Swalwell denies claim of ‘pay-to-play’ in Dublin

Steven Tavares has an interesting story on the 15th Congressional District race in today’s East Bay Express:

On June 5, just hours after casting a vote for himself in the East Bay’s 15th Congressional District primary against incumbent Congressman Pete Stark, Dublin City Councilman Eric Swalwell voted to approve a no-bid, monopoly contract to a local garbage company while members of that firm’s upper management sat in attendance. Swalwell, however, never publicly disclosed that those four top-level employees of Amador Valley Industries were large contributors to his congressional campaign in the months before the deal. Also in attendance was a consultant for the garbage company who not only had recently donated to Swalwell, but also has a history of violating campaign finance laws.


In some cities, including Oakland, what AVI and Swalwell did would have been illegal. It’s unlawful in those cities for a prospective government contractor, such as AVI, to make donations to councilmembers’ political campaigns in the months before those councilmembers vote on the actual contract. Good government advocates throughout California have pushed hard over the years to eliminate this type of pay-to-play politics.

Dublin, however, has no such prohibition. The city allows councilmembers to take donations from government contractors and then vote to award public contracts to those companies, said Jim Bakker, Dublin’s city attorney.

“A respected regional newspaper is raising new and troubling questions about Eric Swalwell’s role in pay-to-play for municipal contracts,” Michael Terris, Stark’s campaign consultant, said today. “Swalwell has thrown a lot of mud in this campaign, but he owes voters real answers to these serious allegations. An unregistered lobbyist for garbage contractors, whose owners and employees have donated $15,000 to Swalwell’s campaign, even raises questions about Swalwell’s integrity for failing to disclose major contributions while voting on no-bid contracts.”

Eric Swalwell Swalwell campaign manager Lisa Tucker, when asked today if there was any connection between the contributions and Swalwell’s vote, replied, “Absolutely not.” She noted that the agenda item on which he voted was initiated by the city’s staff, not by any member of the council, and that the vote was 4-1, so Swalwell’s wasn’t the deciding vote.

“Every contribution Eric received was disclosed properly to the public prior to the meeting,” she said, referring to Swalwell’s mandatory campaign finance filings to the Federal Election Commission.

Asked whether Swalwell had any ethical obligation to verbally disclose the contributions before casting that vote, Tucker noted that Swalwell is an Alameda County prosecutor and insisted he “has followed every ethics and disclosure law before taking the vote. Eric is proud that his support comes from individuals, compared to 65 percent of Congressman Stark’s contributions come from PACs, including almost $200,000 from health professionals with issues before his subcommittee.”

“Every claim Rep. Stark has made against Eric has resulted in him apologizing or has been debunked by a third-party media source,” she said. “This claim, by a blogger with a demonstrated bias on his blog for Rep. Stark, is an extension of Rep. Stark’s efforts to deceive voters.”

Tucker was referring to Tavares’ East Bay Citizen, where he has covered this race extensively both through news articles and pro-Stark opinion pieces.

Tavares’ story today in the Express notes that Stark in April – two months before Swalwell cast this vote – had gotten into hot water for claiming at a debate that Swalwell had accepted “hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes,” a claim he later acknowledged was unsubstantiated and for which he apologized.

Here are the AVI-related donations I’ve been able to find at a glance, some that occurred before the June 5 vote and some that occurred afterward:

