AS SAN JOSE inches closer to picking a new mayor this November, the race between two candidates to replace outgoing Mayor Sam Liccardo is heating up.
San Jose Councilmember Matt Mahan and Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez are facing off for the seat. Mahan has secured the endorsement of Liccardo — and the political action committee he formed. Chavez gained the backing of labor unions, some business leaders and all of the San Jose City Council except for Mahan and Liccardo.
The high profile race has become one of the most expensive contests in recent Silicon Valley history. The four frontrunners had collectively raised more than $2.5 million within five months of campaigning before it was whittled down to two candidates after the June primary. San José Spotlight has been tracking the fundraising efforts — and spending — of these two campaigns.
In this guide, we’ll show how to make sense of the campaigns’ finances, who is funding the mayoral candidates and how they are spending money to sway voters.
What are the requirements?
All candidates running in San Jose elections must follow both state and local laws regulating campaign fundraising and report spending to the city clerk, who then makes the information public.
State laws require candidates to report their campaign finances through two documents, form 460 and form 497. Form 460 is an overview of a campaign’s activities during a specific period. Campaigns must file 460s four times during an election.
Form 497, also known as the 24-hour contribution report, documents contributions of at least $1,000. Campaigns are required to file these reports within 24 hours of receiving contributions in the last 90 days of the election.
San Jose also has a limit for how much an individual can contribute to a candidate’s campaign. Per city rules, an individual must cap their contribution at $1,400 per mayoral candidate.
Political action committees (PAC) — such as Common Good Silicon Valley and South Bay Labor Council — follow similar state laws requiring them to report fundraising efforts through forms 460 and 497. The committees are also required to report any spending over $1,000 within 24 hours through form 496.
PACs aren’t limited on how much they can raise — and spend — in elections, under local rules. Special interests collectively spent more than $1.5 million on Chavez and Mahan in the primary election.
Candidates and PACs can only fundraise within a specific timeframe. For the general election, that’s between June 8 and midnight of Nov. 7.
Where to find the reports
For San Jose races, all financial documents can be found on the city web portal, which is updated daily by the city clerk.
You can search the documents by candidate name, election, district or type of form. The portal also has an advanced search option to help narrow down the exact report you’re looking for.
The portal contains all local campaign records dating back to 2019.
Making sense of campaign finance statements
Form 460, also known as the campaign statement, can be confusing — and often long — but you can navigate it by understanding the different schedules in it.
The report is most helpful in providing an overall understanding of a campaign’s spending and contributions during a specific timeframe.
For the November election, campaigns are required to file the first round of statements by July 31. This round covered campaign activity in the month of June after the primary election. The next deadlines are Sept. 29, Oct. 27 and Nov. 7.
To find an overview of a campaign’s finances, look to page 3 of these reports. This page includes information such as the exact amount a campaign has received and spent, as well as the money it has on hand. These are items 5, 11 and 16 on the page.
Below is an example from Mahan’s latest campaign statement.
There are two important portions to pay attention to—Schedules A and E.
Under the finance statements, campaigns must also report information on its contributions—including date received, names, general addresses, occupations if applicable and amount contributed. This information is listed under Schedule A. Some candidates also report contribution refunds—if an individual accidentally gave more than the city’s limit of $1,400 for mayoral candidates—in this section.
Schedule A provides a glimpse into who is supporting a candidate. Here’s an example from Chavez’s campaign, with R-22 referring to runoff election and P-22 referring to primary election. Schedule A is usually the longest part in the report.
To track a campaign’s spending, check Schedule E. Campaigns must report all expenses made during the reporting period, including entities being paid, general addresses, type of services and amount paid. Campaigns must disclose the nature of expenses—such as fundraising events, professional services and campaign consultants—or describe the services.
These expenses can shed light on what a campaign is prioritizing and how aggressive a campaign is. Below is an example from Chavez’s campaign:
Other requirements under this statement:
- Schedule B shows if candidates loaned money to their campaigns — and how much.
- Schedule C reports all non-monetary services given to the campaign, such as food for events.
- Schedule F shows any unpaid bills more than $100 within the reporting period.
- Schedule G shows payments made by campaign consultants or contractors.
These steps are also applicable when tracking PAC activities. PAC 24-hour expense forms are known as form 496.
This form discloses whether a PAC is spending money to support or oppose a candidate and details expenses of at least $1,000. It also includes how much a PAC has collectively spent on a candidate. This is especially crucial to examine close to the election, as it often reveals how a PAC is boosting or attacking a campaign.
Below is a screenshot of the daily expense forms filed by local special interests five days before the June primary election:
Other things to know
Campaigns can make changes to their reports if they find errors in the initial filings. Those changes can found under forms 460-A, 496-A and 497-A.
To keep track of the election, the city has also published all the deadlines for campaigns under this calendar.
Contact Tran Nguyen at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.
This article is part of Local News Matters’ participation in Democracy Day: a nationwide initiative by all types of media to draw attention to the crisis facing American democracy and provide context and information to encourage public dialogue.