Deep-pocketed Lee supporter aims to take back S.F. from progressives

A table at the Bay Area Council dinner, where Ron Conway told guests it was time to take SF back from progressives.

Power brokers Willie Brown and Rose Pak aren't nearly the only influential backers working behind the scenes to help elect Mayor Ed Lee to a full term. Three different committees have been set up to support his candidacy and are fundraising independently from his official campaign, according to Ethics Commission filings.

The principal officer and treasurer of one of these independent expenditure committees are, respectively, a Republican Silicon Valley tech investor who's spoken publicly about taking San Francisco back from progressives, and a political attorney who worked on Pacific Gas & Electric Co.'s failed yet stunningly expensive Proposition 16 campaign.

"San Franciscans for Jobs and Good Government, Supporting Ed Lee for Mayor 2011," was created in late August with a San Rafael address, according to an Ethics filing. Its principal officer is Ron Conway, a Silicon Valley angel investor who made his fortune in the tech industry. Conway was quoted in a San Francisco Business Times article last year as saying “we must take our city back” from progressives, a rallying cry he delivered at a dinner hosted by the the Bay Area Council, a business association. A book written about Conway by Gary Rivlin dubs him "The Godfather of Silicon Valley."

According to campaign finance records, Conway, a registered Republican, has donated more than $320,000 to Republican state and federal candidates since 1999. He also contributed $1,000 to a Draft Ed Lee for Mayor committee, a separate effort from Progress for All which was formed before Lee announced his candidacy to encourage him to run. Conway has made substantial contributions to Democratic hopefuls, too, but the majority of his campaign donations over the last decade have benefited GOP candidates.

The treasurer of "San Franciscans for Jobs and Good Government" is Elli Abdoli, a political attorney who works in the San Rafael office of Nielsen Merksamer Parrinello Mueller & Naylor, a heavyweight political firm based in Sacramento whose services were tapped last year by PG&E to advance the Proposition 16 ballot initiative that the company bankrolled. Prop 16 was designed to crush municipal power programs that threatened to compete with PG&E by requiring a supermajority approval of the voters before they could move forward. Despite sinking more than $45 million into that campaign, voters rejected Prop. 16.

Abdoli served as the assistant treasurer for the Yes on 16 committee, according to a form filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission. She was listed as a contact for the "San Franciscans for Jobs and Good Government" committee and had not returned calls by press time.