Eric Swalwell, House Candidate, Hit With 'Pay-To-Play' Allegations In Race Against Rep. Pete Stark

In this photo taken Sept. 7, 2012, California Rep. candidate Eric Swalwell speaks at left as Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif. walks
In this photo taken Sept. 7, 2012, California Rep. candidate Eric Swalwell speaks at left as Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif. walks off the stage during an Alameda County Democratic Lawyers Club endorsement meeting at Everett & Jones Barbeque in Oakland, Calif. Pete Stark is used to coasting to re-election in the liberal enclave of the San Francisco Bay area he has represented since the end of the Vietnam War. Legislative gerrymandering kept him in a heavily Democratic district, and California's primary system virtually ensured that he would emerge to face Republican or fringe-party challengers with almost no chance of beating him in November. All that has changed this year, as Californians deal with two major political reforms that are remaking the congressional landscape and creating competitive races for the first time in many years. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

NEW YORK -- A new report is raising questions about California House candidate Eric Swalwell's relationship with campaign contributors -- but a spokeswoman told The Huffington Post they're simply reheated accusations from the primay.

A story published on Wednesday in the East Bay Express documented how Swalwell, a Dublin City Councilman, "voted to approve a no-bid, monopoly contract to a local garbage company."

Swalwell was not alone: three other council members also joined in the yes vote, meaning the measure passed overwhelmingly. But the candidate also collected $15,000 in donations from the garbage company in question before the vote, which he did not mention during the council meeting.

For the Express, that hearkened to an April charge made by Swalwell's opponent, incumbent Democratic Congressman Pete Stark, that Swallwell was taking "bribes" from developers in the 15th District, a rapidly developing patch of the East Bay.

Stark was forced to apologize for that incendiary charge, which he did not substantiate -- but stood by his contention that Swallwell was unduly influenced by campaign cash.

Stark's spokeswoman, Sharon Cornu, told The Huffington Post that the claims in the article were "serious allegations, and voters are owed an explanation." But when asked, she stopped short of saying they reinforced Stark's retracted "bribes" claim.

"It's got to be investigated and looked into," Cornu said.

Swallwell's campaign, meanwhile, suggested the new report is old news.

"Congressman Stark brought all of these allegations up in April; he had to apologize for it," said Lisa Tucker, a spokeswoman for the Swallwell campaign.

Of the garbage company money, Tucker said, "there's no significance there. This was an agenda item pushed forth by the city staff. It was a 4-to-1 vote. There's no there there."

She noted that all of the contributions were disclosed, and also said Stark's campaign finance record is far from clean. "This is a guy who has 65 percent of his contributions are from PACs -- almost $200,000 of which are from health interests who come before his subcommittee. He's hardly one to lecture anyone on ethics."

Stark and Swallwell, both Democrats, were vaulted into the House race by California's new top-two primary system, which sends the two biggest vote-getters to face off in a general election. Stark, 80, has represented the area since 1973. But his primary edge over Swallwell, 43 percent to 35 percent, was small enough that some observers have speculated he could be in danger of losing his seat.

Stark is a liberal standard-bearer in Washington. But his campaign has been hampered by a series of gaffes, leading advocates for causes like marijuana legalization worried they could lose an ally in Congress.



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