Aaron Persky, the Santa Clara County judge facing a recall measure next year in the wake of his controversial sentencing of former Stanford University student Brock Turner, has hired a political consultant who worked as the Arizona state director for Donald Trump's presidential campaign.
A financial disclosure form filed Monday by Persky's retain campaign shows payments totaling $30,000 to Phoenix-based RDP Strategies, owned by Brian Seitchik. Under Seitchik's direction, Trump won Arizona, taking 48 percent of the votes. Seitchik has also worked as communications director for the California Republican Party and former Congressman Dan Lungren's chief of staff.
Seitchik and Persky did not immediately return requests for comment.
Persky and his opposition, the Recall Persky Campaign, have been fundraising over the last several months as they gear up for the recall vote, which is set to come before Santa Clara County voters next June. The recall campaign, led by Stanford University law professor Michele Dauber, is working to unseat a judge she argues has shown a pattern of bias against victims of sexual violence and defendants of color. Dauber launched the effort after Persky sentenced Turner to six months in county jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman on Stanford's campus in 2015, sparking widespread outrage.
Persky has not spoken publicly since his sentencing of Turner last summer, save in campaign statements. He recently defended his role as a judge to "consider rehabilitation and probation for first-time offenders" and follow the law "without regard to public opinion or my opinions as a former prosecutor."
Persky has so far raised $63,910 this calendar year, according to his campaign filing, compared to the recall campaign's $120,624. The recall effort has raised a total of $444,000 since 2016, according to Dauber.
Persky raised $64,618 in 2016, his disclosure forms show.
In the most recent filing period, which covers March through June of this year, Persky received $18,812 in contributions, while the recall effort recorded $59,643 in donations for the same period.
Financial support for Persky's campaign has come almost exclusively from attorneys and judges up and down the state. Local donors include Kipp Davis, a Mountain View attorney with the Santa Clara County Public Defender Office ($250), and Lynne Lampros, deputy town attorney for the town of Los Gatos ($100).
Mark Geragos, a criminal defense lawyer who has represented clients like Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder and Scott Peterson, raised about $1,000 for Persky at an event, according to the campaign filing.
Persky has spent about $73,000 so far — the bulk of it going to Seitchik — with about $42,000 left in his campaign coffers.
Earlier this year, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen endorsed Persky, but the financial disclosure form does not show he has made any financial contributions.
The recall campaign has drawn financial support from a range of sources, its disclosure forms show. Engineers, attorneys, educators, CEOs and even a chef from Burlingame have donated.
Local donors include former Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt, who has donated $400; Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education Member Jennifer DiBrienza, who gave $100; and Cindy Hendrickson, a prosecutor in the county District Attorney's Office who has said she plans to run for Persky's seat, who gave $100.
Other notable contributors include David Glick, the vice president of Amazon ($100); Casey Gwinn, president of the Alliance for HOPE International, which supports sexual-violence survivors and their children ($50); author Jon Krakauer, who wrote "Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town" and attended a Palo Alto fundraiser for the recall campaign this spring ($100); Off the Sidelines, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's women's advocacy campaign ($1,000).
The recall campaign's largest donation this period came from Satish Dharmraj, a venture capitalist with Redpoint Ventures who gave $5,000, according to the filing.
Dauber has loaned the campaign $1,147 to date this calendar year.
The bulk of the $64,300 in expenditures by or on behalf of the recall campaign this calendar year went toward mailers and signature-gathering efforts.
The campaign received $8,050 in non-monetary contributions from the Progressive Women Silicon Valley State PAC for mailers and also $14,685 for signature gathering.
The Committee to Recall Judge Persky has also paid three Los Angeles organizations for mailers, including $2,513 to the Council of Concerned Woman Voters, $2,553 to the Coalition for Senior Citizen Security and $1,033 to Our Voice Latino Voter Guide, according to the disclosure form.
The recall effort has also hired Sacramento-based Deane & Company for its political reporting and treasury services, with payments to date of about $9,700.
The Committee to Recall Judge Persky has also paid Joe Trippi, a campaign consultant who has worked on several Democratic presidential campaigns, $1,370, according to the disclosure form. The campaign has an outstanding balance for Trippi of $6,312.
The recall campaign still has a balance of $353,726.
Gathering the 58,634 voter signatures required to put the measure on the June 2018 ballot is the recall campaign's next step. Dauber told the Weekly Thursday that the campaign is awaiting county approval for an official petition that will be circulated to voters, with 300 volunteers signed up and a prominent Democratic petition-management firm, PCI Consultants, hired to help with the effort. The campaign paid the firm $10,314 during this reporting period.
"We have an entire operation that's scaled up both on the paid side and the volunteer side that is literally ready to walk out the door and start gathering signatures the minute the county gives us permission," Dauber said.
The campaign will have 160 days to gather the required number of signatures.