Saturday, November 5, 2011

SF Mayor finances: Lee, Chiu and Yee

The San Francisco Mayoral election is coming up Tuesday and the outcome is fuzzy amid swirling rumors of ethics violations and questions of just who can win in the City’s first major test of ranked-choice voting. One thing is clear, however: it’s an expensive race.

An analysis of several major mayoral candidates’ finances this weekend shows that millions of dollars have been both collected and spent by candidates for a position that pays $252,000 per year.

Using campaign finance links from the California Secretary of State’s office and the San Francisco Ethics Commission, I examined the complicated process of filing finance reports for several mayoral campaigns.

In the interests of time, I selected the three candidates (out of the 16 declared) who seem to get the most attention in the press or on social media: the incumbent, Ed Lee, and challengers David Chiu and Leland Yee. If someone chooses to go to the relevant part of the California Secretary of State’s website and analyze the other candidates, I’d be happy to provide a link to that analysis.

I realize this list is neither fair nor exhaustive, and the selection process was rather arbitrary. I also spent a great deal more time analyzing Lee’s finances, both because he is the incumbent and seemed to have more donors than the other candidates. But there is no ulterior motive behind which three candidates were selected, other than I thought they’d be the most interesting. I do not have a favored candidate in the race — in fact, I do not live in San Francisco.

The following was largely based on each candidate’s “Form 460” (a document filed with the California Fair Political Practices Commission listing contributions and expenses) for the period covering Sept. 25 to Oct. 22, 2011, the most-recent filing period.

Ed Lee, the incumbent.
First, Edwin Lee, the current mayor. According to documents filed with the San Francisco Ethics Commission, Lee (as of Oct. 31, 2011) has taken in $1,334,576.67 in contributions, loans and public funds and spent $1,722,713.93. Lee still had $136,472.48 in his campaign war chest.

Unlike Chiu and Yee, whose Form 460s for the time period ran 96 and 97 pages, respectively, Lee’s Form 460 was a staggering 455 pages long. Some of Lee’s notable donors include: John Fair, manager of Lefty O’Doul’s ($500 on Sept. 30); the Rev. A. Cecil Williams of Glide Memorial Church ($250 on Sept. 29); and Matthew Janopaul, former COO of Fender Musical Instruments (of Fender Guitar fame) and current co-owner of Pasta Pomodoro restaurants ($500).

Lee gets some cross-Bay love, collecting donations from Joseph Yew, Oakland’s Finance Director ($250 on Oct. 17), and embattled Oakland Mayor Jean Quan ($500 on Oct. 20).

Interestingly, Lee collected numerous donations from several individuals who directly owe their jobs to San Francisco’s “interim” mayor. These include: Lisa Ang, Lee’s deputy communications director ($340 on Sept. 25); Lily Madjus, another deputy communications director ($150 a few days later); Craig Dziedzic, acting general manager of the SF Department of Emergency Management ($500 on Oct. 6); and Jacalyn Fong, acting director of contract administration ($100 on Oct. 18).

One of the more controversial donations Lee accepted might be from Mohammed Nuru, San Francisco’s director of public works, who gave $500 on Sept. 29. Nuru was appointed to his current post by Lee when Ed Reiskin was appointed SF's new Director of Transportation, despite allegations against Nuru of sexism and racism.

Lee is a golf fan, and continues to benefit from the largess of the Professional Golfers Association. Remember his 2009 gift from the PGA of two tickets for the President’s Cup at Harding Park? Well, Tom Clark, the PGA Tour's executive director of the Presidents Cup, gave Lee $500 on Oct. 4, and Brian Goin, a director of the PGA tour, also gave $500.

The business community likes Lee. October gifts of $500 to Lee’s campaign came from Carl Guardino, President of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group; former state Assemblyman and current transportation consultant Richard Katz; Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman (seeking good reviews, Ed?); and Zynga founder Mark Pincus. Twitter chief financial officer Ali Rowghani gave Lee a $500 contribution on Oct. 10 — six months after Lee pushed to give the social media firm payroll tax breaks to keep Twitter’s HQ in San Francisco.

