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A new federal elections complaint has been filed against former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo claiming the super PAC behind the Congressional District 16 recount, known as Count the Vote, implausibly claimed no connection with his campaign.

A new federal elections complaint accuses congressional candidate and former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo of hiding his affiliation with a super PAC that paid for a controversial recount that narrowed his competition in the November runoff.

The complaint filed by Bay Area attorney Brian O’Grady says the super PAC behind the recount — known as Count the Vote — implausibly claimed no connection with the Liccardo campaign in required filings with the Federal Election Commission. But recent filings show it had been receiving payments from a pro-Liccardo PAC known as Neighbors for Results, as Count the Vote was paying county elections officials for the recount.

“Since the recount first began, there were indications that Sam Liccardo and his wealthy and well-connected allies were behind the recount effort,” O’Grady’s complaint reads. “But Mr. Liccardo attempted to deny that fact, apparently fearing the negative publicity that would come from funding a recount in order to avoid a three-way race in the November general election.”

Representatives with Liccardo’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Congressional District 16 recount of more than 182,000 votes broke a tie between candidates Assemblymember Evan Low and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian in the March primary, with Simitian being knocked off the final tally.

The complaint states all political committees such as Count the Vote are required to list their “affiliates” when registering with the FEC.

“It may not have wanted to do so in order to hide the connections between Liccardo and the recount, but there was a clear legal obligation and the Commission should immediately investigate this matter and take all appropriate action,” the complaint reads.

A news release from Low’s campaign said the complaint raises serious questions for Liccardo and his allies. It questions what Liccardo and his campaign knew about the requested recount and why Neighbors for Results decided to fund the recount without being upfront about its involvement.

The complete list of funders behind the recount have remained a mystery. As a quarterly filer, Count the Vote won’t have to release its full campaign finance disclosures until July. But as a monthly filer, Neighbors for Results has disclosed its own role early – peeling the curtain back on who’s been funding the recount.

Neighbors for Results, which former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg infused with $500,000 in February, paid $102,000 to Count the Vote between April 12-17. Neighbors for Results spent nearly $458,000 in support of Liccardo between January and March, according to federal elections data.

“Transfers from Neighbors for Results to Count the Vote line up almost precisely with Count the Vote’s payment of recount expenses to Santa Clara and San Mateo counties made through April 18,” O’Grady’s complaint reads.

Liccardo currently faces another FEC complaint filed in April from Max Zarzana, a 25-year prosecutor and president of the Santa Clara County Government Attorneys Association.

Zarzana’s complaint accused Liccardo’s campaign of engaging in a “secret scheme to illegally coordinate with a newly-formed dark money Super PAC to do his CD-16 recount bidding.” He said the move is in line with the former mayor’s “past anti-transparent behavior.” Liccardo has denied any involvement in the recount.

“In light of these new facts, the Commission should investigate whether such coordination occurred and therefore whether the recount expenditures made by Count the Vote constituted prohibited in-kind contributions to the Liccardo campaign,” O’Grady’s complaint reads.

Contact Brandon Pho at [email protected] or @brandonphooo on X, formerly known as Twitter.

FEC Complaint Against Count the Vote - 05222024
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