Xavier Campos has made the predictable shift from councilman to “facilitating relationships” for Ford & Bonilla, a lobbying and consulting firm with extensive ties to the Campos family. The hire was announced Tuesday on Facebook, and Campos will take over the role of “director of government strategy.”
Ryan Ford, a principal for the firm, told San Jose Inside that Campos will not be a lobbyist by definition, but he was hired because of extensive connections built up during his time as a San Jose council member, county staffer and city planning commissioner.
“His best assets are the relationships he’s formed over the course of his career,” Ford said. “He’s a very personable guy and I think the ability to open up those relationships to create business opportunities throughout California makes him a huge asset.”
That’s pretty much sums up the qualifications needed to be a lobbyist—a person who can a get a foot in the door, bend an ear, slap the back; policy expertise would be a bonus—but due to the city’s revolving door ordinance Campos is forbidden from lobbying City Hall for the next year. This means he will act as a recruiter for new clients while also being deployed to contact other government entities. Working with his sister, Assemblywoman Nora Campos, doesn’t sound like it will be one of his duties.
“While Nora is a big client of ours in terms of her political office and her political status, I wouldn’t characterize that as a big part of our business, helping elected officials or political candidates,” Ford said.
Ford and Rolando Bonilla, also a firm principal, went through a similar “hands off” period at City Hall after working in Nora Campos’ office during her time as a council member. They have since acted as advisers to the assemblywoman wile picking up clients such as the Alum Rock Union School District, the city of Soledad and Target.
Bounced out of office after just one term, Xavier Campos’ political career has been peppered with investigations into illegal activity. Before taking office, he was connected to the theft of teacher retirement funds at the nonprofit charter school organization MACSA. Prosecutors decided not to charge him, noting that “mere knowledge of a crime” does not always warrant charges.
He was then linked to George Shirakawa Jr.’s misuse of county funds for frequent dinners. When Shirakawa was later booked for creating a campaign slush fund, Campos again found himself in the District Attorney’s crosshairs. Prosecutors tied Shirakawa’s DNA to a fraudulent political mailer that helped Campos win his first council race in 2010. Campos invoked the Fifth Amendment at a grand jury hearing looking into the matter, and transcripts from that hearing suggest his campaign, as well as his sister, may have funded the illegal hit piece.
Late last year, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) fined Campos $5,500 because his 2010 campaign could not provide receipts for a $10,000 personal loan, as well as invoices or receipts for nearly $40,000 in expenditures.
Asked if he had any concerns about Campos frequent connections to illegal or questionable behavior, Ford said he and Bonilla “have no concerns about Xavier’s character.”
It’s probably worth noting that Campos’ career shift to lobbyist mirrors a move Shirakawa made after terming out of the San Jose council.