News

Palo Alto vice mayor says she didn't break campaign-finance law

Kniss's campaign didn't disclose developers' October contributions until after election

Weeks before Election Day, incumbent Palo Alto City Council candidate Liz Kniss pivoted from her campaign's earlier policy when she decided to accept cash from more than a dozen builders, developers and property managers contributions that weren't disclosed until earlier this month.

At least one of those checks exceeded $1,000 and was made prior to Nov. 8, which means, under the Political Reform Act, it should have been disclosed to the public within 24 hours. The reason it was not logged until after Nov. 18, according to Kniss' campaign, is because treasurer Tom Collins had surgery in early November.

The Weekly learned last week that several of the 31 donors who were listed on Kniss' Jan. 11 campaign filing actually made their contributions in the weeks before the Nov. 8 election. The late contributions totaled $19,340, and the list of developers and property managers includes among others Charles Keenan, Jim Baer, Premier Properties and employees of Keenan Land Company.

The California Association of Realtors indicated in its own filing that it made a $2,500 contribution on Oct. 18. It's unclear whether the other donations of more than $1,000 from the Thoits Brothers, Hatco Associates LLC (which is affiliated with Thoits), Palo Alto Improvement Company (also affiliated with Thoits) and Joseph Martignetti Jr. were sent in before Election Day.

In response to the Weekly's questions about the contributions, Kniss' campaign sought an opinion from the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), which administers the Political Reform Act, as to whether it violated the law. Last week, Collins called the FPPC advice hotline and then documented his inquiry in an email to the advice staff.

"I told her (the FPPC advice hotline employee) that after Oct. 22 deadline for reporting, I did not open any mail until Nov. 15," Collins wrote in the email.

"I was doing reports for two campaigns during the next week and then had to go to Stanford Hospital for surgery and rehab at Webster House for the next 10 days," Collins wrote. "Once at home, I began posting contributions.

"The contribution in question, $2,500, was not shown on a Form 497 because it was not opened, posted or deposited until Nov. 18 well after the election date of Nov. 8."

But while Collins said he didn't open any mail between Oct. 22 and Nov. 15, the campaign's January filing shows several smaller contributions that were received and logged during that gap. These include $50 from from attorney Hal Mickelson; $250 from Martha Kanter, former U.S. undersecretary of education; $750 from retired developer William Reller and $250 from entrepreneur Josh Becker. All were received by the campaign between Oct. 26 and Oct. 30, according to the filing.

In response, the FPPC advice hotline staff wrote in an email to Collins that because he, as treasurer, "had not opened the ($2,500) contribution, the contribution is not considered 'received.'"

Kniss has not said when the California Association of Realtors' California Real Estate Political Action Committee (CREPAC) check was delivered to her campaign, but she noted in an email that the group also had not notified her the check had been mailed.

The issue of large contributions calls into question the FPPC advice line's interpretation of "date received." While the law says nothing about the date when the envelope is actually opened, the advice line response implies that an envelope could be delivered but left unopened until after the election and thus the contribution would not be reported.

FPPC regulations define "date received" as the date that "the candidate or committee, or the agent of the candidate or committee, obtains possession or control of the check or other negotiable instrument by which the contribution is made."

In an interview with the Weekly last week, Kniss maintained that the campaign has been "totally straight-forward" about the contributions from developers.

"We didn't hide anything," she said.

Jay Wierenga, the FPPC's communications director, told the Weekly that the advice email cited by Kniss is different from the types of determinations made by the agency's Enforcement Division.

"We offer advice based on the information given to us," Wierenga said in an email. "The only finder of fact within the FPPC is the Enforcement Division, which investigates complaints and/or any potential violation of the Act on which it becomes aware of information of a potential violation or receives a complaint with enough evidence to indicate a potential violation."

Kniss last week also initially said that she had decided to accept developers' checks only after the election, when her campaign was about $20,000 in debt. After the Weekly told her that several developers had indicated that they had given her money before the election, she said she didn't know when the checks were issued.

