George Shirakawa Jr.’s guilty pleas to five felony charges Monday ended his political career. But the harder and in some ways more important work for the Santa Clara County district attorney lies ahead: finding out where thousands of dollars in illegal cash contributions came from — that is, who was trying to buy the supervisor’s support — and who might have helped Shirakawa launder or conceal money.
Finding these people is important because their careers have not ended. They are a cancer on democracy. There are theories about who they might be, but the speculation just makes it more important for District Attorney Jeff Rosen and lead prosecutor Karen Sinunu-Towery to get at the facts.
to bring anyone else involved in this sorry affair to justice — ideally with the kind of tightly crafted case that left no defense open to Shirakawa, who resigned from office and is expected to spend a year in jail.
County officials had failed utterly to hold the supervisor accountable for years of failure to provide receipts for charges on a county credit card and failure to file reports on his campaign accounts. It was newspaper stories that set Rosen on the case.
Shirakawa’s financial problems go back at least to 1994, when he was appointed to his late father’s seat on the San Jose City Council. His failure to pay child support was a red flag then. But even people who questioned his ethics all along were shocked by the
From prosecutors’ perspective, there’s probably nothing more to pursue on the credit card abuse. But the campaign fund deceptions could imply the complicity of others.
Shirakawa hid the flow of his campaign money and accepted thousands of dollars in illegal cash donations through a bank account for which he had sole signing authority — a secret account prosecutors labeled a slush fund. Who was giving him cash? What was in it for them? And did Shirakawa really do all this financial sleight of hand with no help?
Following the money will be Byzantine. For example, Mercury News reporter Karen de Sá disclosed emails from Sunnyvale’s Herguan University, itself under federal investigation, that indicate money the school gave to Shirakawa through his aide Daisy Chu had been reported as consulting income instead of a campaign contribution as intended.
It was the right priority, done well. The next phase is more open-ended — but just as important.
This article originally appeared on mercurynews