Taking a page from the script of “Friends,” Dave Cortese has resorted to the Ross Geller defense. The San Jose mayoral candidate returned a haul of campaign cash improperly collected shortly after the June primary, and he’s defended himself by stating that his campaign was on “a break.”
The San Jose Ethics Commission ruled last week that Cortese should return $9,825.
“[Cortese] told us that he intends on returning all contributions received before June 17, 2014,” the Sept. 2 report states. “[A]s of the date of this report, [he] has not provided evidence that he has actually returned the contributions.”
City code says that candidates for office can’t accept contributions until they file a Form 500, which states whether they’ll adhere to the voluntary expenditure limit. But Cortese didn’t file the paperwork until June 17, agreeing to the spending cap for the Nov. 4 election. (He later changed his mind, opting out of the $794,342.68 spending cap).
Cortese told the commission that 18 contributions received in early June were unsolicited and came while he “took a 10-day break from all campaign activities.”
Ragan Henninger, campaign manager for Cortese’s opponent, San Jose Councilman Sam Liccardo, called that a lame excuse for a lawyer, a Santa Clara County supervisor and someone who’s run for office a half-dozen times in Silicon Valley.
“It’s mindboggling that Cortese wouldn’t take the law more seriously—and that he thinks ‘taking a break’ is a reasonable excuse for ignoring it,” says Henninger, who filed the complaint with the Ethics Commission. “[He] chose to walk away from his responsibilities as a candidate for public office.”
The Cortese campaign dismissed the complaint as “blatantly political” and proof that Liccardo is “more interested in political gamesmanship than addressing the growing needs of San Jose residents.” All 18 donations were returned, says Cortese spokesman Vince Rocha, adding that the commission voted unanimously not to issue a reprimand or fine because there were extenuating circumstances.
Correction: A previous version of this story had an inaccurate headline. San Jose Inside regrets the error.