Besides raising the question of when contributions were received, the January filing didn't disclose the occupation of any of the developers who had contributed to the campaign. For all but three contributions reportedly received on Nov. 18 or later, the contributor's occupation is listed as "unknown." (Baer, who is one of the exceptions, is listed on the form as a "VC Consultant").

Kniss' decision to accept the developer cash was a departure from her earlier campaign policy. In August, developer Boyd Smith contributed $1,000 to her campaign. According to her campaign disclosures, Kniss returned the check two weeks later.

Kniss told the Weekly that she decided to start accepting contributions from developers, builders and property managers after seeing a large infusion of cash into the campaigns of two of her political opponents. Candidates Lydia Kou and Arthur Keller each raised more than $90,000 for their respective campaigns, with about $73,000 coming in from five local families in late October.

Kniss also told the Weekly that she had initially hesitated in accepting contributions because of negative perceptions from the community, including insinuations that members who accept these funds are "in the developer's pocket." Kniss pointed to her personal record as proof that developers do not get special attention.

Since re-joining the council in 2012, Kniss has had a moderate record when it comes to growth. She joined 5-4 majorities in approving a block-long development on El Camino Real (former site of the Olive Garden) last year and in giving the green light to a three-story mixed-use building at 441 Page Mill Road in 2015. But she also supported the adoption of an annual office cap and voted with the rest of her colleagues to demand revisions to a proposed mixed-use building at 429 University Ave.

In an interview last week, Kniss described herself as "pro-prosperity."

"I don't want to see us languish as a city," Kniss said. "But have I given any particular developer special consideration? Certainly not."

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Comments

66 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2017 at 6:24 am

I don't believe Kniss's explanation - it defies common sense that someone would go $20,000 in debt on an election campaign without some expectation of getting campaign contributions later. And the surgery that her campaign treasurer needed would have been scheduled in advance, so the duties could have been delegated to another person.

And notice how Kniss's story changes - the article says "Kniss last week also initially said that she had decided to accept developers' checks only after the election, when her campaign was about $20,000 in debt. After the Weekly told her that several developers had indicated that they had given her money before the election — in one case, he said it was after she had asked for it — she said she didn't know when the checks were issued."

And the article further says "Besides raising the question of when contributions were received, the January filing didn't disclose the occupation of any of the developers who had contributed to the campaign. For all but three contributions reportedly received on Nov. 18 or later, the contributor's occupation is listed as "unknown." (Baer, who is one of the exceptions, is listed on the form as a "VC Consultant")."

As the article says "Jay Wierenga, the FPPC's communications director, told the Weekly that the advice email cited by Kniss is different from the types of determinations made by the agency's Enforcement Division.

"We offer advice based on the information given to us," Wierenga said in an email. "The only finder of fact within the FPPC is the Enforcement Division, which investigates complaints and/or any potential violation of the Act on which it becomes aware of information of a potential violation or receives a complaint with enough evidence to indicate a potential violation."

Since the FPPC Enforcement Division is the finder of fact, it is the FPPC Enforcement Division that would need to give her the ruling on breaking the campaign finance law, not the "advice hotline".

Kniss should get a ruling from the FPPC Enforcement Division to clear herself. Otherwise, this looks even worse, since Kniss was $20,000 in debt, and now that debt is being paid off by developers, any votes that Kniss casts in the future on developments will be highly suspect.


37 people like this
Posted by Longtime Resident
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 27, 2017 at 11:16 am

Sounds to me as if this reason is like when council members are not present to cast a vote on a contentious issue. Some will fly across the country, to avoid casting a vote.

Intelligent people know many absences are likely in order to keep the councilperson's record pristine so they can run for higher office, not 'offending' one group or another along the way, so they can draw more public support and money when they need it. It's a tactic.

Someone else could have easily covered for her staff member that was out on sick leave. The world need not stop for one person to return.

