Sorting out the Stark-Swalwell voting accusation

At a candidates’ forum last night in Hayward, Rep. Pete Stark accused his Democratic challenger, Eric Swalwell, of having a spotty voting record.

I went looking today, and here’s what the Alameda County Registrar of Voters provided (click image to enlarge and clarify):

Eric Swalwell's voting record

This shows that Swalwell, 31, has voted in every election since June 2006.

I reached out to Alex Tourk, Stark’s campaign strategist. Here’s what he said:

According to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, Eric Swalwell registered to vote in Alameda County in November 2001, but did not vote in Alameda County until 2006. In between those dates, Swalwell did not vote in Alameda County, missing a total of 6 elections (out of a total of 14 through November 2010). He did begin voting in 2006, as the VAN indicates.

Replied Swalwell:

The County’s records prove that Congressman Stark’s desperate hail mary was flat wrong. From 2001 to 2006, I lived and voted in Maryland. When I returned home from law school, I voted regularly in California. Congressman Stark, however, lives in Maryland, without a residence in California, and continues to register to vote at his in-laws house in San Lorenzo.

Swalwell’s LinkedIn profile indicates he received a bachelor’s degree in government and politics from the University of Maryland at College Park in 2003, and a law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law in 2006. He’s a 1999 graduate of Dublin High School.

UPDATE @ 4:20 P.M. WEDNESDAY: This just in from Swalwell’s camp –

PLEASANTON, CA– Yesterday, April 10, 2012 the three candidates for Congress in CA-15 – business owner Chris Pareja, Congressman Pete Stark and Dublin City Councilmember Eric Swalwell – debated in a candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters, Eden Area.
Throughout the hour-long forum, Congressman Stark repeatedly used personal attacks and false accusations against challenger Eric Swalwell. The lowest attack occurred when Congressman Stark repeatedly accused Swalwell of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes. This serious accusation is flatly false.
At the conclusion of the debate, as Swalwell shook Congressman Stark’s hand, Stark’s behavior spiraled completely into the gutter as he lodged additional profanity-laced insults as reported in the East Bay Citizen.
“We can do better, and we must demand better from our elected Member of Congress.” said Swalwell. “Congressman Stark’s attacks were defamatory and I ask that he come forward in the next 24 hours with proof of these outrageous and completely false accusations of bribery. I believe a public apology is also in order.”

UPDATE @ 10:35 P.M. WEDNESDAY: And, from Alex Tourk:

“Congressman Stark has been personally attacked by Eric Swalwell day in and day out for the past six months while focusing on the job at hand: defending universal health care, protecting Social Security and Medicare and jump starting our nation’s economy. This is politics, not a pony ride.”

I’ve asked Tourk whether he or the Congressman can provide any documentation to support the bribery allegation.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • moderate voter

    Good leg work by Josh, I didn’t believe for a moment Eric Swalwell had a spotty voting record. The guy with the spotty voting record is 40 year incumbent Pete Stark, he missed 20% of his votes in the last session I’ve read. The fact that Stark hurled this unsubstantiated charge at Swalwell is an example of Pete Stark at “work”, he just doesn’t do his homework, not in DC, or even when he is campaigning.
    Pete Stark has a rep for being a lazy prima donna who only comes to life when TV cameras or reporters are around. He’s been on cruise control for the last five 2 year terms -along with a lot of other representatives, that’s why the middle class has been decimated. The problem in DC has been weak leadership, and Stark is the poster child for weak leadership.
    Voters in the 15th district have a chance to send a message in this election, we need to get rid of lazy prima donnas like Pete Stark in Washington, we need representatives who can get the job done. That’s why I support this young go-getter Eric Swalwell. The entire NorCal Democratic Congressional delegation – in my view – needs a wake-up call, there are not getting it done on jobs, they need to be sent a message, the message being work harder, work with Republicans, try new strategies, do what it takes to put people back to work. If voters give Pete Stark a well deserved pink slip – believe me – the message will be heard all up and down the state and in Washington.