  • Robert J. Molinaro, Pleasanton, president, Pleasanton Garbage Service, 9/27/11, $2,500
  • Anthony Macchiano, Pleasanton, VP, Pleasanton Garbage Service, 9/27/11, $2,500
  • Gina Cardera, Livermore, manager, Amador Valley Industries, 9/27/11, $250
  • John R. Repetto, Pleasanton, route manager, Amador Valley Industries, 9/27/11, $250
  • Gordon Galvan, Castro Valley, consultant to Amador Valley Industries, 11/30/11, $1,000
  • Gina Cardera, Livermore, manager, Amador Valley Industries, 12/30/11, $1,000
  • Carol Molinaro, Pleasanton, homemaker, 1/31/12, $250
  • Carol Molinaro, Pleasanton, homemaker, 3/21/12, $250
  • Gordon Galvan, Castro Valley, consultant to Amador Valley Industries, 3/28/12, $1,000
  • Gordon Galvan, Castro Valley, consultant to Amador Valley Industries, 5/9/12, $500
  • Carol Molinaro, Pleasanton, homemaker, 5/10/12, $250
  • Anthony Macchiano, Pleasanton, owner, M&M Land, 5/22/12, $250
  • Robert J. Molinaro, Pleasanton, president, Pleasanton Garbage Service, 6/27/12 $2,500
  • Anthony Macchiano, Pleasanton, owner, M&M Land, 6/30/12, $2,500
  • (Anthony Macchiano, Pleasanton, owner, M&M Land, 7/2012, refund $250)
  • Anthony Macchiano, Pleasanton, owner, M&M Land, 9/29/12, $250
  • The Express story also included this:

    Even a paid consultant for AVI, Gordon Galvan, who also donated to Swalwell, distanced himself from Swalwell’s failure to disclose his ties to AVI. “If he didn’t disclose it, I think that is wrong. It’s all on him,” said Galvan, who gave Swalwell the legal federal limit of $2,500 in successive years totaling $5,000. “The ethical thing to do is — I would have said, ‘These are people who have contributed to my congressional campaign and it has nothing to do with the City of Dublin or my vote.'”

    Nonetheless, Galvan, who is also a lobbyist and a former San Leandro councilman, characterized what Swalwell and AVI did as being no big deal. “It’s a dynamic that happens all the time,” said Galvan, adding that he believes Swalwell has been at a financial disadvantage during the campaign because of Stark’s political connections. “[Swalwell] can’t get PAC money because it’s a good ol’ boys’ network. If you’re a forty-year incumbent you have access to all that money. To me, that’s a lot dirtier.”

    Galvan today said he had told Tavares that if Swalwell was legally obliged to report the contributions and hadn’t, then that would be on him – but that’s not the case here.

    “I’m supporting Swalwell, so why would I say something that calls into question his ethics?” Galvan said. “It makes it sounds like I’m questioning Swalwell’s ethics or I think he did something illegal, and that’s not true at all … I didn’t say anything like that.”

    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.

    • GV Haste

      Meanwhile, on the radio yesterday, I hear a outside party, some national anesthesiologist group, funding radio spots for Pete Stark.
      All monies that aren’t even counted or reported as being part of Pete’s campaign funds.

      Now, why do you think anesthesiologists are going around the normal funding methods to bring in undue influence trying to KEEP Pete in Washington?

      Oh, sure, none of that has any influence on squeaky clean Pete. I’ve had enough of that story.

      I don’t doubt, that Swalwell has money flowing to him, just like Pete.

      Meanwhile, in all the press about Pete Stark, also in that Eastbay Express issue is another story by Steven Tarvares highlighting the fact that there is a good chance that convicted shoplifter Mary Hayashi might slip into office during the special election for Alameda Co. Supervisor, District 2.

      Yet there are dozens of articles about the Stark/Swalwell race and virtually nothing at all about a candididate who is on 30 months probation getting into office unnoticed.

      How come Hayashi was all in the news and editorials months ago, yet when she now is on the verge of gaining a new position, the newspaper has discontinued coverage?
      Where has the Bay Area Newsgroup outrage gone?

      Hardly a word or anything in the past months.
      The stealth election.

    • Truthclubber

      “Swalwell campaign manager Lisa Tucker….”

      The same Lisa Tucker who was Tauscher’s principal campaign strategist and lever-puller?

      The very same one.

      Now we now that “The Tauscherian Candidate” (Smellwell) will not only “play for pay”, but will virtually hand over his US House voting button to Queen Ellen, who I’m sure regrets having had to step away from Congress for that temp job over at State.

    • JohnW

      What , the anesthesiologists, are rooting for Pete? Given Pete’s advancing years, there’s probably a joke in there somewhere. But I haven’t figured one out yet.

      As for the article in the Express, this underscores my concerns that the media have been so obsessed with Starks’s behavior (with very good reason) that they forgot to vet Swalwell in terms of experience, issues and alleged conflicts while on the Planning Commission and City Council. I’m NOT suggesting that there is any substance to claims that campaign contributions he took from developers or the garbage company influenced his votes. But, since Stark did make such claims about the developers, I was surprised the media did not do some digging and reporting to determine whether or not there was any validity to them.