Only those blind supporters of Kniss would accept this excuse, without question. Sadly, there are way too many of them here.


37 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2017 at 12:36 pm

When formal complaints are filed by 3rd parties with the Fair Political Practices Commission (and I have no doubt complaints will be) and the Commission issues its findings, it is only then we can know if Kniss or Tenaka grossly violated election laws. And common sense says, boy howdy yes.
All that is said here by Liz is self-interested Liz-spin.
Voters look forward to the FPPC investigations and results.


44 people like this
Posted by not credible
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2017 at 12:45 pm

The assertion that the treasurer was out of the office for elective surgery in November in an election year is not credible.
No one was assigned to do his job by this [portion removed] experienced politician is less than credible. It is intentional avoidance of the law.
[Portion removed.]


52 people like this
Posted by Mama
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 27, 2017 at 12:57 pm

Mama is a registered user.

[Portion removed.] She must resign immediately, and Arthur Keller should have her Council seat. I can't say I'm surprised at her [portion removed] behavior, When are residents going to start holding these local politicians accountable?


62 people like this
Posted by Non-Believer
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jan 27, 2017 at 2:28 pm

I don't have any faith in Kniss or in anything she says.

Actions speak louder than words. [Portion removed.]


36 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 27, 2017 at 2:45 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

The FPPC "advice" is absurd because it creates a trivial method for candidates to subvert the law. For example, the candidate asked a special interest for a contribution, watches them write a check, and then hand them the check in an envelope. The candidate then holds onto the envelope until after the reporting deadline to hide that support.

There has long been a similar problem with the disclosure laws being subverted by candidates who loan their campaigns large sums and then do a fund-raiser after the election to pay off that loan. Consequently, the "advice line" should have been well aware of this category of stratagems to avoid timely reporting.


64 people like this
Posted by Shameful
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2017 at 3:02 pm

Dark money and two-faced narratives reveal Councilmember Liz Kniss not as the down to earth voice of the people she pretends to be, but rather a conniving politician, who blatantly disregards clear campaign finance rules, tries to game the system to hide her funders from the voting public until it's too late to influence their votes, and manipulates the press to promote alternative facts in the hopes of dampening public outrage and avoiding an investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC).

Palo Alto residents deserve better. Complaints (including anonymous) can be filed at: Web Link

HIDING THE MONEY
Despite bragging about not taking "developer" money during the campaign, she actually solicited such funds (according to at least one such donor), then hid them from the public. In some cases failing to fully identify the sources and in at least one case, failing to report them for an entire month – until after the election.

She’s quoted above as saying “[w]e didn’t hide anything,” yet she failed to report the occupation/employer of several significant individual donors. According to the FPPC Campaign Disclosure Manual, “[a] contribution of $100 or more must be returned within 60 days of receipt if the committee has not obtained … in the case of an individual, his or her occupation and employer.”

Despite being a decades-long politician, served by a veteran campaign treasurer, she claims innocence for having delayed reporting of a $2,500 donation for almost an entire month due to her treasurer’s absence.

GAMING THE SYSTEM AND FLAUTING THE RULES
She and her veteran campaign treasurer well know that FPPC rules require reporting of pre-election donations over $1,000 within 24 hours of receipt and they know that under the rules “[a] contribution is received on the date the candidate, committee, or an agent of the committee obtains possession or control of the … contribution” The real estate PAC (CREPAC) reported its donation as made on October 18, but the Kniss campaign didn’t report its receipt until November 18.

They claim that because the treasurer was busy “doing reports for two campaigns” and then had surgery, he “did not open any mail” between October 22 and November 18 and didn’t start posting contributions until he returned from surgery. Yet the recent Kniss filing shows that he did post $1,300 in smaller contributions to the campaign during the same period he was supposedly unavailable.

