Downtown's 'villains'
Committee on Jobs slaps small business

By Rachel Brahinsky

The Committee on Jobs, a downtown lobbying group that pours gobs of money into local elections, likes to say it's out to make San Francisco a more business-friendly city.

But a confidential December 2004 report by executive director Nathan Nayman suggests that the group is happy to see the majority of the city's businesses treated as villains.

In the report Nayman briefs the membership on the group's 2004 achievements. He notes that Jobs maintains weekly contact with Mayor Gavin Newsom's staff and helped shore up Newsom's veto-proof majority on the Board of Supervisors.

Much of that information was reported by the San Francisco Chronicle's Rachel Gordon, who obtained a copy of the memo back in January.

But the memo, which we have also obtained, includes some startling admissions that have never been made public. At one point, Nayman brags gleefully about a political split over taxes – strongly implying that Jobs set up the small-business community to take the fall over the failure of Proposition K, one of two failed 2004 tax ballot measures.

He writes: "We helped control the business tax discourse for a year and we were able to influence the ballot measure that was placed in front of the voters. This time, small business (NOT the "Downtown" Committee on Jobs) played the villain in killing Prop K (Gross Receipts Tax)."

In other words, it looks as if Nayman is saying that Jobs backed Prop. K because it was a tax deal that small business would fight – and Jobs wouldn't have to play the bad guy. Indeed, Jobs supported the bill – but with only about $100,000 in campaign cash, which, for this group, is pocket change. As Nayman points out in the letter, if the tax measure had been written differently, Jobs would have been prepared to spend "more than $1 million to defeat [sic]." Nayman didn't respond to our request for comment.

The remaining question: if his close allies at Jobs weren't truly gung ho for the tax, how serious was Newsom in backing the measure? Mayoral spokesperson Peter Ragone did not respond to several e-mails from the Bay Guardian requesting comment, but it's worth noting that without the revenue the tax package would have brought, the city has faced ever-higher pressures on its crushing budget problems. And without the taxes, the Jobs agenda of shrinking the city payroll is being accomplished without Newsom having to say publicly that he supports it.

The memo also has an interesting tidbit about the California Urban Issues Project, the secretive "issues advocacy" group that Jobs created to produce advertising supporting Newsom's agenda. CUIP's vitriolic under-the-radar mailers attacking candidates were back in the news last month when the Board of Supervisors passed new campaign disclosure legislation (see "Caught in a Blog Bog," 4/14/05).

That bill was designed to smoke out the CUIP, which, as Nayman explains in the memo, was useful to Jobs "in part due to the non-disclosure nature of its funding." Later in the memo, Nayman discloses a few of the group's backers: the Police Officers Association, the firefighters union, and the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council.

Download a copy of the Committee on Jobs letter.

E-mail Rachel Brahinsky at rachel@sfbg.com.