Ethics chief says "Run, Ed, Run" must register honestly

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As the pseudo-campaign to convince Mayor Ed Lee to change his mind and run for mayor prepares to open a campaign office tomorrow morning – an event with all the trappings of a real campaign but without the candidate or the regulatory controls – the Ethics Commission is asking it to re-register in a less deceptive way.

As the Examiner reported this morning, Progress for All, the group behind the Run, Ed, Run campaign – which has set up a website, bought advertising, and printed and circulated campaign materials around the sole purpose of promoting a mayoral campaign – registered as a political action committee (one not subject to campaign contribution limits or other controls) even though Ethics Director John St. Croix said it is clearly formed around a primary purpose.

Today, St. Croix tells the Guardian that he has asked Progress for All to re-register as a committee formed around the specific purpose of promoting Lee for mayor, but that “I don't know that they responded completely in the affirmative.” Guardian calls to the group's main contract Gordon Chin, who also runs the Chinatown Community Development Center, were not returned.

Despite statements to the Examiner by Progress for All campaign consultant Enrique Pearce that this campaign isn't unprecedented (he cited the 1999 mayoral write-in campaign of Tom Ammiano, who was a willing participant in the effort and formed a campaign committee), St. Croix said it is unprecedented and his office is figuring out how to regulate it.

“There aren't regulations specifically designed for a scenario like his,” he told us. “They can't operate in the absence of regulations.”

Right now, while Progress for All lists five co-chairs of the committee, the public has no way of knowing who's funding the group, how much individual donors have given, or how much is being spent to make the campaign appear to have popular support. That will become more clear at the end of July when the semi-annual campaign finance reports are due, and St. Croix said his office plans to “carefully examine” those filings in order to decide how to proceed.

The group's current filings list its purpose as “general civic education and public affairs,” but St. Croix said the public has a right to know that it has actually formed around a single candidate. While the courts have struck down fundraising limits for committees like this, the group's website seems to limit contributions to the maximum individual contribution of $500, apparently acknowledging that there are potential legal problems with its current approach.

Lee has repeatedly said that he doesn't want to run for mayor and has not encouraged this effort, but he has done little to discourage the efforts by a group led by his closest political allies, so he could be sullied by group's tactics if he eventually decides to run. St. Croix says that if Lee runs and his campaign has any overlap with the current efforts, it will raised troubling issues of whether there has been any collusion between the two campaigns, which is illegal.

Despite the concerns expressed by Ethics, the agency doesn't have a great track record of being tough with powerful campaign finance violators, as a Grand Jury report released this week argues. For example, although the Guardian and Bay Citizen each reported back in October about an independent expenditure (partially funded by Willie Brown) on behalf of Jane Kim's supervisorial campaign that was done through Pearce's Left Coast Communications, which was Kim's campaign consultant, that apparently illegal action was never followed up by the Ethics Commission. St. Croix has said he can't comment on that incident, and he responded to the grand jury report by noting that its recommendations were mild even though "the report itself uses some fighting words," and he said he was preparing a formal response.

Although some activists have argued that those expressing concerns about this stealth campaign are somehow being undemocratic, the reality is that Progress for All is the only mayoral campaign not playing by the rules. And there are rules that govern elections, rules set up precisely so the public knows who's really behind the campaign propaganda.

Comments

They should just register as a corporation so they can spend as much money as they want without any over site.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2011 @ 2:46 pm

Progress for All, the group behind the "Run, Ed, Run" campaign, is giving itself a bad rep if it's pretending to be a general political education organization, as this article charges. The whole city knows its sole purpose is to support a mayoral bid by Lee.

If the group doesn't fully comply with the regulations for candidate-oriented groups, it will put Lee on the defensive on an ethical question, should he decide to run for mayor later. In other words, it will be shooting Lee in the foot.

As to the larger question of whether Lee should run, my guess is that he's smart enough to realize that his effectiveness so far has been largely due to the fact that he's not playing the role of the typical politician.

If he does decide to run, he will become a typical politician. He will end up in the same frustrating quagmire as all the other typical politicians. He will leave office with a "C" grade, just like all his predecessors for the past 30 years or so.

As it is, if he returns to his old job of City Administrator at the end of this year, he will leave office with an "A." And the city will have benefited from a year of good feeling at City Hall (except for some peripheral grumbling from The Guardian and Chris Daly).

