FEC complaint alleges Liccardo illegally paid for Congressional District 16 recount

SAN JOSE – A Federal Election Commission complaint filed Friday against Silicon Valley congressional candidate Sam Liccardo alleges he illegally paid for a recount as part of an effort to avoid a three-way race with rivals Joe Simitian and Evan Low.

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Assemblymember Evan Low tried to halt Congressional District 16 recount

The complaint says former Liccardo staff member and confidant Jonathan Padilla filed for the recount on April 9, a day after a poll showed the former San Jose mayor was vulnerable if pitted against Simitian and Low in the November general election.

In the March 5 primary election for California’s 16th Congressional District, Liccardo received 38,489 votes, while Simitian and Low each received 30,249 votes.

The tie set the stage for all three candidates to appear on the November ballot. But the recount effort has uncovered 20 ballots that were excluded from the original count, a development that could swing the results and pare the field down to two candidates.

To pay for the recount, Padilla improperly used nearly $100,000 in funds from the Count the Vote PAC, which was also formed on April 9, according to the complaint.

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“There is reason to believe that CTV PAC’s disbursements for the recount are ‘expenditures’ because they were made for the express purpose of influencing the outcome of a federal election,” the complaint says, “and further, that they were made in cooperation with or at the request or suggestion of Mr. Liccardo, the Liccardo campaign, or both.”

The complaint says a recount is ordinarily an expense that would be paid for by a campaign, but Liccardo wanted to “avoid negative attention by personally calling for a recount.” Neither Simitian nor Low has asked for a recount, according to the complaint.

The CTV PAC also allowed Liccardo to skirt contribution limits, according to the complaint.

Liccardo spokesperson Orrin Evans did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Santa Clara County Government Attorneys Association President Max Zarzana filed the complaint.

“No reasonable person would believe that Sam’s close, personal friend and former staffer, Jonathan Padilla, went to all of this trouble because he loves democracy,” Zarzana said in a statement. “Who is paying for this recount and what’s in it for them?”

The complaint calls on the FEC to investigate the allegations and fine Liccardo and others involved in the recount effort the “maximum amount permitted by law.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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