Old campaign debt drags San Jose city council member
An old debt to a campaign consultant raises questions about why a San Jose council member hasn’t paid her.
District 5 Council Member Magdalena Carrasco owes $ 25,719.67 to a consultant through her committee, Friends of Magdalena Carrasco for the 2012 East Side Union High School Board of Trustees, according to a report. campaign statement filed in February of this year.
As the name of the committee suggests, the money was raised for Carrasco’s election to the school board in 2012, where she served for two years. Carrasco owes roughly the same amount since at least 2014, although there are older campaign fundraising reports that are not available online. The money is owed to Shallman Communications, who produced print ads for Carrasco.
The Shallman Company has strong ties to the Carrasco family: In 2016, Shallman hired Carrasco’s daughter as an account coordinator (she is no longer listed as an employee). The firm also did extensive campaign work for Carrasco’s former partner, Los Angeles City Council member Kevin de León.
Carrasco did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Candidates for local office are subject to many campaign finance rules set by the California Fair Political Practices Commission. But they don’t seem to have to pay off campaign debts within a certain timeframe.
“Candidates cannot terminate or close their committees if they actually have unpaid debts,” a spokesperson for the Santa Clara County Registrar of Electors said. “But I don’t know of any deadline for paying off the debt.”
Carrasco has at least some of the money available to pay off its debt. The same campaign fundraising form filed earlier this year shows the committee has a cash balance of over $ 15,000, which has been available since at least 2014.
In contrast, Carrasco used money from another committee to pay a consultant who worked on his failed campaign for a seat on the Santa Clara County Supervisory Board in 2020. A campaign report filed earlier this year has showed that his committee had paid consultant TBWBH $ 6,000 for campaign materials and mailings. At the end of June, the committee still owed $ 32,508 and had a cash balance of approximately $ 1,600.
John Pelissero, a senior researcher at the University of Santa Clara’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, said it was not unusual for a politician to get into debt long after he was elected because it is difficult to raise money for pay old expenses. But he said it can create the appearance of a conflict of interest if a candidate or their family members have other relationships with a company to which they are in debt.
“While all of this may be flawless, it has this unethical appearance of being inappropriate,” Pelissero told the San José Spotlight. “This is what members of the public can focus on, (saying) ‘Hmm, why does this individual’s family member work for an entity that the former nominee, now a board member , owe money? ‘”
Pelissero said that Carrasco did not use his free cash balance to pay off some of the debt to Shallman also raises questions. According to a media interview in 2015, Carrasco said she preferred to pay off the committee’s debt in one go.
The school district committee – which hasn’t had a political goal for nearly a decade – has put Carrasco in hot water with the California FPPC on more than one occasion.
In March 2021, the FPPC sent Carrasco and the committee a warning letter for not filing a semi-annual campaign statement from July 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020 on time. fined Carrasco because his declaration was only 18 days. late and there was no activity to report. The letter notes that failure to meet FPPC requirements can result in penalties of up to $ 5,000 per violation.
In 2018, the FPPC sent a warning letter to Carrasco and Huascar Castro, treasurer of its 2018 re-election campaign, for breaking the Political Reform Act by failing to file the required annual fee of $ 50 with the secretary. State and for failing to pay the fine of $ 150 as a result of this offense.
In 2014, the agency sent a warning letter to the Carrasco committee for failing to file two pre-election statements spanning several months of that year. The FPPC dismissed his case, but asked Carrasco to file all outstanding statements with the Santa Clara County Registrar of Electors and pay all associated late fees.
Contact Eli Wolfe at [email protected] or @ EliWolfe4 on Twitter.