Don't run, Ed, don't run.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jun. 24, 2011 @ 2:51 pm

Arthur, shut to fuck up, if he wants to run, he should and even if he doesn't want to run; he should :-)

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2011 @ 10:42 pm

Stop using the F word and grow up. F!@#^&* idiot!!!!!! LOL

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2011 @ 6:22 am

You are so fucking right!

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2011 @ 3:23 pm

This is a historic occasion. On June 24th, 2011, 2:51 PM, Arthur Evans said something that makes sense!

Posted by Greg on Jun. 24, 2011 @ 11:04 pm

They have a FPPC# 1338720 number.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2011 @ 4:06 pm

FYI. Links to two more reports from SF Civil Grand Jury.
1) THE ETHICS COMMISSION.
http://www.sfsuperiorcourt.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=2860
2) PARK MERCED REDEVELOPMENT.
http://www.sfsuperiorcourt.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=2838

Posted by Pat Monk.RN. on Jun. 24, 2011 @ 5:40 pm

They should be able to do whatever they want.

Posted by matlock on Jun. 24, 2011 @ 6:18 pm

Ethics Director John St. Croix said,

“There aren't regulations specifically designed for a scenario like this. They can't operate in the absence of regulations.”

San Francisco hs fallen a long way if one of its highest level city managers actually believes this statement. Not only is it completely false, but it's a sharp blow to the social and political freedom for which California, and especially San Franciso, are known the world over.

Unlike Soviet Russia or China or Syria, in the US everything is allowed UNLESS there is a law forbidding the activity - the exact opposite of St. Croix's statement. I don't know where the city finds these people to manage key government departments, but it needs to do a much better job finding people who possess the values, intelligence and ethical principles that build upon the long tradition of self-independence in the city and state.

Even if the purported activity of this group violated the "spirit of the law" in some way, that's not enough to prevent or punish the activity. If so, most of us world be in jail right now for one transgression or another of the "spirit" of some obscure law.

We are a nation of laws, and if there's not a specific law then ithe activity is legal. It's the bedrock of the US legal and political system. If Director St.Croix doesn't agree with these bedrock principles of this city, state and country, he would be better suited to ply his trade in one of the many oppressive countries that dot the globe.

Besides, even of the activity of this rogue group, Progress For All, skirted the line of legality, we all know the number one rule in war, politics and human realtionships is,

"It's much easier to ask for forgiveness than permission."

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2011 @ 5:36 am

The voters have decisively and repeatedly declared at the ballot box that they want full and complete disclosure of expenditures related to political activity.

The voters have also taken stands against excessive campaign spending.

When Enrique Pearce takes steps to thwart the will of the voters, he is not defying the dictates of politicians, rather offering up a big, slobbering unsolicited kiss on the neck of appalled voters.

Pearce, Kim, Chiu and Lee have all declared themselves to be progressives. Campaign finance laws, contribution limits and disclosure, are core progressive policy priorities.

Soviet Russia never asked the people what they think. To the contrary, in Soviet Russia, the political elites could care less what the voters thought.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 25, 2011 @ 7:17 am

The SF "ethics" clown town is a useless arm of progressive politics.

It is not an operation that measures money involved in politics, but instead a operation that selectively measures some non progressive groups involvement in some political groups.

Marcos dreams again..

Posted by matlock on Jun. 25, 2011 @ 11:43 pm

always frown on money being spent on elections. Given that the US has the most expensive elections on the planet, and that there are thousands of unaccountable and unmeasurable PAC's out there, it seems clear that the "People" are not unduly concerned that individuals are allowed to promote their candidates with whatever resources they have. In fact, it's considered a freedom and a right.

If the SFBG can give "free advertizing" to political causes and candidates, then why shouldn't others offer what they can?

Posted by Walter on Jun. 26, 2011 @ 12:56 am

In ballot measure after ballot measure, San Francisco and other voters impose campaign contribution limits, provide for public financing of elections, mandate increased disclosure of contributions and expenditures.

It is the corrupt US Supreme Court--led by the impeachable Chief Justice Roberts who perjured himself before the US Senate--who is changing the rules of the game instead of just calling balls and strikes.

The fact that moneyed interests spend more money than most nations' GDP's to take elections does not mean that citizens want it that way. And the stakes of the corruption involved are evident in San Francisco, where developers and hypothetical San Franciscans, along with unborn babies, have are provided with public resources while existing citizens suffer deteriorating services and conditions.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 27, 2011 @ 10:23 am

"The fact that moneyed interests spend more money than most nations' GDP's to take elections does not mean that citizens want it that way. "

Posted by matlock on Jun. 29, 2011 @ 9:17 pm

The leaders of the ethics board is as useless as a vestigial dewclaw so they have time to pontificate on things.

