By Alberto Garcia
A National City Councilman who racked up nearly $47,000 in campaign debts in 2022 has now listed his wife as an unpaid vendor who his campaign owes for Christmas cards mailed out last year.
Jose Rodriguez, who was elected to the City Council in 2020 and is seeking re-election in November, ran unsuccessfully for Mayor in the November 2022 election. Rodriguez had previously run unsuccessfully for City Council in 2016 and 2018.
In his most recent campaign finance report filed last week, Rodriguez lists an unpaid invoice of $6,120.37 for "Literature", including sub-vendor expenses for postage and printing.
The mailings were for family Christmas cards sent out with the campaign logo and disclaimer printed on the back.
Rodriguez Christmas cards sent by campaign. (LPSD blurred family faces)
Rodriguez listed his wife, Sandra Rodriguez, as the vendor who provided the mailings without having been paid. The campaign did not have enough money to pay for the cards at the time they were printed and mailed.
Re-Elect Jose Rodriguez for City Council 2024 financial disclosure
Sandra Rodriguez, who had never before provided mailing services to any of her husband's campaigns, owns and operates a child daycare center from the couple’s National City home.
In December, Sandra Rodriguez received City Council approval for two time-restricted parking spots she requested in front of their home to allow parents to drop off and pick up children from her daycare facility. Sandra Rodriguez was required to reimburse the City $800 of costs for signage and painting "since it will benefit the single business", according to a City staff report submitted to the City Council before the vote.
Rodriguez home-based daycare facility
When the parking issue went before the City Council, Rodriguez announced his conflict-of-interest in voting for his wife's request and left the dais before the vote. The request was approved by all four of his Council colleagues.
USE OF CAMPAIGN DEBT CONTINUES
Last year, La Prensa San Diego exposed that Rodriguez had used debt to finance his last two elections by sending out several campaign mailers even though he had not raised sufficient funds to pay for them.
Rodriguez, who serves as his own campaign treasurer with the help of a professional assistant treasurer, reported raising a total of $54,720.62 for his 2022 mayoral campaign but spent $102,118.56, including the $46,982 in debt, and maintained only $980.16 of cash on hand at the end of 2022. He did not report raising any additional donor contributions between election day on November 8, 2022 and the end of June 2023, but he did loan an additional $8,000 to his campaign on February 7, 2023.
A La Prensa San Diego news article on October 10, 2023 exposed a web of campaigns run by two Democratic consultants since 2020 that all ended their efforts with campaign debt, including Rodriguez, calling the use of unpaid mail a “massive campaign cheating scheme” that delivered an estimated 500,000 campaign mailers to voters without candidates having to pay for it beforehand.
The following day, Rodriguez loaned $29,492 to his 2022 mayoral campaign and used that money to pay two outstanding invoices; one for $25,341 for campaign mailings, and another for $3,641 for campaign consulting.
Rodriguez had previously loaned his campaign committees a total of nearly $62,000 during the past two years. None of the loans have yet been repaid.
Under state campaign finance laws, a candidate can loan his own committee up to $100,000 with the expectation of being repaid through future campaign contributions from donors.
No other recent local campaign reports reviewed La Prensa San Diego show debt owed to a spouse of a candidate.
Rodriguez’s latest campaign report showing debt incurred to his wife raised questions among experienced political consultants.
“It is unheard of to have a spouse pay expenses for a campaign and list it as an unpaid bill instead of a personal loan or contribution,” one local campaign consultant said this week after reviewing the report. “I guess the only reason to do it would be to be able to disguise a loan as debt and still be able to recover it from donors in the future.”
Rodriguez lists income of between $10,001 and $100,000 from the home daycare on annual financial disclosure forms he submits as a member of the City Council and describes his business interests as "Partner is owner." Rodriguez lists his part-time monthly salary of $1,546.71 from the City Council as his only source of income, but the forms only require him to report income derived from within National City or from any source doing business with the City.
Critics suspect Rodriguez receives income from other sources outside of his jurisdiction, but Rodriguez has never reported or publicized any other such income.
Rodriguez is running for re-election to the City Council on the November ballot under new district election rules passed by the City Council in 2021. This will be the first time Rodriguez will run within a small district as opposed to citywide as he did in 2020.
In the 2020 election, Rodriguez received 7,706 votes citywide to win a seat on the City Council. Under the first district elections held in 2022, Luz Molina won District 1 with 1,597 votes and Ditas Yamane won District 3 with 1,507 votes.
This year, Rodriguez is running for re-election in District 2 and Councilman Marcus Bush will be running for re-election in District 4.
National City has a population of 55,912 residents, with 27,631 registered voters. The vote turnout for the 2020 Mayor's election was 9,197, or about 33%.
Rodriguez did not respond to a request for comment on this story.