Even if that inconsistency and meager excuse could pass the smell test in terms of honesty, it still violates campaign finance rules. The FPPC Campaign Disclosure Manual is clear about the responsibilities of the treasurer. Among other things, a campaign treasurer is required to:

1. “Establish a system of recordkeeping sufficient to ensure that contributions and expenditures are recorded promptly and accurately in compliance with the Act’s recordkeeping and disclosure requirements”; and

2. “Take steps to ensure all of the Act’s requirements are met regarding receipt, expenditure, and reporting of campaign funds.”

Furthermore, “[i]f the treasurer is unavailable to carry out his or her duties, a new treasurer must be designated and the committee’s Statement of Organization (Form 410) amended.”

Liz Kniss and her campaign committee failed on all those counts.

MANIPULATING THE PRESS
When called on their finance shenanigans by the Weekly, the Kniss campaign sought to cover their tracks by releasing newly obtained, informal “advice” from the FPPC, (based on the campaign’s own description of events), suggesting that a contribution may be deemed “received” when it is opened.

Although the Weekly reported on the informal nature of the advice today, the Daily Post on Wednesday reported the content of that limited, hot-line advice as fact, implying that the FPPC had ruled that there had been no campaign finance violation. In REAL FACT, there has been no investigation and no finding that “Palo Alto Vice Mayor Liz Kniss did not violate any rules.” Indeed, there has been no decision at all by the FPPC on this matter. With this shrewd, preemptive manipulation of the Daily News, Liz Kniss sought to once again pull the wool over the eyes of Palo Alto voters.

Even if the FPPC ultimately were to let Vice Mayor Kniss off the hook, we the voters should not. We should hold her accountable for campaigning as non-developer funded, then accepting significant such contributions post-election, we should pay attention to her voting record and call her on apparent conflicts of interest, and we should take with a grain of salt her statements to the public or the press.


36 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 27, 2017 at 3:03 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Additional to the article's quoting of FPPC regulation:

When the first report of this surfaced, I Google'd for the reporting requirements and found the page
Web Link
with section B on page 3 beginning with
"In general, a monetary contribution is made on the date that the contribution is mailed, delivered, or otherwise transmitted to the candidate or committee."
There are multiple other pages with essentially the same statement.

Judge for yourself if a reasonable person would believe that an unopened envelope is not "received".


12 people like this
Posted by Hahaha
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2017 at 3:43 pm

[Post removed.]


52 people like this
Posted by Slimy
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2017 at 3:54 pm

Slimy is a registered user.

Sure feels slimy.

If there is nothing untoward going on, the solution should be simple. Kniss should publish her donations from developers compared to her votes on all of their projects. Going back 10 years would be great, but even 5 years of history would be illustrative. The Palo Alto citizens she serves deserve at least that level of clarity.

If she is not sanctioned by the FPPC, Kniss should recuse herself in the future from voting on ANY projects from those developers who contributed. Frankly that should be true for all council members, it's a basic tenet of conflict of interest management.

If the response to that is, we'll have so many recusals that we won't have a quorum to vote on projects, what does that tell you?

And Greg Tanaka, you should return your questionable "post-election" contribution and sit out the project vote next week to avoid any conflict. Eyes will be watching - don't think all the noise around Kniss means we've forgotten about you.


30 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2017 at 3:58 pm

Kniss admitted in her last interview that she was worried how developer donations would look! She admitted it.


10 people like this
Posted by LOL
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 27, 2017 at 3:58 pm

And once again gennady and the weekly are stirring the pot n attempt to increase readership, website traffic and "outrage" from the PASZ voters that got clobbered in the last election. Funny that Kniss again received more votes than any candidate ( which to me means that very very small minority that constantly complain on this forum about kniss, fine, Tanaka, Scharff etc in no way represent the citizens of Palo Alto). Also funny that the weekly over the years has always glowingly supported kniss in her runs for office ( could be that knowing that kniss will not run for office again, the weekly feels that it can burn its bridges with kniss after unwaveringly supporters my her in the past)
As to the people complaining on this forum, I suggest you stop complaining and take some real action if you are so outraged/offended by kniss-- start a recall drive. Let's see swhat me real action instead oh anonymous complaints.


