The Mercury News

BLUPAC: Why not reveal the donors?

- Contact Scott Herhold at sherhold@ bayareanew­

As the field coordinato­r for the Santa Clara Youth Soccer League, Burt Field has a name that fits his avocation. Like a lot of people in town, he has been drawn into politics as a critic of the San Francisco 49ers and what he sees as their influence at City Hall.

Last October, Field sat down and wrote a letter to the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission, asking that the state investigat­e a San Francisco-based nonprofit known as BLUPAC, which some people tried to link to the 49ers in last fall’s election.

Against the odds, it appears his missive avoided the circular file. I’ve been able to confirm from the FPPC that it has an open investigat­ion into BLUPAC. I couldn’t get BLUPAC to comment. But if the state watchdog follows through, we may solve a lingering puzzle.

The question is this: Did BLUPAC serve as a funnel for the 49ers and possibly others to give money to politician­s who might have been friendly to the team — as well as to attack candidates who were critical? What happens if you shine a light on so-called dark money?

The FPPC, of course, gets dozens of such complaints every election cycle. BLUPAC’s spending last year of $49,300 in Santa Clara races — through a group called Citizens for Economic Council — was just under the $50,000 threshold that the agency ordinarily applies to such cases before investigat­ing.

Nonetheles­s, Field nurtures hope that his letter will have effect: “We wanted to find out who was behind it ’’ he told me. “We’re tired of people who hide behind doors and make deals. I think there’s a lot of people very interested in what’s coming out of this.’’

For good reason: BLUPAC’s website ( is a breathtaki­ng effort in hypocrisy. Saying that BLUPAC “intends to educate citizens on public issues and public officials,’’ the site promises to increase transparen­cy in government and ethical decision-making.

One of the oldest dictums in politics is to follow the money. BLUPAC was set up precisely to stymie that quest. While it reported expenditur­es, it hid its donors.

It’s time for the charade to end. We need more urgency from the FPPC. In a city the size of Santa Clara, $50,000 is no small amount. If the 49ers were involved in local races, it’s worth knowing how deeply. Top 49er executives, including Jed York, have given openly to Santa Clara candidate campaigns in the past.

The 49ers have refused to comment when asked directly if the team gave to BLUPAC. Last fall, the team said it would not respond to “unsubstant­iated rumors that support the personal agendas of local politician­s.’’

I consider myself a connoisseu­r of denials, and that particular statement sounds almost like a backhanded confirmati­on. If the 49ers had

not given to BLUPAC, why not say so?

Of course, a finding that the 49ers contribute­d heavily in council races would benefit Mayor Lisa Gillmor, who has been critical of the team ever since a soccerpark fiasco that involved Burt Field’s youth soccer league.

Mostly, it would help clear the air, which is always good for the goals that BLUPAC claims to represent — transparen­cy in government and ethical decision-making.

Santa Clara City Clerk Rod Diridon Jr. took the first shot at piercing the BLUPAC shell recently when he fined the nonprofit $8,380 for the late filing of various campaign statements with the city.

Diridon’s complaint was essentiall­y procedural: But the clerk also hinted at more serious problems with what he called “the vague ‘dark money’ area.’’

Let’s hope the FPPC can make things less vague. BLUPAC has cast a stench over Santa Clara for too long. As always, disclosure is the best disinfecta­nt.


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