Money and politics - Page 4

Corporations buy influence using big donations and sneaky tactics

22, Yes on H showed $113,750 in contributions, $111,376.18 in expenditures, and $69,806.98 in accrued debt.

A month later it has doubled its contributions, tripled its expenditures — and had increased its accrued debt to $77,509. Lynn predicts that Yes on H's accrued debt will be paid down by late contributions after the election or forgiven later on.

"The solution to the debt scheme is twofold," Lynn said. "Prosecute people doing the scheme and pass a law prohibiting campaigns from making more expenditures than they have contributions. Technically there is nothing illegal about reporting more debt that you have the cash or contributions to pay, but no businessperson regularly offers services in situations where it isn't clear that they will be paid."

Since the Oct. 25 filing deadline, late contributions have continued to pour into No on E big-time, for a total of $59,500. That includes $25,000 from the Committee on Jobs, $2,500 from Jonathan Holzman, $6,000 from Elaine Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis, $1,000 from Chris Giouzelis, $1,000 from Nick Kontos, $1,000 from Farrah Makras, $1,000 from Victor Makras, $1,000 from Makras Real Estate, $5,000 from John Pakrais, $1,000 from Mike Silva, $1,000 from Western Apartments, $5,000 from Maurice Kanbar, and $5,000 from the San Francisco Apartment Association PAC.

The Yes on A committee hasn't used the accrued debt scheme, but it has been the second-largest recipient of late contributions. It received $57,000 in late contributions, with donations from Engeo ($1,000), Singer Associates ($2,500), Trinity Management Services ($10,000), Elysian Hotels and Resorts ($5,000), Luxor Cabs ($1,000), Marriott International ($15,000), the SF Police Officers Association ($2,000), Sprinkler Fitters and Apprentices ($1,500), Barbary Coast Consulting ($2,500), and SEIU International ($3,397.14).

No on H (Neighbors Against Traffic and Pollution) received $4,500 in late contributions, with donations from Norcal Carpenters, Alice and William Russell-Shapiro, and Amandeep Jawa. And in what looks like a classic case of hedging bets, Singer Associates has made a $2,500 late contribution to both Yes on H and No on H.

Steven Mele, who is treasurer for Yes on A and No on H, told the Guardian, "There's some people that time their contributions, but their names are out there, reported on public sites. A lot of corporate money comes in prior to the last deadline, then some afterwards. If campaigns are running with a lot of accrued debt, then those people must have an idea of what money is going to come in."

Unlike the campaigns controlled by the Sutton Law Firm, Mele's committees, which work with Stearns Consulting, are not carrying massive loads of unpaid debt. Yes on A had received $302,452 and spent $279,890 and had $17,749 in debt as of Oct. 25. No on H had received $134,458 and spent $124,088 and had no debt as of Oct. 25.
Mele also believes that while campaign finance rules were written to make the money trail more transparent, "They've resulted in the public being inundated with so much information that they tend to glaze over."