18 people like this
Posted by Hmmmm
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2017 at 4:17 pm

@LOL,
You clearly have an agenda and understand little about local politics.

Kniss got the endorsement of the Democratic party - hardly a stretch given her long history in politics - and of the Weekly, also because if her long history. She was endorsed by Bob Moss, who Greg Scharff used heavily to get re-elected, too. People in PASZ consider Bob's recommendation very key. Bob also did not like Arthur Keller for some reason. PASZ was also formed after the Maybell referendum, when Tanaka was a lone voice of dissent against the overbuilding, in a way that was very honest. People there still appreciate him for that.

The Weekly is a local newspaper, and Shaynor is a journalist. They could hardly have said nothing when this came up. I was beginning to worry about Shaynor having too much bias in favor of the PA Forward crowd. Again, they endorsed her, they could hardly have ignored this.

Regardless of what happens next, Kniss should return the money. The appearance if being bought and of manipulating is just too great. Aside from the fact that she admitted to being aware that taking money from developers would look bad in the course of her campaign.



30 people like this
Posted by alarmed
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 27, 2017 at 4:17 pm

Transparency is the objective of campaign finance laws.
This is fundamental if citizens are to make informed decisions with their ballots.
Democracy is threatened when politicians seek to avoid disclosures clearly mandated by law. Such behavior undermines confidence of citizens in our government.

"The only finder of fact within the FPPC is the Enforcement Division” Until such time as Ms. Kniss’ highly suspicious behavior is investigated and a finding of fact issued by the FPPC Enforcement Division, she should voluntarily recuse herself from all Development related issues coming before council. It’s the sensible thing to do. This is Palo Alto. We can do better than to operate our community with tainted representation.


42 people like this
Posted by jh
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 27, 2017 at 4:24 pm

jh is a registered user.

Liz Kniss ran an extremely deceptive campaign. She has a long track record of strong and vocal support for commercial development in Palo Alto, as well as being friends with and supported by developers. However, during the last few years, when it became clear which way the wind was blowing, Liz Kniss became uncharacteristically quiet during council discussions involving development. Followed by positioning herself as a strong "residentialist" sympathizer during her reelection campaign.

There may or may not be anything illegal about soliciting donations to be timed to arrive after the last financial filing deadline prior to the election. But these donations appear to be so obviously timed to avoid exposing her support for and by the development community and which would contradict her campaign rhetoric.

Also Lis Kniss has strong connections with the local Democrat party organization. I doubt it was a coincidence that Greg Tanaka suddenly changed his party registration from Republican to Democrat just in time to run for council. Or Adrian Fine suddenly registered as a Democrat during the council campaign. Or that the local Democrat chapter then endorsed Liz Kniss, Greg Tanaka, and Adrian Fine, together with sponsoring an impressive amount of free publicity in the weeks running up to the election in the form of expensive mass mailings and large newspaper ads which prominently featured all three. (The fourth endorsement did not win election.)

Meanwhile, two other candidates, long time and involved members of the local Democratic party, Arthur Keller and Lydia Kou, who did not represent the developers, were not endorsed. It wasn't hard to make the connection.f Lis Kniss is, as I said, is nothing if not a consummate politician.


28 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 27, 2017 at 6:12 pm

"The late contributions totaled $19,340, and the list of developers and property managers includes among others Charles Keenan, Jim Baer, Premier Properties and employees of Keenan Land Company. "

The usual suspects, with a long history of trading favors to Kniss in return for her support of their projects: Web Link. Premier Properties is Baer's company.