  • Elwood

    Further proof that Stark is a senile POS and should be put in a home.

  • JohnW

    Is there any substance to Stark’s claim that Swalwell received financial support on the order of “hundreds of thousands” from the Lins? That would be a bunch, even if legal.

  • Truthclubber

    @2 — takes one to know one.

  • Josh Richman

    @3 — JohnW, I don’t see anything yet; I forwarded Swalwell’s demand for evidence to Alex Tourk, but Tourk hasn’t yet responded as of this hour. Checking through Swalwell’s FEC reports (which for now date only through Dec. 31), I see these contributions:


    But I have not yet had time to check whether these Lins are, or are related to, those of whom Stark spoke.

    After the forum last night, Swalwell said, “I’ve never spoken to any person in the Lin family; there’s been no bribery, and our contributions have all been reported.”

  • JohnW


    Thanks Josh.

    I can’t bring myself to vote for Swalwell, because I don’t want to foreclose the opportunity to consider other, possibly better qualified Democrats who are likely to be available in the 2014 cycle. But I have to admit the “bribery” accusation looks like a real whopper. Doesn’t change things for me, though. I’ll just have to pinch my nose a bit harder and “Win one for the geezer.” If Swalwell wins, those who promised not to run if Stark ran this time are gonna be sorry.

  • Elwood

    @ #4 toothsucker

    Oh, toothsucker, you’re so clever and original!

    Did you make that up all by yourself?

    Stay out of the cooking sherry.

  • moderate voter

    I recall in a previous debate Stark made an effort to act “folksy”, As I understand it his consultants – he has very good consultants – actually gave Stark how-to-act-folksy lessons, they have been working overtime to ‘soften” Stark’s abrasive sandpaper demeanor.
    But in last night debate – I think – you saw the real Pete Stark. He leveled ridiculous charges – complete falsehoods – agaisn’t Eric Swalwell, a squeaky clean deputy district attorney. The charges he made were just laughable.
    This type of behavior, according to numerous newspapers accounts, is the norm for Stark in Washington. He has become a total embarrassment to the NorCal Democratic delegation, he makes no sense anymore, can’t get along with anybody, this is a Congressman that needs to get a pink slip, right now, not two years from now.

  • DanvilleDemocrat


    JohnW — your rationale for voting for Stark seems flimsy to me. No doubt Ro Khanna (and, to a lesser extent, Ellen Corbett) are very impressive Democrats with a bright future in the party. But Joan Buchanan is up against term limits come 2014 — a seat Khanna likely could run for and win. Khanna also could run for a seat farther south if/when Mike Honda retires. Just seems like there’s a lot of room to vote for Eric Swalwell this time, knowing it’s unlikely he’d win (incumbency remains very powerful even in these newly drawn districts) and a stronger showing would only make Stark’s exit by 2014 that much more likely.

  • DanvilleDemocrat

    Oh, and, P.S., this voting accusation is amazing. I went to college out-of-state and voted absentee, but the fact that this didn’t occur to Alex Tourk’s crew before feeding their candidate the charge proves beyond doubt that Gavin Newsom is better off without Tourk as an adviser.

  • JohnW


    Danville Democrat,

    So, you’re suggesting that I vote for Swalwell (who doesn’t impress me) in the expectation that he will lose anyway and that it will help ensure that Stark quits in 2014 to make room for somebody who might impress me more than Swalwell does now. And you say MY rationale is “flimsy?” I’m confident this is Stark’s last hurrah and that certain people have made that very clear to him. And I don’t think Khanna will run for Joan’s seat. He’d have to move, right?

  • moderate voter

    #9 Ro Khanna was crushed in a previous run for Congress in San Mateo. Given this I’m wondering why people continue to insist he’s a rising star in Democratic party. He doesn’t have courage to take a the doddering inefective Stark in this election, he apparently is waiting for Stark to retire. I got news for you, if Stark is elected again he will run again in 2014. He’s been Congressman for 40 years, he doesn’t want to give the job up, ever.