So what’s the money been used for? For one thing, those yard and window signs you see all over the city aren’t cheap. Lee’s campaign paid the Wilmes Company, Inc., $27,887.21 for signage. Lee’s campaign also reimbursed staffer Thomas Li $2 for a Muni ride — what, he doesn’t have a Clipper Card?

But much of the campaign work is contracted out. “Ed Lee for Mayor, 2011” paid Phil Giarrizzo Campaigns multiple payments totalling more than $125,000 in the four-week period, and listed that it still owes the consulting firm $50,000.

The campaign also paid more than $110,000 to Sadler Strategic Media, Inc. for “professional services.” Sadler, in turn, paid SCN Strategies, a political firm known for dirt digging, almost $23,000 during the period.

Sadler also bought more than $50,000 worth of TV air time from stations KTVU, KRON, KPIX and KTSF, as well as $19,528.75 worth of local cable ads from National Cable Communications.

David Chiu.
The documents of Board of Supervisors President David Chiu were fairly simple, compared to Lee’s. According to documents filed with the San Francisco Ethics Commission, Chiu (as of Oct. 22, 2011) has taken in $623,138 in contributions, loans and public funds and spent $839,442.21. Chiu still had a healthy $321,511.99 in his campaign war chest.

Chiu’s most-recent four-week donor/expenses tally shows he took in $72,607.51 between Sept. 25 and Oct. 22 from individual contributors and businesses. There were fewer marquee donors on Chiu’s list, the most-notable being donations of $500 each from concert promoter Gregg Perloff, founder of Another Planet Entertainment, and his wife. Chiu collected $500 from a number of contributors, including Jessica Garcia-Kohl, director of development of the Housing Trust of Santa Clara County and Brown and Toland CEO Richard Fish. Fish, whose doctor's group operates at several Bay Area hospitals, seems to be hedging his bets, because he also gave $500 to Ed Lee the same date.

Expenditures for Chiu’s campaign seem heavily media-oriented. Chiu paid about $88,000 to JPM&M political consultants to handle most buys. Chiu, whose supervisorial district includes Chinatown, has invested heavily in Chinese over-the-air media, including $17,995 to Chinese TV station KTSF and $7,875 to Sing-Tao Chinese radio. In English, Chiu has been putting a lot of money into print ads — including $24,352.06 to the San Francisco Chronicle, which endorsed him. Payback, or simply advertising to the readers of a newspaper known to be friendly to you?

Chiu also took out ads in the San Francisco Bay Guardian ($5,174) and its competitor, San Francisco Weekly ($3,000), as well as a $7,000 buy in the San Francisco Examiner.

Being in a mayoral campaign involves a lot of traveling, and the carless Chiu (who usually bikes or takes Muni) owes Hertz $578.36, according to its unpaid debt sheet.

Leland Yee.
State Senator Leland Yee’s documents also were simpler than those from Lee. According to documents filed with the San Francisco Ethics Commission, Yee (as of Nov. 3, 2011) has taken in $1,311,759 in contributions, loans and public funds and spent $1,313,301.37. Yee still had $56,310.60 in his campaign war chest.

Yee’s most-recent four-week donor/expenses tally shows he took in $70,969 between Sept. 25 and Oct. 22 from individual contributors and businesses, including $100 from Fattoush, a Middle Eastern restaurant at 1361 Church Street, and a $500 contribution to himself. But Yee also returned several donations, including $500 on Oct. 14 to hedge fund manager David Corriea, president of Parnas Holdings.

Yee is popular with fellow politicians, collecting $100 from Redwood City Planning Commissioner Jeff Gee and $500 from the re-election campaign fund of Los Angeles-area State Senator Alex Padilla.

Yee’s campaign made 16 separate payments between Sept. 25 and Oct. 22 to Stearns Consulting, a campaign management firm which also claims Chiu as a client (although I could not find any payments from Chiu to Stearns). The payments totaled $128,758.20, with the largest single payment for $50,000. According to Yee’s records, most of these payments were passed on to various television stations for commercial airtime. The documents also show that Yee still owed Stearns about $22,000 as of late October.

No comments: