Newsom's plan for DCCC domination


Gavin's not quite ready to take over the world, or even California, but he's not leaving office without trying to mess up the progressive majority on the Democratic County Central Committee. The plan he hatched June 15: Ban elected city officials from sitting on the DCCC. The idea: Get rid of Supervisors David Campos, David Chiu, John Avalos and Eric Mar. The overall plan: With the progressive supervisors -- who have high name recognition and thus get easily elected -- gone, the Newsom allies can take back control of the local Democratic Party.

It's a pretty blatant move -- far beyond Aaron Peskin's so-called coup. And I must say, it's a bit hypocritical.

See, the DCCC isn't just made up of 24 elected members. Every San Francisco Democrat who holds state or national office -- or who is a candidate for state or national office -- is also an automatic member. So Senator Diane Feinstein is a DCCC member; so is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and Sen. Mark Leno. And guess who gets a seat this fall? Lt. governor candidate Gavin Newsom. People like Feinstein and Pelosi never show up; at best, they send a proxy. They rarely pay much attention to the local party, don't help out much with party fundraising, don't even come to the party's annual dinner (Newsom didn't show this year, even though he's the mayor of a Democratic city.)

There have been members of the Board of Supervisors on the DCCC for years. The late Sue Bierman was always a member, and actually cared about and paid attention to the local Democratic Party. Leslie Katz was a member as a supe, and still is. It's never been that big a deal to anyone -- until the progressives starting winning seats. Then suddenly it's a horrible conflict.

The real conflict has nothing to do with city officials sitting on the committee; it's the fundraising issue. The city's campaign finance rules don't apply to DCCC races, so candidates for DCCC who are also running for supervisor -- Scott Wiener, Rafael Mandelman, Debra Walker -- can raise unlimited money for their DCCC races and use that additional name recognition for the fall elections. The thing is, I think most of the candidates who benefit from this loophole agree that it needs to be fixed; Mandelman certainly does, and he's told me that several times. I couldn't reach Walker or Wiener this morning, but I'd be very surprised if both of them wouldn't endorse some kind of contribution limits for DCCC races.

I asked Newsom's press spokesperson, Tony Winnicker, if the mayor would support fundraising limits. Apparently he doesn't (or at least, he doesn't want to push the issue):

"For this November's local ballot, which the Mayor can place an initiative on, we propose eliminating the potential conflict that exists between City officeholders also holding office as elected County Party Committee members."

How about getting rid of all the elected officials, and creating a real grassroots county committee? No, that won't fly with Newsom either. Winnicker:

It's appropriate for state and federal Democratic elected officials from San Francisco to serve on the Democratic County Central Committee.

The city/local offices -- Mayor, Board, Treasurer, Assessor, City Atty, Sheriff, District Atty, Public Defender -- are nonpartisan offices who have direct oversight over City business. That's the difference and conflict. This is a local initiative, so our focus and concern is local good government and local conflicts or appearance of conflicts.

From everything I can figure, Newsom doesn't want campaign-finance reform and doesn't want to put the party in the hands of local activists; he just wants to get rid of the supervisors who take positions he doesn't like. That seems like a pretty bad way to make public policy. 

UPDATE: Just talked to Scott Wiener, who told me he agrees that the whole issue of DCCC campaign spending ought to be on the table. And he said he is not at this point prepared to support Newsom's initiative. "I have concerns with the number of elected officials on the DCCC," he said, "but there are times when it's entirely appropriate to have people who have a demonstrated commitment to the DCCC and then get elected supervisor to stay on it."


I saw this sneak attack the other day and I was wondering why none of the progressive media have picked up on it. Glad to see it's on the radar.

This is such a blatant power grab. It's rank hypocrisy on Newsom's part. Officials who never run for the DCCC get automatic voting seats, but voters themselves can't even elect who they want to the committee! WTF -is this even legal?

I think it's time to do something that Guardian suggested a few months ago -eliminate the proxy votes. If elected supes shouldn't be on the committee, then neither should Newsom and Feinstein, especially since no one even elected them to that office! At the very, very least, the DCCC should enact a mild, moderate, milquetoast compromise measure -let them stay, but eliminate the right to vote by proxy. If Dianne Feinstein really cares so much about who gets elected to the school board and which local initiatives get passed, at the VERY least she should get off her duff and come down to the State Building in person!

Posted by Greg Kamin on Jun. 18, 2010 @ 1:15 pm

Would have to be asked for by the DCCC, as the Democrat Party and its structures are private affairs open to members only. The only government function here is the holding of elections and application of election rules, so limits could not be imposed.

I still think that political parties are legally constructed such that this would be thrown out by the courts as an illegal restriction on free speech if it passed.

Also, why didn't Newsom include commissioners who grant contracts in this ban?


Posted by marcos on Jun. 18, 2010 @ 2:05 pm

I'm not a lawyer, but I don't think Newsom's proposal would stand up anyway. And even if it does, remember: If the supes on the DCCC were forced off, under party rules the chair would appoint their replacements -- and that would give Aaron Peskin even more power. Not much big-picture thinking in Room 200.

Posted by tim on Jun. 18, 2010 @ 5:06 pm

Our Mayor has some real bonehead ideas. The Mayor wants to block participation by locally elected Supervisors, and hypocritically demand that other elected officials keep their seats. This is just bonehead quackery. The Mayor wants his friends to not only keep \seats on the DCCC, but be allowed proxy votes, even when those US and California Senators, Federal and State Representatives can't show.

The DCCC is about local County Party Building and Voter Registration. I have never seen any US Senator, US Congress-member, State Senator or Assembly Person out registering voters. They all seem to have better things to do, like sell their votes to major corporations for the big bucks. Gavin never has anything to do with the DCCC, as his style is "command and blowhard", rather than roll up his sleeves and do the work. Newsom can't ever play well with the other locally elected officials, which is local politics. And what does the Mayor do to register voters? He spends huge amounts of money on the Homeless Industrial Complex, but there is no voter registration of homeless people, or low income people who deal with City Services. Does Gavin require voter registration for welfare? No way. None of those voters would ever vote for him and his "allies".

The logic is all scrambled, like that brain in the frying pay commercial we all remember. If we take the Mayor's idea to Sacramento, does that mean only the Mayors friends will get jobs and appointments in all the areas of government that serve California, and the members of all political parties as well as independents? I guess Mayor Newsom is not interested in any votes from the Independent Voters, the Progressive Democrats, the Republicans, Greens and other voters in California. Why would any body who is not his ally vote for Newsom? All he cares about are his friends and the "Yes Gavin" team. That attitude will not sell Statewide. Sorry. Time to re-take that City College Class: Bonehead 101.

Posted by Paul Currier on Jun. 21, 2010 @ 4:17 am