Soft-Money Expenditures Swamp Supervisor Races

by Paul Hogarth on October 7, 2010

With September 30th campaign finance statements in for the Board of Supervisors, one thing is clear – looking at candidate statements only tells part of the story. Candidates in Districts 6, 8 and 10 are being helped in varying degrees through public financing, and third-party spending is again playing a huge role. As of October 5th, over $180,000 in soft money has been spent on just four candidates – three of them being moderates Theresa Sparks, Scott Wiener and Steven Moss, who are all getting help from business interests. The fourth, progressive Rafael Mandelman, is getting a boost from labor unions – who appear to have made his campaign their top priority. Other candidates are not getting that kind of “soft money,” but Rebecca Prozan and Jane Kim outraised their opponents during the first half of the year – which has kept them competitive. On the “hard money” front, Wiener and Sparks are the landlord favorites – whereas the building trades like District 10 candidate Malia Cohen. And while Moss is quickly becoming the downtown favorite for District 10, Lynnette Sweet still has enough cash to remain a factor.

As a District 6 voter, I recently got a glossy 8½ x 14 inch mailer for Theresa Sparks – stressing her “law-and-order” credentials as a Police Commissioner. But it wasn’t paid for by the Sparks campaign. Instead, it was from the Alliance for Jobs and Sustainable Growth. As has been reported elsewhere, this new group has already spent thousands on behalf of Sparks in District 6, Scott Wiener in District 8 and Steven Moss in District 10. And the “alliance” is between business interests and SEIU-UHW, who share the common goal of building political support for CPMC’s new mega-hospital in Cathedral Hill.

Fortunately, the San Francisco Ethics Commission’s website has a great new user-friendly page that tracks “third-party spending” – so we know exactly how much is being spent on behalf of each candidate. But you still need to look up the individual third-party committees to learn who’s behind them. Besides SEIU-UHW, funding for the Alliance for Jobs and Sustainable Growth comes from the Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA), Building Owners Management Association (BOMA) and the Plumbers Union.

Unlike direct campaign contributions to a candidate (which are capped at $500), there are no limits for independent expenditures. BOMA can only give Sparks $500, so they gave over $33,000 to an Alliance for Jobs committee that was set up exclusively to support Sparks – and gave similar amounts to separate Alliance for Jobs committees to support Wiener and Moss. Moreover, they haven’t spent all their money yet – so expect the tally of “third-party expenditures” to go up in the next few weeks as the election gets closer.

As of October 5th, Sparks has had the most third-party money spent on her behalf than any candidate in the city: $53,685. The vast majority comes from the Alliance for Jobs, but she also got $11,500 from the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club and $8,000 from the Association of Realtors. Scott Wiener is a close second at $48,783 – coming from the Alliance for Jobs and the Realtors, and Steven Moss’ tally is now at $33,629.

But it’s not just moderate candidates who benefit – labor unions have to date spent over $45,000 for progressive Rafael Mandelman in District 8. According to filings with the Ethics Commission, the bulk of that money comes from SEIU Local 1021 – and it has included phonebank operations. In District 6, Debra Walker is also getting third-party help from labor unions – but so far, they have spent much less than District 8: $6,544.

Mandelman appears to be labor’s top priority this election – and it’s also reflected in his “hard-money” contributions this cycle. The District 8 progressive got $500 maximum donations from AFSCME Local 3299, IFPTE Local 21, UESF (the Teachers Union), UFCW and $250 from the Bay Area Union Labor Party. Other notable contributors include DCCC Chair Aaron Peskin, BART Director Tom Radulovich, Planning Commissioner Bill Sugaya, attorney Cris Arguedas (Carole Migden’s wife), real estate developers Marc Babsin of the Emerald Fund and Tom Rocca of Pinnacle Properties.

While Mandelman is labor’s candidate for District 8, Scott Wiener is clearly the favorite of landlords and real estate interests. A Beyond Chron review of Wiener’s filings for this quarter counted $6,175 from donors who listed “realtor” (or something similar) as their occupation, $6,225 from landlords or property managers, and $2,275 from developers. If anything, these figures under-estimate his real estate money – because many landlords put “retired” or “self-employed” as their occupations. Notable Wiener donors included Senator Dianne Feinstein, Pacific Heights fundraisers Mark & Susie Tompkins Buell, angel investors Ron & Gayle Conway, and landlord advocates Janan New & David Fix.

District 8 candidate Rebecca Prozan raised less this quarter than Mandelman and Wiener, and unlike the two has not gotten help from soft-money spending. But because she had a better haul for the first six months of 2010 which netted a healthy dose of public financing, she is still very much competitive. Notable Prozan donors for the quarter include Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, ex-Supervisor Barbara Kaufmann and her husband, the SF Apartment Association (who also gave to Wiener), and the Northern California Carpenters Union.

In District 6, Jane Kim also raised less than her two main competitors this quarter. But because she surpassed them both the first six months of 2010, she has raised more this year ($82,000) than Theresa Sparks ($66,000) or Debra Walker ($27,000.) It looks like Kim and Prozan had the same strategy – spend the first six months raising money, which helps generate public matching funds that free you to focus on a field campaign later.

As many readers know, I support Jane Kim – and am volunteering on her campaign outside work hours. I have not been privy to the campaign’s fundraising strategy, and haven’t asked them if this was the plan all along. But what I can say is that Kim has been out in the field a lot more lately. Much of the $10,000 Kim raised this quarter comes from lawyers, non-profit workers and $500 from the Municipal Executives of SF.

While landlords are supporting Scott Wiener in District 8, they are also clearly behind Theresa Sparks in District 6. Of the money Sparks raised this quarter, at least $9,000 came from identifiable landlords, over $4,000 from real estate developers and at least $1,700 from realtors. Sparks also got $500 checks from the Firefighters, SEIU-UHW, California Hospital Association, Medallion Holders Association and Barbara Kaufmann.

Debra Walker’s donors in this quarter included Planning Commissioner Bill Sugaya, ex-Supervisor Harry Britt, IFPTE Local 21, Mitchell Omerberg of the Affordable Housing Alliance, Redevelopment lawyer Jim Morales and the law firm of Bornstein & Bornstein.

With Lynnette Sweet’s tax problems that have been publicized in the Chronicle’s Matier & Ross, some say she has dropped from the pack in District 10. But if the Ethics Commission filings are any indication, she still has more funds that will keep her a serious contender – even if Downtown has shifted its allegiance to Steven Moss. Notable Sweet donors for this quarter include Supervisor Bevan Dufty, Planning Commissioner Michael Antonini, ex-Supervisor candidate Ron Dudum and the Municipal Executives Association of SF.

Malia Cohen has also raised considerable sums this quarter, and she is a favorite of the building trades. Cohen received $500 checks from the District Council of Iron Workers, the Plumbers Union, Engineers & Scientists Local 20, the Firefighters Union, the Northern California Carpenters Union and $300 from the Bay Area Union Labor Party.

As I’ve written before, District 10 has been quiet on the fundraising front – and the other serious candidates in the race raised relatively small amounts this quarter. DeWitt Lacy, after getting a surprising top endorsement at the DCCC, secured $100 from Supervisor John Avalos and $500 from Tom Ammiano. Tony Kelly got $100 from Planning Commission President Ron Miguel, and ex-Supervisor candidate Denise McCarthy. And Eric Smith mined his old contacts in the music industry – with donations like $200 from Christopher Cross.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Paul Hogarth has endorsed Jane Kim in District 6, and Eric Smith in District 10. Outside of work hours, he has volunteered on Jane Kim’s campaign.

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