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Silicon Valley Organization vows to stay intact, releases initial racist-ad investigation

Photo: WesSeverson/Youtube
By Wesley Severson - Published on November 11, 2020.

The largest South Bay business group, Silicon Valley Organization (SVO), says it's not going anywhere and plans to continue to fight calls to dissolve after the group posted a racist and disturbing political ad leading up to the November 3rd election.

The ad, as described on San Jose Spotlight, shows Black protesters in South Africa, two of whom are holding sticks, running through a smoke-filled street with the caption “Do you really want to sign on to this?” This was intended as an attack ad aimed at San Jose City Council candidate Jake Tonkel, regarding his stance on police reform. SVO backed his opponent, Dev Davis, who went on to win the race.

SVO Board Member Kevin Surface was part of another press conference Tuesday in which the group issued an apology yet again and acknowledged it has a long road ahead to repair its tattered image.

Surface released the initial results of Silicon Valley Organization’s internal investigation into how the ad actually made it on the organization’s website but the details were slim.

Surface did say that what happened was a total communication breakdown, and that the ad somehow got published without manager approval or proper review protocols. He added that there was no "racist intent" by the parties responsible for the ad.

He did not specify who exactly posted it only saying that employees with their political action committee (SVO-PAC) ended up publishing the ad on their own.

"Did it occur to them that what they were doing was racist, and if not, why not? No one had any specific racist intent under any circumstances,” said Surface.

Santa Clara County Tax Assessor Larry Stone wrote an op-ed in the Mercury News saying the SVO needs to be wiped off the map. "Public outrage and the CEO’s resignation is simply not enough," Stone wrote. "The SVO brand and culture has been so damaged by such reprehensible behavior and poor judgment, I believe the organization must be dismantled in its entirety. Just dissolving the SVO-PAC is insufficient."

Stone has also been actively speaking to television media about his belief that the SVO needs to go. "The political activities in this last campaign by the SVO were just reprehensible. It was right out of the playbook of Donald Trump. They need to demonstrate to the business community, to the public, and to political candidates that they're a totally different organization. I don't think the steps they're proposing to do does that completely," Stone told KPIX.

Meanwhile, the group is promising big changes to its internal leadership. The fallout from the ad has already forced the resignation of CEO Matt Mahood. 

Dozens of elected officials have been calling for the SVO’s management and board members to follow Mahood’s suit. Church leaders and charities have also been pulling their support since the scandal began.

Silicon Valley Organization plans to release the full report on the investigation in a couple of weeks and says it will continue to work with members of the community to try to build back the public’s trust.

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