Supervisor Candidates Find Ways to Skirt Around Limit

by Paul Hogarth on February 3, 2010

When you run for local office in San Francisco, no one can give you more than $500 – unless you’re running for the Democratic County Central Committee, where there are no contribution limits. And with many November candidates for Supervisor also running for DCCC in June (which decides who gets the Democratic Party endorsement), people are getting quite creative. District 8 candidate Scott Wiener has raised $51,134 in his run for Supervisor, but nearly matched that in his re-election campaign for DCCC – for a total of $100,000. Two of his DCCC donors – Gold Club SF and SFBSC Management (both of whom run strip clubs) – have given $5,000 and $10,000 respectively. Wiener is not alone. Candidates Debra Walker and Rafael Mandelman are also taking advantage of this loophole, but his is the starkest example of a DCCC campaign becoming a soft-money conduit. With the latest Ethics Commission filings now available online, it’s the most interesting revelation in the ongoing battle for the Board of Supervisors.

District 8 is Where the Money’s Going

I predicted that the race to succeed Bevan Dufty in District 8 (which includes the Castro, Noe Valley and Glen Park) would be the most competitive. Now that the 2009 fundraising numbers are in, we know that it’s by far the most expensive. The four major candidates have raised a combined total of $227,776 – and we have almost a whole year of campaigning left. As a comparison, we didn’t see that kind of money raised two years ago until early October.

Rebecca Prozan sent out a press release yesterday, calling herself the “top fundraiser” in District 8 – having raised over $54,000 to date. But while none of her opponents raised that much for their Supervisor race, the three others are all running for re-election to the DCCC – where they can take unlimited donations. Taking that into account, Wiener has her beat at $99,540 – with Laura Spanjian at $38,884 and Rafael Mandelman at $34,962.

Granted, the Democratic Central Committee is a different election – five months before the Supervisor race. But the DCCC will decide in August which candidates get the Democratic Party nod so a lot is at stake. In 2008, DCCC candidates had their field team walking precincts as if it were November – with volunteers even wearing “for Supervisor” t-shirts. Now, every candidate running for Supervisor and DCCC display both logos on their websites.

Scott Wiener’s DCCC campaign has taken $5,000 from Gold Club SF and $10,000 from SFBSC Management. Both companies run strip clubs, the latter of which manages Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club, Broadway Showgirls Cabaret, Centerfolds and others. He also got $1000 from Liberty Property Group, and $2500 from BOMA – the commercial landlord group. None of these donations would be legal, if made directly to a Supervisor race.

But Wiener is not alone – other candidates have skirted the $500 donation limit by taking money for their DCCC campaign. District 6 candidate Debra Walker took $1000 from Tetsuo Commercial Properties, and $1500 from Pinnacle Properties. And Wiener’s rival in District 8 – Rafael Mandelman – got $1000 from Board of Equalization member Betty Yee and $1500 from Joseph Patt of Citigroup for his June re-election to the DCCC.

Wiener has also raised $51,000 in “hard money” contributions to his Supervisor race. Over $6,200 of that money comes from real estate brokers at places like Zephyr Realty, Sotheby Realty and Coldwell Bank. Other donors include gay philanthropist James Hormel, the SF Firefighters, and a $250 check from ex-Newsom consultant Eric Jaye.

Laura Spanjian is running for DCCC and District 8 Supervisor, but is not using the “soft-money” loophole. That’s because she has a self-imposed contribution limit of $150, and has made it a central part of her campaign platform. Even if one were to give Spanjian $150 to both her Supervisor and DCCC campaigns, that would still be less than $500.

Despite this pledge (which Bevan Dufty successfully used before), Spanjian has raised an impressive $38,884. Notable donors include State Senator Joe Simitian, Sheriff Michael Hennessey, Former Supervisor Leslie Katz, real estate developer Oz Erickson, former Sierra Club President Adam Werbach and Newsom spokesman Tony Winnicker.

Rafael Mandelman raised less than his District 8 rivals – $34,962 from both campaigns – but sent out a press release to say he has “outpaced” other progressives at this point in 2008 (who were in other districts.) Donors include ex-State Senator Carole Migden and her wife Cris Arguedas, Supervisors Eric Mar and John Avalos, BART Director and former D8 candidate Tom Radulovich, and Clear Channel lobbyist Michael Colbruno.

Rebecca Prozan is the only District 8 candidate not running for DCCC – and so cannot take advantage of the “soft-money” loophole. Her donors include D.A. Kamala Harris, former Public Defender Kimiko Burton, State Controller John Chiang, State Senator Leland Yee, and Supervisor Bevan Dufty (who also gave to Spanjian.) She also took donations from real estate professionals, but not to the extent that Scott Wiener has.

Fundraising Still Underway in Districts 6 and 10

With District 8 being a mass fundraising spree, it’s a lot quieter in Districts 6 and 10 – where some serious contenders didn’t raise money before the December 31st deadline.

In District 6 (Tenderloin, SOMA and North Mission), only three candidates raised any substantial money in 2009 – Debra Walker, Elaine Zamora and Jim Meko. Jane Kim sent out an announcement yesterday that she raised over $20,000 – but because it was filed after January 1st it does not appear in the filing reports. Theresa Sparks is also a late entry, so we don’t know how much money she has raised or where it has come from.

Debra Walker – if you combine her Supervisor and DCCC campaigns – has raised over $50,000. Contributors include Tom Ammiano, Senators Leland Yee and Carole Migden, Public Defender Jeff Adachi, Aaron Peskin, developer Tom Rocca (who did the controversial project at 3400 Cesar Chavez) and all three principals of the Barnes Mosher Whitehurst consulting firm.

Coming in second at $11,425 is Elaine Zamora, whose donors include former Tenderloin Police Captain Gary Jimenez, real estate developer Art Evans, and Wade Randlett (who was President of the group SF-SOS.) Jim Meko’s donations last year totaled $7,000.

District 10 also has a prominent candidate who didn’t raise money before December 31st. BART Director Lynnette Sweet is the only contender in the race who has run for office before, so could be a formidable fundraiser if she runs. Malia Cohen raised $18,505 – followed by Steven Moss at $15,974 and Beyond Chron writer Eric Smith at $9,190.

Cohen’s donations were the most interesting. She clearly has connections in Washington, such as the Interior Department’s Chief of Staff, a lobbyist for Pharma – and the Personal Assistant to Bill Clinton. Closer to home, her contribution list includes Wade Randlett, Bob Twomey (who works for Fiona Ma) and former Newsom flak Peter Ragone.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Paul Hogarth considered a run for District 6 Supervisor this year, and has endorsed Jane Kim for that race (along with Eric Smith in District 10.) He did not co-ordinate or discuss writing this piece with either candidate or campaign.

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