It seems to be stacked with the usual political hacks, so Jones can always go there to get some sour progressive nothingness to quote.

I've read as much as anyone the web page of the ethics commission and its a useless political operation payed for by tax dollars.

Posted by matlock on Jun. 25, 2011 @ 1:00 pm

It is absurd that he is not going to run. It is so obvious and so transparent.

It is almost child abuse that his campaign has so many young people trying to 'convince' him to run.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2011 @ 10:17 am

Essentially, Mirkarimi was stating that we don't know if the program we've committed scores of millions of dollars to -- and are on the hook for many millions more -- is working. So we should keep it up and keep pouring money in.

Did we mention Mirkarimi is running for office?

Because he is. His attempt to placate the sheriff's union and Police Officers Association may have impressed those organizations. But it wasn't cutting it with his colleagues.

He claimed San Francisco couldn't truly determine if DROP was cost-neutral as the city had never defined the concept of cost-neutrality. Evoking semantics to try to win an argument is a bit like trying to redefine the concept of time to claim you didn't show up late. In any event, other cities tend to apply a 2 percent margin of error when determining cost-neutrality -- but that's neither here nor there with regards to San Francisco, where the controller estimated DROP would add well over $50 million to the city's retirement burden.

Posted by Barton on Jun. 25, 2011 @ 7:46 pm

$50 million is a pretty good return on the $200,000 it cost the POA to gather the signatures. Commander-in-thief Delagnes just joined the DROP program - unreal.

How many employee benefit ballot proposals have there been where the Controller has wildly underestimated the costs to taxpayers?? Five? Ten?
Speaking of the Ethics Commission, how about investigating the Controller's office?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 26, 2011 @ 6:33 pm

You said you wouldn't. Don't be a liar.

And am I the only one who thinks he's not doing a good job? His "City Family" penion reform proposal is a joke. He tells the Bay Citizen in February that a reform plan needs to save $300 to $400 million to enable the city to avoid bankrupty. Then he comes up with a pension reform plan that saves 20% of that and declares victory?

He's also pushing a $200 million+ bond measure to fix our roads. This city can't even find pay-as-you-go money to repair roads (the most basic of city services) so he wants to borrow to repair them.

Posted by The Commish on Jun. 26, 2011 @ 3:21 pm

Of course we're coming from different perspectives on the pension issue. I think we need to be finding revenue from corporations and millionaires instead of taking from the workers; you think that it doesn't take away *enough* from the workers (perhaps Scott Walker would be more to your liking?). But both of us think that he's doing a lousy job beneath that "aw shucks I'm not a politician" facade.

Of course the Ed-bots are going to point to this and employ that age-old fallacy -see he *must* be doing something right if he's pissing off both the right and the left. Um... no. Sometimes (most of the time in fact), just because you're pissing off all sides doesn't mean you're right (or even competent).

Posted by Greg on Jun. 26, 2011 @ 4:03 pm

Don't forget his laughable sales tax increase and - trim your own trees- proposals. And yes his pension reform proposal is an absolute joke. The generated savings are so meager they're trying to steal health care from the elderly to make up for it- what a guy.

Part of the hype comes from the lack of any true excitement with the current candidates.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 26, 2011 @ 6:13 pm

Some groups are spending big bucks for a campaign without a candidate. Wearing expensive black and orange T's, colors grabbed from the Giants, Team Lee, was loud and boisterous at Pride. This Is a campaign Dispite the protests by our current caretaker Mayor. But there is something dishonest and from the outside looks like the group is spending a lot of cash without having to go through the usual route of a legitimate Independent expenditure committee format. There are so many other candidates who are running legitimate campaigns without the drama and who don't need to be begged,bullied or harassed to run. They are clear about why they are running and are running honest campaigns. Whose Behind all the campaign signs. Is this ethical ?

If Ed does run then he is just another politician who breaks his promises and is beholden to the few paying the tab for all those chic T's. This campaign is a little too clever for itself.

Posted by Guest lucretiamott on Jun. 26, 2011 @ 6:49 pm

Bay Guardian should register as a third party advocacy operation?

Posted by matlock on Jun. 26, 2011 @ 10:26 pm

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