  • Leftcoast

    Check out Stark’s Congressional voting record in 2009 the 1st quarter he missed 42% of the votes, in the second quarter he missed 33%. In 2010 the 1st quarter he missed 39% of the votes, in the 3rd quarter he missed 26%. Is he a part time congressman? He’s elected and paid by us to vote. Check it out at http://legacy.govtrack.us/congress/person.xpd?id=400387&tab=votes

  • JohnW

    @ 13 Leftcoast Says

    You’ve got this all wrong.

    If, per chance, you are a conservative, you would not have liked the way he voted if he had, so be grateful he abstained! Yes, we are paying him. However, once he leaves Congress, assuming that he does so in an upright position, we will be paying him a pension while also paying his replacement a full salary. So, the congressman is actually contributing to deficit reduction by remaining in office and doing conservatives a favor by preventing another Democrat from taking office and actually showing up to vote.

  • Independent Voter

    #12 You’ve got it all wrong. Khanna ran against Tom Lantos on an anti-war platform. He was 27 years old at the time and had zero name recognition. He displayed courage and tenacity in standing up against the will of the party by challenging a long-time well-respected incumbent. He ran on a shoestring budget and was still able to obtain 20% of the vote. Tom Lantos was so impressed with him that he mentored him after their election. From that point, all Khanna has done since then is make a meteoric rise. Keep in mind that he is only 35 years old. He has long since been active in the Fremont community, has been appointed to the Dept. of Commerce by the President, worked with the delegation on numerous issues, and he has a book coming out in August via McGraw Hill on manufacturing. I’m sorry, but I don’t know how you can deny that he isn’t a rising star?!? Also, I think he is being very smart to wait it out for two more years before he runs for Stark’s seat. It will enable him more time to prepare and Stark is very likely to retire in 2014. Just a hunch, but I like this Khanna guy! He is the real deal!

  • Undecided

    Swalwell must be in play if Stark is attacking him like this. If Swalwell didn’t have a chance, Stark would ignore him. Swalwell must be a real threat and therefore worth a look given Stark’s attacks. Strange that Stark, who has been around a while, would go after Swalwell with stuff that appears to be completely baseless and easy to disprove. Might be his campaign staff are rusty given Stark has gotten a free ride into office for a long time under the old primary system. Stark acts like he’s retired in office – time to retire him for good.

  • JohnW

    I want more and better choices. The only way to accomplish that is to put up with Stark for one final term in the expectation that those other choices will be in the game in 2014. It’s a Democratic district. So, if Swalwell wins this time, we’re likely stuck with him for a long time; even though, in my opinion, he has not shown us that he has the stuff to become the heavy hitter the district deserves. I don’t like the idea of giving the job to Swalwell just because he’s not Stark. So, Pete gets my vote. That doesn’t mean I approve of Stark’s antics, including his accusations against Swalwell. As the line from The Godfather goes, “Tell Sonny it’s nothing personal. It’s just business!”

  • Michele

    Put up with Stark? No, thanks — I don’t think we need someone who demonstrates that sort of outrageous behavior representing us. Obviously Stark is beyond the control of his handlers — I suspect he’s decompensated and he needs to retire.

    I read that two different people with the last name of Lin donated a grand total of $5,000 to Swalwell’s campaign. That’s not much of a “bribe,” the guy’s monthly salary as a DA is more than $5,000.

    I’m voting Swalwell.

  • JohnW


    Well, it will be interesting to see how this primary goes. It will also be interesting to look at the vote in the old Stark portion of the new district and the new eastern portion.

    If Swalwell is your guy, go for it. I see it as a lesser of evils situation. Either we get just two more years of a politically irrelevant, over-the-hill, cranky curmudgeon or we get stuck with somebody who is, in my opinion, an empty suit for as many years as he chooses to hold the seat. Given that unhappy dilemma, I’m going with the curmudgeon so that I can have a chance to vote for somebody with more substance in 2014.

