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."