In less than three months, custom made super yachts will zip around the San Francisco Bay in the ultimate competition for the prized America’s Cup. But San Francisco could wind up spending millions more than originally expected to host this prestigious sailing regatta.
At a March 13 committee hearing at the Board of Supervisors, America’s Cup Organizing Committee CEO Kyri McClellan reported that Mayor Ed Lee was investing an “incredible amount of energy” into helping ACOC with fundraising efforts to avert a city funding shortfall. He was even said to be hosting “breakfasts with CEOs” to solicit funding, McClellan said.
Who are the CEOs? Nobody will say.
How much has each of them pledged to give? Nobody will say.
When the Guardian submitted these questions to Lee, McClellan, and Stefanie Roumeliotes – whose SGR Consulting firm was wheeled in at the last minute to organize fundraising events – none answered directly.
McClellan responded on April 9 with a copy of a letter she sent to Mayor Lee and Board President David Chiu on the day of the hearing, which she indicated was “the most recent update on fundraising.” Roumeliotes, for her part, told the Guardian flat out to stop calling, because her firm was not going to answer any questions.
So far, it appears that none of the mayor’s fundraising meetings, which took place from January 25 to March 4, resulted in his unnamed breakfast companions writing out actual donation checks.
Had they contributed funding, the donation amounts would have been reflected in “behested payment” forms filed with the San Francisco Ethics Commission, required under state law to be submitted 30 days after a contribution is made.
Elected officials are “supposed to file behested payment [forms] for … legislative, governmental or charitable purposes,” Ethics Commission chief John St. Croix told the Guardian, so donations relating to the America’s Cup would fall squarely into this category. Those forms are supposed to filed internally by department, then sent onto Ethics. So far, none have been recorded.
“If there are such forms that the mayor filled out,” St. Croix told the Guardian, “they’re not getting forwarded.”
Meanwhile, McClellan’s March 13 letter suggests that recent fundraising efforts have yielded only $1.4 million – which won’t actually be in hand till next year. That’s a far cry from the estimated $15.6 million funding gap race organizers say is needed to cover San Francisco’s estimated $22.5 million billionaires’ boat race tab. As the fundraising arm of the race organizing committee, ACOC promised in an initial agreement that it would “endeavor to raise” the amount needed to defray city costs. Thus far, it’s paid $6.8 million.
In her letter to Lee and Chiu, McClellan suggested that roughly $13 million of that $15.6 million shortfall would be accounted for in “forecast General Fund revenues.” That translates to additional money harvested from visitors’ pockets via sales and hotel taxes, with some payroll taxes and parking fees sprinkled in, all associated with the America's Cup events. Little-guy money.
And thanks to the little guys, ACOC’s new fundraising goal is much more attainable. “The SFACOC continues to endeavor to raise the funds,” McClellan wrote. “At a minimum that is $2,670,851 of which we already have $1,400,000 in existing pledges that are to be received by January 2014.”