    The only good news in Stark’s wild bribery claim is that it is so over-the-top that nobody with half a brain would believe it. If anything, it probably helps Swalwell.

  • Elwood

    John W., in poker what you are doing is called betting on the come.

    You’re willing to vote for that POS Stark in the hope that someone better than Swalwell will come along in two years.

    Don’t bet on it. If the senile old **** lives through the next term he might decide to run again. And if he doesn’t there’s a good chance that the candidates will be Swalwell and three guys named Joe.

    It is, for God’s sake, time to dump Stark, even if his opponent were a yellow dog.

  • JohnW

    @23 Elwood

    “You’re willing to vote for that … #@$ Stark in the hope that someone better than Swalwell will come along in two years.”

    Exactly right!

    I don’t know anything about poker, but I’m highly confident of being dealt a better hand in 2014. Who knows? If Swalwell doesn’t make it this time and runs again in 2014, he might be better prepared and get my vote. The party establishment should have given Stark the boot this time and told Khanna and whoever else to step up their timetable. But the chances of Stark running again and getting all those endorsements is about as great as the odds of me being named Pope.

  • Elwood

    @ #24 John W.

    And I’ll bet that you also believe in the tooth fairy!

  • NoLiesPlease

    Whatever else is true of Stark, you can’t go around accusing people of very specific serious misconduct then simply apologize and make it all better. This should have gotten a lot of publicity and Stark should pay for any distortions. On the other hand, Swallwell looks like some dude who wants to get into politics and probably has nothing new to offer. Lousy choices really. Too bad.

  • JohnW

    @ 26 NoLiesPlease

    “Lousy choices really. Too bad.”

    Yup, that’s the situation.

    On an ethical level, it’s difficult for me to justify voting for Stark, especially in light of the bribery accusation. However, the story has been covered both locally and nationally. I don’t think you can say Stark is getting a free pass. I suspect it will cost him lots of votes. He has turned Swalwell into a victim. He may lose.

    All that said, I’m making a deal with the devil in order to have a chance to vote for somebody better than either Stark or Swalwell in 2014. So, I’m still voting for Stark rather than hand a safe seat to Swalwell to hold for the next two decades or so.

  • Publius


    After reading your post I thank god I am not a registered Democrat. I thank my lucky stars that I do not have to shelf common sense and reason come November. I am thankful that I do not have to march lockstep with a national party platform. Anyone with minimal awareness and intelligence can see that Rep. Stark is not suitable for the job and needs to retire.
    It is interesting to read how an intelligent Dem like yourself, tries to justify a vote for Stark.

  • Elwood

    What Publius said.

  • JohnW

    Re #28

    I’m pretty sure God is not responsible for the fact that you are not a registered Democrat, so there is really no need to thank Her.

    Regarding the Congressional race in question, it doesn’t much matter whether Stark or Swalwell represents CD 15 during the next two years. Neither one will pass any bills or impact policy in that period of time, especially if the GOP holds the House. Yes, I’m assuming CD 15 voters will elect one of them rather than the GOP candidate. What does matter is who represents the district in the years beyond. We get one bite at the apple in picking Stark’s replacement. “Common sense and reason” tell me it will be better to go with the status quo now and take that bite in 2014 when more and, I hope, better qualified choices will be available.

    PS: “Lockstep” is not in my DNA.

  • Josh Richman

    Re #30

    For the record, there is no “GOP candidate.” Chris Pareja is a Tea Party conservative, but he’s running without any party affiliation.

  • JohnW

    Re: 31

    Good point, Josh.

  • Truthclubber

    Write in Mary “never met a article of clothing I couldn’t keep my hands off of” Hayashi if you don’t like either Stark or Swalwell! She’s termed out so she’s available…