A look at vice mayor’s Hmong support

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By Lance Armstrong – Citizen Staff Writer
 
Elk Grove Vice Mayor Steve Ly spent much of his campaign funds to support Hmong organizations and events last year, according to his campaign records.
 
They include $250 donations to the nonprofits such as Hmong Women’s Heritage Association, and Hmong Youth and Parents United.
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The vice mayor often spoke of his background as a Hmong immigrant when he ran for the Elk Grove City Council in 2014. A celebration was held last month for him at Elk Grove’s Hmong Alliance Church.
Ly, who came to America as a refugee from Laos in 1976, commented about those expenditures.
 
“All of (those monetary contributions) are either in furtherance of my candidacy or in furtherance of my position as the vice mayor of Elk Grove,” he said. “(Those) highlighted (contributions) include civic donations, modest gifts that (are) directly related to my position as an elected official.”
 
Ly added that he takes pride in these donations, and that in order to determine whether solicitations for contributions are appropriate, he continuously uses the services of the professional accounting firm, Deane & Company.
 
He also mentioned that those contributions are always related to his position as a public official, as opposed to a private citizen.
 
Beyond his leadership role in Elk Grove, Ly said he’s well-known by many Hmong-Americans across the country.
 
“You can go anywhere in the United States and ask a Hmong person, ‘Hey, who is Steve Ly?’ and they’ll say, ‘Oh, he is the vice mayor in the city of Elk Grove,’” Ly said.
 
He is the highest-ranking elected official of Hmong descent in California and the first Asian Pacific Islander to serve on the Elk Grove City Council and the Elk Grove school board.
 
During his celebration at the local Hmong church, Hmong attendees came from as far away as Florida, Minnesota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Fresno, Stockton, Merced and Modesto.
 
Ly has made contributions from his campaign funds for events in various places beyond Elk Grove.
For instance, the campaign summary lists a $100 donation to the Stockton Hmong New Year event, as well as to the Sacramento Hmong New Year event in the same amount.
 
Ly, who participated in those events, said that the gatherings provide support and advertisement for him as a public official and perpetuate his persona as a future candidate for re-election.
Also listed among Ly’s expenditures in 2015 are $100 donations for several Hmong funerals.
Ly mentioned that it is common for him to provide a nominal monetary contribution whenever he gives a eulogy at a funeral.
 
“As a public official, whenever I am asked to speak, I am asked to give a donation,” he said. “It’s customary for me to give eulogies at (funerals). When you see contributions (for funerals), it’s me giving the eulogy and it’s me giving something to the family to defray the cost of the funeral.”
At times when he cannot attend such a gathering, Ly sends a nominal monetary donation with a letter written on paper with official letterhead.
 
Also listed among Ly’s campaign expenditures are four bottles of wine from the McConnell Estates Winery. The wine, Ly said, was presented as “an Elk Grovian” momento to Daniel C. Clune, U.S. Ambassador to Laos, during an event at Valley Hi Country Club. The total cost of the wine was $108.
Ly also donated $100 to the Fresno Center for New American, in support of its annual fundraiser. His contribution for this nonprofit organization, which supports “new Americans,” was solicited by one of the center’s Hmong employees.
 
In addition to supporting Hmong events, Ly provides monetary donations for other community events and activities, including many local crab feeds.
 
Ly emphasized that a lot of his monetary contributions come from his own pocket.