SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) — San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York has contributed $300,000 to the “No on C Santa Clarans for Voting Rights”, according to a filing submitted late Wednesday afternoon to the Santa Clara City Clerk’s office, setting the stage for a blitz of campaign activity in the final weeks before the March 3 election.
Notification of York’s six-figure contribution comes one day after Santa Clara City Clerk Hosam Haggag issued a press release alleging top 49ers executives violated the city’s ‘Dark Money’ ordinance, passed in 2018, “designed to root out dark money influence in local politics in the form of unreported campaign expenditures”.
Haggag says in December 2019, he and other voters within Santa Clara received calls about a telephone poll regarding Measure C and other candidates on the upcoming ballot. Haggag said the pollster asked leading questions.
“The phone call included a lot of questions and attempts to influence voters’ opinions toward Measure C,” said Haggag.
Santa Clara is currently divided into six districts, with one council member representing each district. Measure C proposes to merge the six districts down to three districts, with two council members representing each district.
In 2018, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Thomas Kuhnle ruled Santa Clara’s at-large elections, with no districts whatsoever, violated the California Voting Rights Act by diluting minority votes.
Former State Assemblymember Paul Fong, a No on C spokesperson, said if Measure C passes and merges the city’s six districts, the city would still be in violation of Judge Kuhnle’s order, and subject the city to more legal challenges.
“The people that like to control the politics of town would like to have less districts so they can control the city. The more districts, the more difficult it is to control the city. It gives power to the people,” Fong said.
At the January 14 city council meeting, Haggag announced an effort to crack down on the anonymous calls, and issued a call to the public for tips and information about the source of the polling calls. Haggag said his efforts were “fruitful” in uncovering evidence implicating 49ers top executives, but declined to provide specifics.
“As the elections official, it’s my job to ensure there are fair and transparent elections in Santa Clara,” he said. “And we caught Jed York and the 49ers meddling Santa Clara elections by failing to disclose their opposition to Measure C. And that is a violation of our Dark Money Ordinance. Anybody is free to support any ballot measure or any candidate. The only thing is, you got to own up to it.”
On January 31, Haggag sent letters to seven individuals: York, 49ers President Al Guido, VP of Stadium Operations and Security Jim Mercurio, 49ers VP of Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Rahul Chandhok, Santa Clara Lobbyists Kevin Moore and Ed McGovern, and political consultant David Metz.
The letters said the telephone poll was “undoubtedly designed to influence and affect voters’ decisions with regards to Measure C … I have been informed that you or your organization have provided support. Such support, whether monetary or in-kind, constitute a contribution under the California Fair Political Practices Commission’s regulations … Failure to report this contribution would subject you to the enforcement provisions.”
On February 1, Richard Konda, the executive director of the Asian Law Alliance sent a letter to the 49ers requesting help to defeat Measure C, on behalf of San Jose- Silicon Valley NAACP, La Raza Roundtable, and former Assemblyman Fong.
“We hope that you will join us publicly and with resources to reach the voters in ensuring Measure C is defeated,” Konda wrote.
On February 3, Haggag says his office received notification of the creation of “No on C – Santa Clarans for Voting Rights” campaign committee, and that the committee had received a contribution from York for $17,125.
“I think the timing speaks for itself,” said Haggag, who will file a complaint with the FPPC.
The complaint could result in criminal charges or a determination of a breach of contract, which could result in termination of contracts with the City of Santa Clara or the Santa Clara Stadium Authority.
Fong brushed off the accusations, saying Haggag was politicizing the situation, when he has a duty to remain impartial.
“He’s just making a mountain out of a mole hill,” Fong said. “Making a case out of nothing. I can say that with confidence, the 49ers broke no law.”
If Measure C fails, and the city keeps its six districts, then new blood on the city council may, among other things, be open to more concerts and events at Levi’s Stadium, generating millions of dollars in revenue for the city and the 49ers.
Chandhok emailed the following statement to KPIX 5: “Let’s be clear, Mayor Gillmor’s Measure C threatens to disenfranchise minority communities and strip them of equal representation in our local government, while simultaneously ignoring a court order. No amount of manufactured allegations will distract from the fact that Measure C is anti-democratic and on the wrong side of history. We are proud to stand with Santa Clara civil rights leaders from the NAACP, La Raza, and the Asian Law Alliance to defeat Measure C.”