State officials declined to investigate a complaint by the California Apartment Association alleging that four Mountain View City Council candidates may have worked on an election flyer in violation of campaign finance laws.
In a brief letter on Oct. 7, officials from the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) said the complaint filed by Joshua Howard, executive vice president of government affairs for the apartment association, did not have enough evidence of wrongdoing to warrant further investigation. No enforcement action will be taken in the matter, according to Galena West, chief of the FPPC's enforcement division.
The flyer in question, sent to apartment complexes in late September, argued that a slate of candidates for the Mountain View City Council -- Lenny Siegel, John Lashlee, Alex Nunez and Sally Lieber -- may be supportive of renter-friendly policies. It also recommended that the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley may be a valuable resource for those facing eviction during COVID-19.
Howard, in a Sept. 29 complaint to the FPPC, alleged that the letter may be evidence that the council candidates were working with one another to distribute election materials without complying with state election law. He said the flyer fails to state that it was not authorized by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate. The complaint goes on to suggest that the Law Foundation may be involved as well, using the flyer as a solicitation for services it provides.
Howard said in a statement that he respects the FPPC's decision, but maintains that it was murky whether the flyer complied with state campaign finance rules.
"At best, it was unclear if the flyer and its delivery violated any campaign finance rules," he said. "The FPPC’s review was important to determining if any rules were violated."
Mountain View resident Gary Wesley, who created the flyers, maintains that he acted alone, and that he has a right to express his views under the First Amendment. He spent less than $100 on the effort, well below the reporting threshold. He said the FPPC is discarding the complaint because it was frivolous, and that no law had been violated.
Lashlee, one of the candidates targeted in the complaint, said in an email Wednesday that the complaint speaks poorly of Howard's intentions, and that he believes it was an attempt by corporate landlords to target candidates favorable to renters in the city.
All four of the candidates mentioned in the flyer say they believe the apartment association's complaint amounted to a political tactic in order to vilify vocal supporters of rent control. The Law Foundation of Silicon Valley did not respond to requests for comment.