3 people like this
Posted by LOL
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 27, 2017 at 6:36 pm

Hmmmmmm-- I have no agenda, I am just voicing my opinion on the shenanigans by the weekly.. as for the weekly, they certainly did not make such a big dealt over the large donations received by the pro-PASZ ticket. IMHO, the weekly has been showing too much bias in favor of PASZ and their candidates.
As I said, I suggest you and the others that are outraged start a recall campaign. You may be in for a bitter disappointment n the end.


23 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2017 at 7:01 pm

The scene that played out here in Palo Alto between Kniss and Keenan is not in any way unique, and is really just a fractal of what is happening throughout the state and the nation.

Trump and his son Donald Jr. made contributions to the Clinton Foundation, and to Senator Clinton in 2002, 2005, 2006, and 2007. Trump also responded to pleas for "dough" from democrats Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer.

In blue counties all over California, want-to-be Democratics pleaded for and received "dough" from want-to-be Trumps, and they were in turn endorsed by leading Democrats who financed their political campaigns with "dough" they received from real-estate developers.

Is it any surprise Trump, and all of the want-to-be Trumps, find these Dems beneath contempt?


Like this comment
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 27, 2017 at 7:21 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Ed
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 27, 2017 at 8:52 pm

[Post removed.]


23 people like this
Posted by John Fredrich
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 27, 2017 at 9:41 pm

my o my... this does not appear to pass the smell test...

I believe that money accepted after the fact, in this case a person being elected by the most votes in the race,
should be called 'gifts', or, to use the vernacular 'bribes'.

I think the applicable modern term is 'electioneering investments' wherein favors received cannot be
attributed to any quid pro quo arrangement but are merely tokens of esteem and support.

I haven't spent $19K in 7 (seven) elections; but then again, I'm a 'loser', with a number of priors.
I do not solicit contributions and do not accept any more than $49 (that's forty-nine dollars) from one person.
That position is very much conditioned by my feeling that a person of honor owes favors to those
who go out of their way to help one. That is an aesthetic as much as an ethical position.

Americans are going to have to get a whole lot smarter if they want to preserve democracy in the USA.


19 people like this
Posted by easy fix
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 28, 2017 at 1:54 am

Kniss should simply recuse herself when the CC votes on development projects of developers who donated to her campaign. It would be great if all CC members also recused themselves from votes on matters benefiting their donors. This would remove the potential for quid pro quo. Any chance this might actually happen?


Like this comment
Posted by Mertz
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 28, 2017 at 7:18 am

[Post removed.]


20 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 28, 2017 at 10:02 am

We shouldn't tolerate this kind of sleazy politics in Palo Alto - even it is technically legal (which based on the story and comments here is doubtful.)

Why do the commenters here describe the odious conduct of Kniss - expressing understandable revulsion and then say merely that she should recuse herself from voting on matters related to the tainted contributions? Kniss has revealed herself to be untrustworthy of the office to which she was [portion removed] reelected. She should resign.

This isn't Sacramento or Washington where this kind of thing has been normalized. If we let it go here, it will become part of Palo Alto too. We deserve more.


5 people like this
Posted by One sided coverage
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 28, 2017 at 10:44 am

Clearly many of the people complaining on this thread are supporters of holman, Kuo, Keller, filséth and dubois. They said nothing when their candidates are carrying out their shenanigans. The bias of the weekly is clearly showing- they are allowing a number of insulting and derogatory comments stand about Kniss.


2 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 28, 2017 at 11:24 am

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by J Palmer
a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2017 at 11:50 am

[Post removed.]


9 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 28, 2017 at 11:55 am

Would someone please post on this thread the list of Kniss' and the other elected council members' post-election accepted donations with full info on who their late donors are and what properties they have which have had any building permit issued in the last year and any now in the planning department pipeline. Then, we can all watch to see how each of those gift-takers votes in 2017 if they don't recuse themselves.

And, I do not buy the argument that if everyone takes such "I won! Gimme the dough!" campaign cash there'd be no council quorum. If all must recuse themselves isn't there a draw-lots solution to get a quorums?

After we know the info on who took post-election dough, we can get the data on the pre-election dough which should be even more entertaining.


