The California Fair Political Practices Commission decided this week to investigate Assemblyman Kansen Chu (D-San Jose) for potentially violating campaign finance laws, according to a letter obtained by San Jose Inside.
The complaint, which was submitted in July by former Assemblyman Paul Fong, Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility President Pat Waite, former Milpitas Vice Mayor Marsha Grilli and Mike Serrone, accuses Chu of using his former campaign bank account to circumvent to help fund his Santa Clara County supervisor campaign.
Chu surprised local politicos during the primary when he decided not to run for re-election and instead seek a seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.
But the board has a donation limit of $1,000—which is much less than the maximum allowed donation of $4,700 for state assembly campaigns.
In the sworn complaint, Fong, Waite, Grilli and Serrone allege that between May 2019 and February 2020, Chu accepted 185 donations to his assembly campaign that were greater than the $1,000 limit for a supervisor campaign.
During that same period of time, Chu spent $176,436.782 from his assembly re-election account. Some of that money went towards more than $33,000 in printing fees for cards that the complainants’ claim was sent inside Santa Clara County District 3, but outside of his Assembly District 25.
“This distinction allowed him to skirt fundraising restrictions and send misleading mailers to people outside of his assembly district,” the complainants argued.
But Chu told San Jose Inside that the cards were meant to provide Spanish-speaking residents with information about the Covid-19 as many parts of East San Jose have been hit the hardest by the virus.
“It did not mention anything about any campaign,” Chu said about the mailer. “To me, it was strictly a public service…They mistakenly put in a website I think it was my campaign website on that flier so I didn’t catch it.”
The group also argues that Chu underreported certain expense information and failed to disclose key information that are required by the state’s Political Reform Act.
“Chu and his wife, Daisy, repeatedly underreported travel, food and miscellaneous expenses for their own gain—with five instances of incorrectly reporting travel expenses in 2018 and 22 instances of underreported reimbursements between Chu’s campaigns and his wife Daisy, totaling $6,979.13,” the complaint said.
Chu said he believes that the group that filed the complaint is “trying to throw all of this on the fence and see what sh*t sticks.”
In a statement to San Jose Inside, Fong said that he thinks the FPPC made the right decision in deciding to investigate.
“Accountability and transparency are precious tools to keep our elected leaders honest and in service to the community, not themselves,” he said. “I am certain that Mr. Chu will attempt to make this a political thing, but that is merely his dismissive redirection at his own mistakes because he thinks he is above the rules. I applaud the FPPC for their work, and look forward to the results of this investigation.”
Chu said he will cooperate with the FPPC’s investigation.
Chu faces former Sunnyvale Mayor Otto Lee in the general election.