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.