Posted by Grrrr
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

on Jan 28, 2017 at 12:00 pm


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23 people like this
Posted by Srsly?
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 28, 2017 at 12:19 pm

Kniss' financial and political histories tell the truth: that she flip-flops frequently [portion removed.]

Why on earth would we believe her NOW?


7 people like this
Posted by LOL
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 28, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Srsly-- how is she any different than Karen Holman? Remember her finder fee ncidemt a few years ago?


11 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 28, 2017 at 2:29 pm

I'd forgetten that Holman history.

Web Link

I get big kick out of the City Council candidates all on the ballots as not being members of any political party by City rules but yet like Orwell's "1984" Inner and Outer parties we do have at least 2 parties: those who register with a political party and take campaign donations above $49 and those who do not.

Soon the Council will pick its new applicants for interviews for the open seats on the planning and parks commissions, and the historic board, too. I wonder if an acid test for selection is being a registered member of one political party and donations to council members. Play to play.


13 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 28, 2017 at 3:13 pm

This is a very sad development in our city. Palo Alto politics have always been a little kooky and idiosyncratic. And as the development rights have become more valuable, there's been more than a little back-scratching favoritism between elected and appointed officials and rent seeking developers. But this kind of sleazy cash grubbing is new - as is the duplicitous explanation - or should I say explanations - offered to explain it.

Is it too much to ask Kniss to resign her seat? Does Palo Alto have a recall provision for Council Members? I fear if we let this stand we become permanently a city where win at any cost, mendacious politicking is the norm. Can regain our innocence?


17 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 28, 2017 at 3:30 pm

"Kniss should simply recuse herself when the CC votes on development projects of developers who donated to her campaign."

That would be dishonest--she wouldn't deliver on her end of the bargain. Kniss should resign, and her sponsors can ask for their money back.


23 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 28, 2017 at 4:07 pm

Of course she broke the law, there's no scenario in which she could claim ignorance. But as far as she is concerned, there's nothing unusual about it. When you try to insert the word 'dishonest' next to her name, it will be automatically deleted here, but Kniss has been an integral part of the real estate/land speculation eco-system for decades, nothing more than an un-apologetic agent for them on the CC and the county supervisor board. This is ridiculously blatant, but it has been for decades. I have been a registered Democrat since the age of 18 and a lifetime progressive, but I considered the Democratic party's endorsement of this particular operator to be absolutely shameful. The only thing that can begin to atone for her shameful record is a resignation and irreversible retirement from political life.


2 people like this
Posted by Lol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 28, 2017 at 4:20 pm

Mary- you can start a recall drive. Go out and collect signatures

[Portion removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 28, 2017 at 4:55 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Re: Oldster: "Would someone please post on this thread the list of Kniss' and the other elected council members' post-election accepted donations with..."

You can see the campaign filings at:
Web Link
The long path to this is to go to the City's website, to the City Clerk, to Elections...

These reports show the names of the contributors, their employers, amounts, and date received.

What I found in taking a quick look was that Fine and Kou reported no contributions after the October filing. Keller had one contribution between the October filing and the election and he reported it immediately (within 24 hours) as required. Tanaka had many after the October report and after the election. He reported the ones of $1000 or more immediately (as required), but there were several $999 contributions that are a standard way to avoid reporting before an election. Tanaka also paid back loans ($20K) he had made to his campaign.


8 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 28, 2017 at 5:21 pm

@lol, I own a home in Palo Alto, I pay property taxes in Palo Alto, as well as utility bills, I'm still registered to vote in Palo Alto/Santa Clara county, and I spend every second weekend in Palo Alto, please don't tell me I have no right to comment on Palo Alto issues. I definitely care much more about Palo Alto's welfare and future than the council member in question, who has been nothing more than an unapologetic agent for the land developers/land speculators industry for many decades.


