CONGRESS 15April 11, 2012 | At the conclusion of Tuesday's night contentious candidates forum for the 15th Congressional District, Rep. Pete Stark and Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell appeared to have shaken hands and exchanged pleasantries, however sources who overheard the conservation say Stark levied a barrage of expletives at his Democratic opponent.
Stark, still seated at the dais at the Hayward City Council chambers, reportedly called Swalwell a "fucking crook" as they shook hands.
When contacted later by phone, Swalwell confirmed the exchange with The Citizen while adding Stark also called him a "slimeball" and told him "you're going to jail." Swalwell called the comments "undignified behavior by a member of Congress." Stark could not be reached for comment at this late hour.
The comments were certainly provoked by a highly caustic hour-long forum where the long-time congressman lobbed a number of bombshells aimed at Swalwell's record. The specific incident involved a charge made by Stark alleging Swalwell accepted "bribes" from the family of a powerful Dublin developer in exchange for preferential zoning considerations. Swalwell was elected to the Dublin City Council in 2010.
Stark said "hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes" were given to Swalwell by the Lin family in Dublin. "If I were a lawyer, I would call that bribery, but I'm not a lawyer," said Stark, "so I'll let Mr. Swalwell define what he thinks taking all this money from people that he gave special zoning privileges to is. Maybe it's how he sees his role in government."
Stark said he has never been accused in 40 years of public service of taking money in return for his vote. "Granted, I've taking money from all sorts of people who want to support my campaign and physicians," he added.
"We'll find out if he can be accused and charged with accepting bribes," said Stark before being stopped by the moderator, former San Leandro mayor Shelia Young. It was the second time Stark was admonished for lodging personal attacks on his opponents during the forum. Stark's line of questioning illicited unfavorable reactions from a few conservative audience members.
"As far as I know, I have not accepted any bribes" said Swalwell in response to Stark's comments. "I don't know what Congressman Stark is talking about. Maybe the F.B.I. is waiting for me outside," he joked.
The bribery charge was not the only allegation hurled by Stark at his 31-year-old Democratic challenger. Stark also charged him with not having voted in the past six California elections. Earlier in the forum, Stark resorted to name-calling when he called Swalwell a "pipsqueak" and a "junior leaguer."
On the voting record allegation, Swalwell said he didn't know what Stark is talking about, but he looks forward to refuting Stark's claim. When asked about Swalwell's response to the voting charge, Stark simply said, "bullshit."
Independent candidate Chris Pareja, who emerged unscathed from the Stark-Swalwell knife fight, said the representative's attacks were "vintage Pete" and questioned Swalwell's showing Tuesday night. "It was the same thing from Eric," Pareja said later. "It's just some more 'Pete's not showing up for work' and more rehashing of Pete's ideas."