question, “Do you really want to sign on to this?”

The business organization’s ad was meant to mischaracterize Tonkel’s stance on police reform and his presence at a number of Black Lives Matter protests over the summer. But the piece quickly backfired and led to board members stepping down and a number of businesses severing ties with the chamber.

As the SVO conducts its internal investigation, multiple sources say that the names of two prominent South Bay leaders are being bandied about for Mahood’s replacement: SPUR Chief of Local Impact Teresa Alvarado and former San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO Jim Cunneen.

Alvarado declined to weigh in on the rumors, but said at a press conference last week that SPUR would rescind its SVO membership.

“Seemingly every election cycle, the SVO is forced to issue an apology due to actions of its PAC,” she said. “That will no longer be sufficient. While as a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization we do not take stances related to any particular candidate or political party, we can and do take a strong stance against racist actions and speak out when we see them. The mailer in the District 6 race and others in Mountain View and Los Altos, and image on the SVO webpage, reveal a disturbing pattern of racist tropes.”

Cunneen told Fly that he didn’t think an upper middle-aged, white lifelong Republican—who left the party after President Donald Trump was elected—was the right choice to be the next SVO executive.

“I’ve never met the organization’s chair and no one with authority from the chamber has contacted me about that,” he said. “I have offered immediate advice last week to some community leaders about bold steps they should take.”

Cunneen added that he was glad the PAC was dissolved and emphasized that the ad was racist and a misrepresentation of Tonkel’s position.

An SVO spokesflak did not respond to a Fly’s request for comment by press time.

The chamber’s leadership has been tight-lipped as of late and refused to answer questions from reporters at a news conference last week on the ad. Results from the SVO’s internal investigation are expected to be released Nov. 10.

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6 Comments

  1. Did we witness a coup at SVO dressed up as drama over an offensive political ad?

    Members denounce the ad and “quit” the organization. Cue Parade of the Indignant Quitters.

    Zero people step forward to defend the CEO.

    CEO resigns. Blip.

    Presentation of replacement CEO candidates.

    Next episode “CEO Candidate Endorsements and Smear Attacks”?

    Points for efficiency, SVO monarch makers. You seized a moment.

    Nationally, an orchestration like this takes, like 4 years, but SVO gets the job done in 4 days.

  2. Teresa Alvarado has way to much baggage:

    July 1, 2014
    Teresa Alvarado and SV Chamber of Commerce PAC Members
    Violate Campaign Finance Law

    SAN JOSE- Santa Clara County Supervisorial candidate Teresa Alvarado committed a flagrant violation of California campaign law, by colluding with political operatives of the Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, according to a complaint filed under penalty of perjury with the Fair Political Practices Commission.

    In addition to Alvarado, the complaint charges members of the Chamber’s political action committee (ChamberPAC) and a political group headed by Mayor Chuck Reed’s consultant Victor Ajlouny with illegal campaign activities.

    The complaint describes in detail a June 19th meeting attended by Teresa Alvarado, her campaign consultant Jim Gonzales and ChamberPAC members (list of attendees below) where Alvarado and Gonzales detailed their campaign strategy, including the voters who should receive campaign mail, the timing and frequency of campaign mail and the messaging of campaign mail. Also discussed were specific ethnic voter outreach plans and a plea from the Alvarado campaign to the ChamberPAC to contact voters “early and often.”

    At the conclusion of this detailed briefing the ChamberPAC meeting attendees voted to spend tens of thousands of dollars to attack Cindy Chavez and support Teresa Alvarado. Because the ChamberPAC and the Ajlouny group are purportedly engaging in independent expenditures, this activity constitutes illegal coordination with Alvarado’s campaign, a blatant violation of the California Political Reform Act and the County’s $500 contribution limit.

    “Teresa Alvarado and ChamberPAC operatives broke laws that are designed to protect the integrity of elections,” said Steve Preminger, Chair of the Santa Clara County Democratic party, “We encourage the FPPC to investigate this illegal activity and interview all witnesses that attended the June 19th meeting.”

    Attorney Lance Olson, with Olson Hagel & Fishburn, assisted in crafting key portions of the California Political Reform Act. Mr. Olson had this to say about the complaint, “In the more than three decades I have been practicing campaign law, the actions outlined in this complaint are some of the most outrageous I have ever encountered. We hope the FPPC will act quickly to stop violations of the law.”
    Numerous prominent Silicon Valley business leaders who took part in the meeting with Alvarado and Gonzales were named in the complaint as potential witnesses, including:
    Matthew Mahood, Chamber CEO;
    Suzanne Salata, Garden City Construction, Inc.;
    Tracey Enfantino, Environmental Systems, Inc.;
    Anil Babbar of the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors;
    William B. Baron of Brandenburg, Staedler & Moore; Timothy Boothe of Bridge Bank;
    Phillip Boyce of Boyce Associates;
    Rick Callender of the Santa Clara Valley Water District;
    James J. Eller of Eller & Associates;
    Papia Gambelin of Pacific Gas & Electric Company;
    Victor Giacalone of The Best Electrical Co., Inc.;
    Fran Hirsch of Brandenburg, Staedler & Moore;
    Joshua Howard of California Apartment Association; Robert Kieve, KLIV/KRTY Radio;
    Jim Reed, San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce;
    Jay Ross of Hopkins & Carley, A Law Corporation;
    Jan Schneider of R&J Jewelry & Loan;
    Bernard J. Vogel, III of the Silicon Valley Law Group;
    Mark Waxman of CBI

  3. > The political hit, which aimed to criticize progressive San Jose D6 challenger Jake Tonkel, featured a photo of Black men in the midst of a cloud of smoke or tear gas along with the question, “Do you really want to sign on to this?”

    Do I really want to sign on to what?

    The ad is subject to multiple interpretations. Why does the local progressive claque get to force us into their binary thinking box and decide how we all have to interpret this?

  4. > Did we witness a coup at SVO dressed up as drama over an offensive political ad?

    I think you’ve nailed it.

    “The postmodernist march through the institutions.”

    Another scalp on their war club. Another feather in their war bonnet.

  5. The move by the SVO PAC to post this image was abominable and certainly made it appear like a appeal to racism. The double-standard is quite stark however. I’m still waiting for the denunciations of the South Bay Labor Council “darkening a photo” of Dev Davis on a recent mailer, and, previously, images of Johnny Khamis, Rich De La Rosa, Pierluigi Oliverio, and many others, and their tactic of implicitly mocking the disabled with one of their video ads of Rose Herrera. Where are our local voices of “social justice” when it comes to holding their own allies accountable? (I expect we’ll hear crickets before we hear from them when their labor allies use the same tactics they are accusing the business PAC of using).

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