1 person likes this
Posted by Lol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 28, 2017 at 9:15 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 29, 2017 at 1:03 am

Thanks Douglas for the link and the analysis!


16 people like this
Posted by Anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 29, 2017 at 12:37 pm

To Ms. Kniss and Developers,

Please give the people of Palo Alto more credit for their intelligence and don't try to pull a fast one. It just gives the word "politician" a worse reputation that it already has. It is much better for one's blood pressure to be honest and transparent.


4 people like this
Posted by What a pity!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 30, 2017 at 12:09 pm

Truly a pity! Perhaps she can look herself in the mirror and make amends.


7 people like this
Posted by obvious
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2017 at 11:45 am

This is rather obvious from a previous poster:

"What I found in taking a quick look was that Fine and Kou reported no contributions after the October filing. Keller had one contribution between the October filing and the election and he reported it immediately (within 24 hours) as required. Tanaka had many after the October report and after the election. He reported the ones of $1000 or more immediately (as required), but there were several $999 contributions that are a standard way to avoid reporting before an election. Tanaka also paid back loans ($20K) he had made to his campaign."


13 people like this
Posted by This Cannot Stand
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 31, 2017 at 1:07 pm

I filed my complaint with the FPPC. Have you? Here's the link: Web Link


21 people like this
Posted by Lowered Expectations
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2017 at 1:26 pm

Kniss has become the absolute caricature of a political cartoon's politician.

I doubt that she even realizes what she had done wrong!


4 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2017 at 3:43 pm

Isn't she now termed out once she finishes this term? If so, she can do what she really wants and/or pay back her big donors.


14 people like this
Posted by Reallynow
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2017 at 4:12 pm

I find it very strange that in the heat o a campaign, there is only one person to open the envelopes and count the money------especially when the campaign is in debt. And, if Ms. Kniss only took money from developers becasue the campaing was in debt is a very frightening thought. What is the difference between that and being bought by a developer down the road.

If Councilmember Kniss doesn't want to resign, I think the least she can do to regain some level of trust, is recuse herself from every vote related to any development issue for her last term in office.


13 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 1, 2017 at 5:43 pm

"...recuse herself from every vote related to any development issue for her last term in office."

As I pointed out above, that's dishonest because Kniss would not be delivering value for the money she accepted. She should either return the boodle, or do the proper honorable thing: resign immediately.


2 people like this
Posted by obvious
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2017 at 2:58 pm

Does anyone know if a complaint was registered and/or if Kniss got a ruling from the FPPC Enforcement Division to clear herself?


8 people like this
Posted by Quid pro Kniss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2017 at 9:14 am

@obvious,
Anyone can file a complaint. If you let connected Kniss do the asking, do you think all the facts will be reviewed?

Please be careful to cover everything, including going back to the election coverage and how Kniss, Fine, and Tanaka tried to portray themselves as moderates, Kniss returned a developer check to make a show of it, and how, since the election, they have approved a contentious project for someone who gave a late huge donation and gutted the comp plan land use. You will need to read the staye office of planning research website on general plans to understand why that was so egregious and against the rules.

There is also the appearance of collusion, as all three, Kniss, Fine, and Tanaka, took almost $100,000 total development cash between them, a substantial portion of their expenditures, all late in the game after they wouldn't have to report it, even deficit spending and then making it up with developer cash. The other candidates had no such donations.

You will have to show their personal benefit as well. Is Kniss married to someone in that sector? Fine, of course, works for a company whose employees have been dishonestly (Downing) and aggressively going for development for their takeover of downtown. Has anyone ever asked about any quid pro quo from the company for all this "involvement"?

Anything else?

In addition to complaints, have people called the local Democratic Party to register your displeasure with their endorsements in the local election?


2 people like this
Posted by obvious
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2017 at 5:17 pm

Thank you Quid pro Kniss for your information about filing a complaint.


1 person likes this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2017 at 6:13 pm

Same Old, same old Liz Kniss. The Developers own her.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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