A recent Spotlight article links me to political attack ads by groups, such as the Realtors PAC and the Small Biz PAC against Cindy Chavez, through mail, texts, and social media posts that I did not create, did not know about, did not fund, did not fundraise for, and did not authorize, explicitly or implicitly. Nor did anyone else at my direction or suggestion do any of those things.
The purported link to me? At the bottom of the ads, the communication is described as being “paid for” or “funded by” Solutions Silicon Valley (SSV).
What’s SSV? A couple of years ago, I led a group to create SSV as a nonprofit organization to bring people together and to work to find solutions to our region’s challenges, such as our housing shortage. It has no legal authority to engage directly in political campaigns. I have been very public about my founding role in the organization. Since I formed the organization, however, I have stepped away from any role in directing the organization's activities, and I do not serve on the organization’s board.
I have inquired about SSV’s sponsorship, and I have been informed by Jim Reed — who manages SSV–that SSV contributed no funding to support those campaign ads, did not create them, did not fundraise to support them, and had no direct role in their creation.
So, why do the ads list that they are “paid for” by SSV? We’re told state law requires other groups to list SSV as a “donor” because it is a parent organization to an independent expenditure organization/PAC, Common Good Silicon Valley. To be clear, Common Good Silicon Valley did not contribute funding for the creation of any of those ads, either. However, several months ago, Common Good Silicon Valley did share poll results with several of these PACs. Since that polling data has some financial value, the sharing of that data makes SSV a “sponsor.” That’s the entire reason why the law requires those groups to list SSV as a major donor; that is, there is no other connection between those ads and either SSV or Common Good Silicon Valley.
Similarly, although I fundraise for Common Good Silicon Valley PAC, I have no role on the board, nor in decision-making regarding its message content or strategy. (This is not unusual; I similarly fundraise for other non-profit organizations over which I exercise no control).
I urge a change to the poorly-drafted portions of the state statute that ultimately result in misleading the public about the true source of funding for political communications like these.