Tri-Valley developer accused of illegal donations to Swalwell campaign

Second federal prosecution of James Tong in recent years

A prominent East Bay developer and Pleasanton resident was arraigned Monday on federal allegations he made illegal campaign finance donations to current U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell's congressional campaign in 2012 and 2013.

The indictment alleges that Tong, 72, used straw donors, or "conduit contributors," in order to give more money than one person is allowed to give to a political campaign, according to U.S. Attorney Brian J. Stretch and FBI special agent in charge John F. Bennett

Authorities allege that in both 2012 and 2013, Tong made over $10,000 of these straw donations to the authorized political committee supporting the campaign of a candidate for a federal elected office. Tong pleaded not guilty to the charges Monday.

Neither the committee nor the candidate are identified in the indictment, but Swalwell released a statement through his campaign committee Wednesday acknowledging his campaign was investigated by federal authorities in connection with the Tong probe and denying any wrongdoing by himself or campaign officials.

"I'm deeply disappointed by what's alleged in the grand jury's indictment. My campaign never would have accepted a single penny of these contributions had we known how they were being made," said Swalwell, a third-term Democrat whose district includes San Ramon.

The congressman said his campaign "cooperated fully" with federal investigators and the Department of Justice "does not suspect any wrongdoing on the part of myself or anyone with my campaign, nor that anyone in my campaign knew of the scheme outlined in the indictment."

"I will not tolerate illicit contributions like these in my campaign or in our political process generally," added Swalwell, who said his campaign is working with authorities to tally the straw donations to in turn donate that sum to a local charity.

In the indictment, Tong is charged with one count of making contributions of more than $10,000 in the names of straw donors to the candidate in 2012. The limit set by the Federal Election Campaign Act for contributions from any one person that year was $5,000.

The second count charges Tong with making contributions exceeding $10,000 to the same candidate's campaign committee in others' names. The limit for that year was $5,200.

The donations occurred on either end of Swalwell's first election to Congress. He was a 31-year-old Dublin councilman when he successfully unseated incumbent and fellow Democrat Pete Stark in November 2012. Swalwell won re-election twice since.

This week, after an initial appearance and arraignment in federal court in Oakland, Tong was released on his own recognizance and required to surrender his passport. His next appearance is scheduled for Sept. 29, before U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar for a status conference.

The Special Prosecution and National Security Unit of the U.S. Attorney's Office is prosecuting this case and is the result of a year-long FBI investigation.

Tong was also the subject of recent case involving fraud.

In December 2015, he pleaded no contest to violating the U.S. Endangered Species Act by submitting fraudulent documents to the city of Dublin that falsely stated he had paid $3.2 million in mitigation efforts for grading a Dublin development in a way that harmed the habitat of the endangered California tiger salamander.

As part of his plea deal, Tong agreed to pay about $1 million to state, county and nonprofit wildlife agencies and preserve 107 acres of land in Contra Costa County.

He also reached a separate plea deal in Alameda County Superior Court for the Dublin documentation fraud case.

Editor's note: Information from the Bay City News Service was used in this report.


19 people like this
Posted by Greg T
a resident of Diablo
on Sep 13, 2017 at 7:51 am

Was that Congressman Eric Swalwell?

15 people like this
Posted by Westerner
a resident of San Ramon
on Sep 13, 2017 at 3:42 pm

The FBI might also want to investigate Bill Watkins, who also laundered illegal donations through family members to Swalwell's campaign. After Swalwell accepted the illegal donations, he then hired Watkins' daughter to a government job. Here is a link to the East Bay Express story about this Swalwell corruption. Web Link

17 people like this
Posted by WB
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2017 at 4:24 pm

Swalwell, as an ex District Attorney, at best was negligent in looking the other way on illegal campaign contributions, or at worse, was a knowing aider and abetter. Either way, he should resign immediately.

2 people like this
Posted by No
a resident of Danville
on Sep 13, 2017 at 5:43 pm

Surprise, Tong again. Scum.

12 people like this
Posted by Rob U
a resident of Danville
on Sep 13, 2017 at 7:45 pm

Swalwell was a nice guy. But I think the corrupt Democratic Party machine has sucked him in, and now he's acting like one of their robots too

19 people like this
Posted by Livermore
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2017 at 9:17 pm

Swalwell, you know darned well what Tong was after. . . .You're just not telling anybody for fear of being charged with a crime.

You're a loser and should resign.

7 people like this
Posted by C. R. Mudgeon
a resident of Danville
on Sep 15, 2017 at 4:04 pm

It is safe to say that Tong's motivation for making illegal donations is to have "more influence" with Swallwell, compared to the influence he'd have if limited to just the legal dollar amount. This requires Swallwell to know about the "extra" money being provided.

I figure you all can draw your own conclusions from the above, as to whether Swallwell knew about it. I have my own opinion on this, of course....

6 people like this
Posted by questions
a resident of another community
on Sep 18, 2017 at 12:10 am

I am glad the Department of Justice is finally looking at the lock that Tong and Charter Properties has had on elected officials in this area for over a decade. Along with all Dublin officials, they need to also subpoena the electronic records from Pleasanton officials to see exactly who ran their campaigns out of Charter Properties business offices, the business offices of James Tong (before he relocated to Dublin). Also, why were elected officials from Pleasanton using Charter Properties offices to put labels on mailers in the first place. Also, who paid for the mailers referred to in this mass email from Hosterman on 10.7.2004 to Pleasanton and Dublin residents?

Subject: Re: Jennifer's Campaign for Mayor

Hello All!

We had quite a turn-out today to affix labels to our mass mailer - and to those, THANK YOU! We have 35,000 pieces which have to go out Friday - 20,000 will go out today, but we have another 15,000 to label. It's easy: sit with other supporters, make friends, talk about interesting stuff, pull off labels and affix them on the mailer piece. We need a repeat tomorrow to get this job done. PLEASE, if you have any time at all, please consider helping out - we will gather at

Charter Properties
4690 Chabot Drive, Suite 100
10:00 a.m.

Charter Properties is located in Hacienda Business Park, directly across the street from the Hacienda Post Office.

Please e-mail me or call Erline Demarcus (766-9668), and let me know if you can give us an hour or two. Thank you so much! Jennifer (ps - big kids welcome!)

Jennifer Hosterman
City of Pleasanton

2 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Danville
on Sep 20, 2017 at 10:11 am

Rick is a registered user.

Realizing this article is primarily about this Tong person, I'd never forgive myself if I let pass an opportunity to examine Rep. Swalwell - the one-dimensional, 'PP' (Pelosi Puppet') whose singular contribution to the political scene in Northern CA
in particular and the US Congress generally was to rid the political landscape of Fortney 'Pete' Stark. Rep. Swalwell sole contribution to the CA Congressional Delegation is that he makes Kamila Harris look intelligent, informed and like she actually has substance. The CA Demo Machine cranks out (with the 'able' assistance of the felons like Mr. Tong) some real beauties.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Couples: “It’s Not My Problem. It’s Your Problem.”
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 79 views


Nominations due by Sept. 17 and Pleasanton Weekly are once again putting out a call for nominations and sponsorships for the annual Tri-Valley Heroes awards - our salute to the community members dedicated to bettering the Tri-Valley and the lives of its residents.

Nomination form