Politics and Business Make an Interesting Mix at City Hall

By Melissa McKenzie and Carolyn Schuk

Although the name of Related’s lobbyist, Jude Barry, has been scarce on Santa Clara City Council Member calendars of late, it doesn’t necessarily mean Barry is completely off the books. He has a long history of situating himself in the middle of South Bay politics, and particularly, the political landscape of Santa Clara for nearly a decade.

 

Democratic Party Politico

Barry’s political history in the South Bay began in 1988, although he had previously worked on former-U.S. Senator Teddy Kennedy’s, Gary Hart’s and Richard Gephardt’s campaigns in Washington, D.C.

It was in that year, just two months before the primary, when Barry was called to San Jose to run Ron Gonzales’ successful mayoral campaign. Barry became Gonzales’s chief of staff and quickly made a name for himself in Silicon Valley.


In 2001, a year after Barry was blacklisted by the Executive Secretary-Treasurer and Chief Officer of the California Labor Federation—for promoting a ballot measure requiring member consent to donate union dues to political campaigns—Barry founded Catapult Strategies, Inc.

A public relations and marketing firm, Catapult has assisted with the local campaigns for Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, disgraced former County Supervisor George Shirakawa, County Supervisors Dave Cortese and Ken Yeager and former San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo, among others.

Barry does not stake claim to Liccardo’s victorious 2015 mayoral campaign. However, former Mercury News reporter Ramona Giwargis broke a story in late 2015 about Barry’s involvement in Liccardo’s “kitchen cabinet”—Liccardo’s trusted group of advisors with whom he discussed political strategies and the then-mayor-elect’s relationship with reporters. Soon after Liccardo ended his kitchen cabinet weekly calls, Barry became a more visible presence in City of Santa Clara politics.

 

Campaigns Are His Business

In addition to his Catapult consulting and lobbying business, Barry is partner and co-founder of four online businesses related to campaigns, voter registration and ballot measures: VoterPros, Allpoint Pen, Verafirma and the company that made its Santa Clara debut last week, the Voxloca text robo-polling service.

VoterPros is a political direct mail platform that integrates with NationBuilder, a platform for managing campaign websites, mailing lists and donations. Multiple candidates in the 2016 election cycle used VoterPros and NationBuilder, including most of Mayor Lisa Gillmor’s slate of candidates. In 2016 candidate for Police Chief Patrick Nicolai bought VoterPros service, paying Barry’s company $10,000.

Last month, the Santa Clara Police Officers Association bought Voxloca’s service for $3,000 and has subsequently run two push polls about Measure A and the 49ers.

Barry’s two other online ventures, Allpoint Voter Services and Verafirma market technology for digital signatures on voter registration forms and petitions on the web via touch screen devices.

 

Making Friends in the Neighborhood

Barry and Gillmor first become close when working on the San Francisco 49ers Measure J campaign, the June 2010 ballot measure that eventually brought the second most expensive stadium in the NFL to Santa Clara.

Barry, a hired lobbyist and consultant for the team, and Gillmor, the chair and spokesperson for the campaign, coordinated their efforts to engage the community, gather signatures and sway voters to support the building of the football team’s new home.

Although they could have simply worked on the campaign and parted ways, Barry has become part of Gillmor’s behind-the-scenes team in a way that invites comparisons with Liccardo’s Kitchen Cabinet.

Barry appeared on Council calendars with regard to the subject of “traffic on El Camino and Scott,” which wouldn’t seem to have any relation to his official client, Related.

When the City contracted with Banner Public Affairs, Barry popped up on Peter Hillan’s calendar.

Hillan, who served as the 49ers spokesperson throughout the Measure J campaign, and Barry had a 30-minute phone call with Gillmor on May 24 of last year to discuss a San Francisco Chronicle editorial board meeting the Mayor attended.

This phone call was never listed on Gillmor’s calendar and only surfaced when Hillan’s timesheets were made public. Yet another meeting with a City official that had nothing to do with Related.

That meeting resulted in a Chronicle opinion piece and video where the relationship between the 49ers and Santa Clara was described as “David and Goliath”—an analogy Santa Clarans have heard more than once in regard to City-49ers relations.

With Gillmor’s trusted team being two major players in bringing the stadium to Santa Clara, and Gillmor herself being one of the prime movers in that effort, that’s a curious statement. But the narrative devised by her two personal political and strategic communications consultants has resonated with residents.

There have been minimal efforts at Santa Clara City Hall to increase visibility into City officials’ activities. But although no meetings or calls with Barry show up on official calendars now—except those with O’Neill—and no email communications appear in records requests, there is nothing showing that his influence has declined.

This mountain of small coincidences leads to a picture of Barry as the man behind the Santa Clara curtain pulling the strings to better position himself and his client.

A 1998 Metro article profiling Barry’s involvement with Gonzales’ campaign said it best: “like any good political advisor, he gladly takes the heat for his boss. One board aide for another supervisor likens it to a good cop, bad cop routine. ‘The real question,’ the aide says, ‘is who is really the bad cop—Ron or Jude?’”