Kniss violates ethics pledge

Publication Date: Wednesday Nov 8, 2000

ELECTION 2000: Kniss violates ethics pledge

Campaign Ethics Foundation votes 6-2 against Kniss

by Don Kazak

What started as an ethics complaint by supervisor candidate and Palo Alto Mayor Liz Kniss about opponent Dolly Sandoval being part of a "misleading mailer" has backfired--with Kniss getting reprimanded instead by the Santa Clara County Campaign Ethics Foundation. First, the foundation ruled Oct. 28 that Sandoval's participation in a mailing to registered Republicans was not a violation of an earlier ethics pledge to not mislead voters.

But then the foundation Friday night voted 6-2 that a press release from Kniss' campaign was a violation because it misled voters about how the foundation ruled on Sandoval's action.

The group sanctioned Kniss for a press release from her campaign that stated the ethics group had failed to clear her supervisorial race opponent, Dolly Sandoval, a week earlier.

In fact, the group ruled that Sandoval had not violated the part of her pledge about refraining from issuing misleading statements. In a technicality, a later motion to affirmatively state there was no violation was defeated. It was that vote that the Kniss campaign referred to in its press release.

"I am disappointed that Mrs. Kniss stooped to this level in her campaign," Sandoval Monday.

"The press release (Kniss) sent out was misleading," said Susanne Wilson, the chair of the campaign Ethics Foundation. Wilson is a former San Jose vice mayor and Santa Clara County supervisor.

The foundation found that Kniss violated part of the campaign pledge that promises to "not permit the use of false or misleading statements" in her campaign.

The motion in question that the Kniss press release referred to was "confusing and should have been ruled out of order," said Karin Dowdy, the corporate secretary of the ethics group.

"We reported it very accurately," Kniss contended in an interview. "A motion to clear (Sandoval) was voted down."

Kniss had gone to the ethics commission in late October asking that it make a ruling on the fact that Sandoval's name appeared in what was a Republican Party mailer. Sandoval, like Kniss, is a Democrat.1 The foundation's Friday night vote came after the Nov. 3 issue of the Weekly was printed, the last edition before the Nov. 7 election. As a result, this story is being posted on the Weekly's Web site at and is being printed in the Nov. 8 editions of the newspaper. 

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