Chamber launches political action committee

Susan Valenta is the Executive director of the Gilroy Chamber of

The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce soon could be throwing its weight behind much more than local businesses.

The Chamber’s board of directors has approved the creation of a political action committee – known as “GILPAC” – in which an appointed, 11-member body will make public political endorsements and distribute donated money to local and state candidates, Chamber President Susan Valenta said.

Roughly eight months in the making, the board approved the PAC’s charter and bylaws in December, and although Chamber officials are going slow and steady with the next steps, Valenta said GILPAC should be in full swing by November elections.

GILPAC is sponsored by the Chamber – which loaned $5,000 to the PAC for start-up costs – but the organization will serve as a separate political arm, Valenta said.

She said the Chamber board will meet again in the next two to three weeks to “establish next steps” and finalize a way to streamline accepting donations and reporting them to state elections officials.

“We’re not going to accept any donations until everything is set up correctly,” Valenta said.

According to GILPAC’s charter, the organization will be involved in local and state elections, ballot measures and public policy issues “in order to promote the interests of the Chamber, its members, and the business community in the City of Gilroy and throughout the state.”

The unpaid, appointed executive committee will have “full discretion” over how donated GILPAC funds are spent. The committee will seat up to 11 members who are appointed to three-year terms and serve up to two terms consecutively, according to the bylaws.

The Chamber’s board of directors will select the committee members, to include a chair, secretary and a treasurer. The treasurer will maintain the GILPAC bank account and will be responsible for filing campaign disclosure reports and tax returns.

The treasurer does have the option of delegating those duties to an outside bookkeeper or attorney, according to the bylaws.

The charter allows for non-Chamber members to sit on the committee, but they can comprise no more than 49 percent. A spot on the committee also does not automatically grant individuals Chamber membership rights, which include an online listing at and inclusion in a mailing list of more than 630 businesses.

Committee members may donate to campaigns outside of the PAC’s scope, but must do so individually and not in association with the Chamber, Valenta said.

Valenta said the GILPAC concept, roughly 10 years in the making, stems from local businesses owners who have wanted to support “business-friendly candidates.”

“Every time there are elections … we’ve made endorsements, but we haven’t been able to provide monetary support,” she said.

Valenta said officials will keep the community in the loop over who and what GILPAC supports.

“As we looked at this, we wanted to make sure we did everything correctly,” Valenta said. “We’re going to be very up front with the public about what’s going on in the PAC.”

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