Friday, April 13, 2012

[UPDATE] Swalwell Threatens Legal Action Over Stark's Charge Of Bribery

April 13, 2012 | Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell's campaign said Friday they are mulling legal action after Rep. Pete Stark repeatedly charged him this week with bribery over a controversial rezoning deal last fall approved by the first-term council member.

“This accusation is completely false and without merit, and Congressman Stark knows it,” said Swalwell, in a statement released Friday morning. On Wednesday, the campaign had given Stark 24 hours to apologize, but the long-time congressman did not respond.
"The Swalwell campaign is weighing its legal options to ensure that Congressman Stark stops this malicious act of defamation," said Lisa Tucker, Swalwell's campaign consultant.

“Congressman Stark’s actions Tuesday night are the latest in a string of offensive and obscene comments that have gained in frequency over the last few years,” Tucker said. “Accusing Eric of bribery is over the line.”

Stark's assertion revolves around various land and rezoning deals involving Charter Properties, which is run by one of the Tri Valley's largest land owners, the Lin Family. When it comes to the criminal act of bribery, it may be hard for Stark to prove any transaction is nothing more than politics as usual or something more malicious. On Tuesday, Stark charged Swalwell with accepting "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in exchange for a deal last year that rezoned open space in Dublin purchased on the cheap by the Lin's into far more valuable commercial property.

Just hours after the contentious 90-minute forum Tuesday night in Hayward, Swalwell said Stark's allegations were "so outlandish that I don't think they dignify a response. He's saying these things out of desperation. This is what you do when you're losing grip of the seat you've held for 40 years."

The notion that a Tri Valley public official may be beholden to rich private developers is not necessarily a rarity in places like Dublin and Pleasanton, which are known to be friendly spots for developers to do business.

The Lin's are also known to be prodigious bundlers of campaign contributions for many Tri Valley elected officials, says Johh Zukoski, a long-time blogger at AroundDublinBlog.com, who has followed the rise of developers in that city. "They are there for the developers," he said of many public officials in town. "So it's not a surprise that they are beholden to them."

In addition, said Zukoski, the act of commingling political contributions makes it difficult to ascertain exactly who and where the donations come from. Stark may disagree. Aside from Stark dropping the f-bomb on Swalwell as they shook hands, video of the conclusion of Tuesday's forum also captured Stark telling him, "...because once you file your financial reports, people will know that you're a crook."

UPDATE: After a town hall meeting in Alameda last Saturday, Stark dismissed a potential threat by Swalwell to sue him for defamation. "I don't pay attention to it," said Stark as he walked into a burger joint with his two children.


  1. I'm looking forward to Swalwell defeating Stark and watching all the local Dems jump on his side because of it. Where are they now?

    As for charges...what does that solve...Stark will get a slap on the wrist and won't hurt his image at all. He's said far worse that never went to court, so I doubt this even will.

  2. By MW:

    A politician who is accused of being a crook and/or of taking bribes should not get mad or upset and/or threaten to sue, but instead should take it as a compliment and also pay a huge public relations fee to the person who made the accusation.

    More specifically, at least virtually all of the major sources of large election campaign contributions assume, and totally corrrectly, that the overwhelming majority of politicians are crooks and who will therefore sing and dance to whatever tune is sung by those who give them money.

    So therefore any politician who was successful in proving he was honest and not a crook would almost certainly be seen as an extreme danger to the big boys, and therefore the major sources of large election campaign contributions would not only refuse to provide much in the way of election campaign conttributons to Mr. Honest, but would also give even far more in large election campaign contributions to his opponent, and therefore almost guaranteeing that Mr. Honest, and therefore extremely dangerous, would lose the election.

  3. Swalwell, as a lawyer, should know he has no way to win a case - in Sullivan v New York Times, the Supreme Court outlined a 3 part malice test for libel/slander. The SC defined the test as 1. Private Figure - run of the mill people - much easier to prove libel or slander, 2. Limited Purpose Public Figure - people who seek publicity in a limited form like an actor or public relations person then 3. Full Purpose Public Figure (those holding or running for public office and have sought publicity repeatedly) - it is very very difficult to prove malice - Sullivan in the case was a sheriff in the deep south during the civil rights move - the court said that because he ran for office, succeeded in being elected, the New York Times could say that he participated in violent attacks on civil rights leaders (which was true) - he could not prove that the NYT slandered him.

    If Eric doesn't know this, I would suggest he go back to law school but then again if he wants to blow his money on a case he could never win it is fine with me.