Ordinarily, the economic interest statements that public officials must file every April are about as compelling as cold oatmeal. But every now and then, you can get an insight into their decision-making and trading prowess. Consider the stock moves that San Jose City Councilman Kansen Chu made last Nov. 6, the day he was re-elected to the council.
Chu sold Cisco stock and bought Facebook. The amount wasn't specified, beyond being between $2,000 and $10,000. So how did he do? As of IA's deadline, Chu's Facebook stock was up by 25.7 percent. Cisco stock had gone up 20.1 percent over the same period, making it a decent trade.
"When I saw the dip on the Facebook stock, I thought there would be some opportunity there," Chu told us. "It was a coincidence that it was on Election Day."
There is this context worth mentioning: Cisco has a major physical presence in Chu's district. But Facebook offers other advantages: On his Facebook page, Chu has announced his candidacy for Assembly District 25 in 2014. His kickoff event is Sunday at 5 p.m. at Liang's Kitchen on Lundy Avenue.
Inside those reports on gifts to politicians
The economic interest statements also report gifts to public officials -- they can receive up to $440 a year from a gift-giver with some exceptions. Former Santa Clara County Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr. reported getting a $299 Samsung phone last year as a gift from the company.
It was notable that Shirakawa, who resigned last month after admitting to criminal charges of misusing funds and failing to file disclosure forms, actually turned in his economic statement a few days before it was due.
Shirakawa didn't indicate why Samsung gave him a phone.
But as board president he had joined San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, Gov. Jerry Brown and Samsung officials last August in signing an incentive package at the City Hall Rotunda for the tech giant's North San Jose research and development expansion. It was thought at the time that the county might contribute to the incentives, though that turned out not to be the case. San Jose contributed $7 million worth of incentives, but Reed's economic disclosure form showed no Samsung phone gift, only his wife's salary as a nurse.
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith reported getting a $420 handgun at the annual conference of the California State Sheriff's Association meeting last year. Smith, who already carries a handgun issued to her by the department, said she keeps the new one in a safe place.
"I'm not a big gun collector," she said.
Smith also got two $140 San Francisco 49ers tickets last fall, one from the team and one from Chris Malachowsky, co-founder of Santa Clara-based Nvidia, plus a $75 gift basket from Heald College.
Meanwhile, District Attorney Jeff Rosen listed a $100 mother of pearl box from the Republic of Korea, one of the few items that accents his uncluttered desk. Rosen said it was a thank-you gift from a South Korean attorney who spent a few months last year studying Santa Clara County's jury trial system. He also listed a $150 round of golf from Correction/Karpel Solutions.
Forrest Williams blasts council policy that he endorsed
NBC Bay Area's investigative unit recently tsk-tsked the San Jose City Council for buying tickets on the public dime to fundraiser galas and dance parties that benefit community organizations like the Happy Hollow Foundation, San Jose Museum of Art and Children's Musical Theater. And the investigative squad chose an interesting figure to deliver criticism of the practice: former San Jose Councilman Forrest Williams.
NBC noted that such fundraiser ticket buys are allowed under city policy. Left unsaid was that Williams voted for that policy.
Williams, who served on the council from 2000 through 2008 and then made a failed run at the Santa Clara County supervisorial seat that Mike Wasserman won, told NBC "there ought to be some basis to show what the benefits are" when council members spend public money on such fundraisers. Fair enough. Knowing Williams, we're pretty sure he didn't mean to suggest that Happy Hollow, the Children's Musical Theater and San Jose Museum of Art don't benefit San Jose council districts.
But NBC also reported that Williams disagrees with the city paying for a spouse to attend alongside council members. We went back to look at the records, just to make sure there was no ambiguity in the council expense policy that Williams lent his "aye" vote to on Sept. 11, 2007. We quote here the memorandum from the city clerk and attorney explaining the council member policy under consideration that day:
"The Policy would limit the number of admissions that can be purchased for a fundraising event (previously it was at the Member's discretion) and would also authorize purchase of admission for the elected official's spouse/partner or one staff member."
The council approved the policy without opposition, among a wave of reforms Mayor Chuck Reed urged when he took office in 2007. As the clerk and attorney noted, beforehand, there were "few detailed policies that specifically govern the elected officials' expenditures to carry out their representative and legislative duties."
Among Reed's gripes was the practice of council members keeping "officeholder accounts" in which they raised money from supporters and special interests to pay for their activities such as attending fundraisers. At Reed's urging, on Dec. 18, 2007, the council -- including Williams -- voted to eliminate those officeholder accounts and instead allowed officials to pay for fundraisers with the city's arena naming-rights or general funds.
Local Democrats give Chavez the nod over Alvarado
Labor leader Cindy Chavez clinched the sole endorsement of the Santa Clara County Democratic Party last week in the race to replace former Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr., giving her a boost in the heavily Democratic (52 percent) District 2 spanning San Jose's downtown and East Side.
Rival Teresa Alvarado, a Santa Clara Valley Water District manager and daughter of former District 2 Supervisor Blanca Alvarado, had wanted the local Democrats to endorse both her and Chavez, but Alvarado couldn't get the required two-thirds majority for a dual endorsement at the Dems' Thursday night meeting.
This was friendly turf for Chavez. The local Democratic Party has long enjoyed a cozy relationship with the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, where Chavez had served as executive officer, and Working Partnerships USA, its nonprofit think tank where she remains director.
The Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee chairman, Steve Preminger, works for Chavez at Working Partnerships as its union community resources program director. And Chavez is now the vice chair, a position she gained after Clark Williams moved to Los Angeles, at a speed that some party members told us surprised them.
Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by Scott Herhold, Tracy Seipel, John Woolfolk and Paul Rogers. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 408-975-9346.