Election workers at the Santa Clara County Registar of Voters
The Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters has been receiving checks from a new super PAC, Count the Vote, to help fund the highly scrutinized Congressional District 16 recount. Photo by Jana Kadah.

A new political action committee was formed to pay for a recount of the contentious Congressional District 16 race, further obscuring who is actually funding the effort.

The Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters has been receiving checks from Count the Vote, an independent expenditure committee, or super PAC, to help fund the highly scrutinized recount, as first reported by NBC Bay Area. The super PAC formed on April 9 and has sent eight checks for $12,000 each to Santa Clara County, to cover recount efforts through April 24. San Mateo County’s Registrar of Voters is receiving checks for $5,000 daily.

The committee won’t have to publicize its donors or expenses until July 15, which is the Federal Election Commission’s mandatory quarterly filing date for PACs.

Photo copy of two checks with letterhead for "Count the Vote" at 150 Post Street, Suite 405, San Francisco, CA 94108. The check is for $12,000 each and paid to the County of Santa Clara, labeled for "CD16 4/23 Recount Deposit"
A check from super PAC Count the Vote received by Santa Clara County to pay for the Congressional District 16 recount, with the signature and check number redacted. Screenshot.

The super PAC lists James Sutton of Rutan & Tucker, LLP as its treasurer. Another attorney from the firm, Matthew Alvarez, serves as treasurer for “Neighbors for Results,” a separate PAC supporting former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo throughout the race. Jonathan Padilla, who previously worked on Liccardo’s mayoral campaign and is primarily paying for the effort, has also authorized Sutton to act on his behalf.

Orrin Evans, a spokesperson for Liccardo’s campaign, said the candidate supported ensuring the vote count’s accuracy. He did not respond to questions about the super PAC or recount’s funding.

“At a time when our democracy is under attack, it is deeply troubling that someone would try and stop the democratic process,” Evans told San José Spotlight. “There are over 100 uncounted ballots. Count every vote.”

In March, Liccardo led the primary with 38,489 votes or 22.13%. Assemblymember Evan Low and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian tied for second, each with 30,249 votes or 16.6%. All three would have appeared on the November ballot, but two people requested a recount, which threatens to knock out one of the candidates if the tally changes.

The machine recount will take more than a week to complete, according to election officials, who started their efforts Monday. The cost for an eight-day recount in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties combined would be $136,000.

On his request form, Padilla said he was requesting the recount on behalf of Low’s campaign. Low has pushed back, saying he had nothing to do with Padilla’s request and demanding Liccardo make his support of the recount clear. Low’s spokesperson Clay Volino doubled down in a statement Wednesday morning.

“Sam desperately wants to avoid a three-way race and the public deserves to know what was offered to the PAC or its secret donors in return for funding this recount,” Volino said. “We also don’t know what he promised his former staffer in return for calling for the recount.”

Eshoo had previously told San José Spotlight that her congressional district deserved to know the truth and called for the recount funders to be transparent in their actions.

Simitian said this raises concerns about money in politics where the spender is untraceable.

“There’s no way to know who is behind this effort or what their motives are,” he told San José Spotlight. “That’s why campaign finance reform has to be high on the congressional agenda.”

Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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