By Sarah Phelan
No wonder District 6 Sup. Chris Daly wants to clean up election finance dirt.
Last November, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, the Police Officers Association, the Building Owners and Managers Association and San Francisco SOS participated in massive independent expenditure campaigns in a dirty and ultimately unsuccessful effort to unseat District 6 Sup. Chris Daly.
These dirty tricks included push polls that planted nastily negative ideas about Daly, such as he hates the police--smears hat were then followed by what Daly’s aide John Avalos describes as “robocalls from Mayor Gavin Newsom,” plus mailers featuring pictures of Daly that make him look like he’s crazily shouting at the police. Nice.
These kinds of hit jobs were financed by money that originated from GGRA, POA, BOMA, and SFSOS.
In an effort to stop, or at least inhibit, similar abuses in the future, Daly's asked the City Attorney to draft legislation that would tighten election law--legislation he hopes to have in place by the time the 2007 election circus rolls into town.
Daly says he wants to ensure that candidates drawing high levels of opposition spending from IEs will be eligible for greater amounts of public financing (much like the financing program currently in place for the mayoral race).
Halo e hopes to help campaigns respond to big money attacks, by raising the campaign expenditure ceiling for supervisorial candidates from $83,000 to $140,000.
Daly's proposed legislation also targets push polls, which act as campaign rather than research tools, since these kinds of polls typically ask negatively skewered questions about the candidate they’re targeting, which the IE campaign promptly follows up with coordinated ads and mailers that reinforce the push polls’ smears.
Daly hopes to rein in such attacks, by requiring the financial backers of polls to file with the ethics commission within 24 hours of the poll, along with a copy of the poll’s questions. He’d also like to see pollsters be required to identify the financial sponsor of their poll, and require that mailers, including electioneering communications and independent expenditures, file with the Ethics Commission and provide copies of the mail pieces, along with the identify of tthe financial backers of the pieces.
As for paid signature gatherers, Daly believes they should have to identify themselves as paid on the signature material themselves, as well as be required to identify the financial backers of the measure.
Finally, Daly would like to establish greater equity in ethics rules, perhaps by adjusting fines to ensure that smaller grassroots campaigns with limited elections experience are not penalized at the same levels as more experienced and deeper pocketed organizations .
“They could base fines on the scale of operation and the experience of the treasurer, “ Daly's aide Avalos suggests.
Daly, who’d also like to extend public financing to recall elections, says his goal is to limit the corrupting influence of big money in San Francisco’s elections. “I want to ensure that everyday people have the ability to run without fear of gross and manipulative attacks from narrow interests,” Daly said.