San Leandro slate accused of committing scores of campaign finance violations

San Leandro mayoral candidate Jeromey Shafer, left, at a forum last month hosted by the San Leandro Democratic Club.

A San Leandro slate of four candidates, each focusing their campaigns on bringing rent control to the city, is being accused of multiple violations of the state’s campaign finance rules, according to a compliant filed Oct. 19 with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC).

The complaint stems in part from a mailer sent last week by the Fresh, Clean Slate, that includes the names of 34 local and statewide campaigns. Styled as a slate card, the mailer has a perforation and suggests voters use the card as aid at the polls. The complaint suggests that by sending the particular mailer they ceased being an independent expenditure committee in this instance and, instead, became a “slate mailer organization,’ which requires different reporting rules.

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Front and back of a mailer sent last week by the Fresh, Clean Slate that includes 34 candidates, measures, and state propositions.

The “Fresh, Clean Slate” is led by San Leandro mayoral candidate Jeromey Shafer, and includes City Council candidates Eva Arce (District 1), Victor Aguilar, Jr. (District 3), and Maxine Oliver-Benson (District 5).

The lengthy complaint also alleges expenditures from the slate, like yard signs, campaign literature, voter software, its campaign website, and other spending was not properly accounted for across all four candidates as “in-kind” contributions.

It is unclear whether the FPPC is beginning an investigation into the complaints. A FPPC letter sent to the slate members only notified them of a complaint, along with a decision within 14 days, the slate said Thursday. The FPPC did not immediately respond for comment.

The complaint was filed by former San Leandro Councilmember Michael Gregory, who was termed out of office in 2014. “These complaints speak to their lack of professionalism. They did not do things by the book nor did they bring anybody in to do it for them,” said Gregory.

Listed as a witness is Tom Silva, a well-known local landlord and member of the Rental Housing Authority of Southern Alameda County. He said the complaint is rooted in transparency. “If you’re going to participate, participate according to the rules,” said Silva.

The large number of candidates featured on the mailer multiplied by the four candidates, means the slate is exposed to 160 total violations, said Silva, and another 78 when the separate alleged fundraising violations are tallied.

With Election Day near, tempers invariably flare. Online, some Fresh, Clean Slate members charged that Gregory’s involvement in the complaint is due to him receiving “thousands of dollars in contributions” from Silva. In an interview, Gregory took offense to the claim, challenging the slate to “prove it or apologize. You have one week.”

“We’ll choose ‘prove it,’ because it’s on his [Form] 460 report,” said Shafer, referring to the finance report that campaigns are required to file on a timely basis. “We are clearly being attacked by a group of folks who know we are gaining traction and they want to stop it. This campaign has been all about exposing all of these folks who are taking money from insiders, voting the way they want, and changing zoning rules.”

Shafer said the specific mailer was not illegal and no reporting violation for failing to disclose the expenditure has occurred.¬†“They’re calendar-challenged,” Shafer said of Gregory and Silva. The filing period in which the mailer was sent ends Thursday at midnight, he added.

Guillermo Elenes, campaign manager for Shafer, said the FPPC complaint is an attempt to distract voters. “These allegations are coming from people who want to hurt us and they don’t understand the regulations themselves.”

Although not part of the complaint, questions over the Fresh, Clean Slate’s initial pledge¬† to limit individual contributions to $99 raised some concerns among city and Democratic Party insiders who questioned whether to strategy could be used to mask the identities of donors. The minimum amount required for publicly reporting contributions is $100. The slate ended up listing all their $99 donors on the most recent finance report, ending Sept. 22.

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