      Dublin obviously needs to upgrade its rules on campaign contributions.

    • Elwood

      @ 2

      Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that makes it hard to: Tell the difference between what is real and not real;


    • Fremont Resident

      Thanks for clearing this up, it doesn’t look like Swalwell actually did anything wrong. it sounds a little shady, but reading the Express article makes it seem as if the donations weren’t reported at all. If they were properly reported, then what’s the problem?

      Does the guy that writes the East Bay Citizen realize that this just makes him look more biased? His article reads like a half truth.

    • mederatevoter

      Eric Swalwell is an Alameda County prosecutor, his Dad’s a retired cop too. Every law enforcement group in Alameda County – and Contra Costa – is supporting Swalwell for Congress, not a single law enforcement group is backing wacky 81 year old Pete Stark’s run for the 15th district. Given this I find it sort of laughable Stark would go after Swalwell on ethics or honesty. Who is Stark trying to kid? Voters are not that stupid in the 15th district.
      If anybody is vulnerable on the ethics front it’s Pete Stark. Stark is drawing down a $174,000 a year salary yet he missed 1/3 of his votes in last session, he doesn’t even bother to show up to work 1/3 of the time. Carla Marinucci – the San Francisco Chronicle political editor – reported a couple of months ago that Pete Stark’s wife – his third – was a former intern in his office. In fact, according to Marinucchi, Stark actually met her when she was a high school student. Apparently Stark was visiting a local high school – he was married at the time to another lady – and he took a shine to this high school girl, she later became an intern, and after that – I presume Stark waited until she graduated from high school (I hope) – she became Mrs. Stark.
      Now – we are learning courtesy of the Swalwell campaign – that Pete Stark has had his young wife – who has no accounting experience – acting as his campaign treasurer over a period of years – she’s been paid $300,000 over a period of years – except the work is actually being done by an outside accounting firm. So Stark has deftly managed to hook up his wife with a “no-show” job, and her salary is being paid by Washington DC special interest groups. Such a deal.
      This, by the way, has got everybody laughing because most know Stark – legendary for his laziness – has long been a “no-show” Congressman in his district. Stark who claims he lives in the 15th district – actual address in the district is a “mail-drop” at his son’s house, so now everybody is saying our “now-show” Congressman – who pretends to live in the district and never seems to be around, has hooked his wife up with a “no-show” job. I mean how fitting.
      As most voters know, we have a horrific problem with unemployment in California, in the 15th district you’ve got double digit unemployment, many more under employed, we have a crises going on, yet Pete Stark, this lazy slug of a Congressman – a “no-show” Congressman in every sense of the word – is trying to claim he’s the guy that’s going to help solve this problem. I don’t buy it, I think Pete Stark deserves a pink slip.

    • JohnW

      Re: #6

      Recommend you go find some undecideds to convince. I already voted.

    • CuteStuff

      The anestheologists ran Independent Exenditures (IE’s) – they do not report to Stark campaign nor does Stark have any control whatsoever of what they say or mail or do in supporting them. Thank McCain Feingold for this little nugget of campaign finance. The anestheologists and any other IE reports what they spend money on and not the candidates. The candidates report actual dollars they were given.

    • Truthclubber

      @4 —

      Talk about a NON SEQUITUR!

      Unless there is a connection between Ellen Tauscher and schizophrenia (which, if proven, I would not be surprised by, since Elwood is promoting it…)

    • Leslie P.

      Josh, in Congress, does Pete Stark have to announce before every committee hearing whether the person providing testimony on a bill has made a contribution to him? Did Stark really take $200,000 in health care money while being on a health committee? Did contributors come before his committee? This looks like a larger issue of needed reforms at all levels. But if you and east bay express are reporting on Swalwell contributions, doesn’t that mean they were disclosed? Or were these found some non-public way?

    • Rick K.

      Swalwell doesn’t smell well. Sweep him out with the rest of the trash, into the dumpster of political oblivion.