The funny money against Prop. B


Credit where it's due: My competitor and sometimes journalistic adversary Joe Eskenazi has a nice little piece on the weird money behind the campaign against Prop. B, a policy statement about the privatization of Coit Tower. He points out that such varied groups as the California Dental Association and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians have coughed up money to protect the right of San Francisco officials to close Coit Tower to the public and rent it out for fancy corporate parties.

And how exactly did that happen?

Well, Eskenazi manages to tie Willie Brown into it. (He also calls this "Nimby against the Swells," which isn't quite fair -- I don't think the supporters of Prop. B are trying to keep anything out of their back yards. If anything, they want more noisy tourists and fewer quiet, subdued rich-people events. And I don't think the "swells" are against it as much as the mayor, his Rec-Park director and big businesses that generally back the privatization of public resources.)

But there's another interesting twist: I'm not sure the folks who gave to the Golden State Leadership Fund Political Action Committee, which is running a No on B independent expenditure, had any clue where their money was going.

Sure, the Chamber of Commerce and BOMA know what's up, and it's pretty clear why they like the idea of raising money for the parks by holding exclusive private events instead of by raising taxes. But the Indians? And the dentists? By what possible stretch do they care about a San Francisco ballot measure that has nothing to do with Native American rights or oral health?

Eskenazi may be right -- maybe Brown called the Indians and asked, and they threw the money his way to help his buddy the mayor (while keeping the mayor's fingers out of this particular political pie). But the Golden State Leadership PAC, through which all this money flowed, has been around for years and gives money to candidates all over the state. (It's definately something of a slush fund for local races -- files in the Secretary of State's office show that in 2008, money from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. flowed in and out of the PAC as it ran a campaign against the San Francisco public-power measure, Prop. H. PAC money went to David Chiu, Phil Ting and Ed Lee for mayor.) It's based in West Hollywood and the treasurer is a guy named William Molina.

I called the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and the California Dental Association and asked them why there were helping fund a campaign against Prop. B in San Francisco. The press person at the dental group apparently had no idea what I was talking about and asked for more details about the contribution. I gave her the date and the PAC and I haven't heard back.

The Indians didn't seem to clear on Prop. B, either. Kenneth Shoji, a spokesperson for the group, told me by email:

The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians made a contribution of $25,000 to the Golden State Leadership Fund PAC with the expectation of helping to support candidate(s) for public office in the 2012 elections.  We do not control where or how the PAC might extend its support beyond that.

In other words: This Coit tower thing is news to us.

UPDATE: I got essentially the same message from the dentists. Alicia Malaby at the CDA writes:

 When an organization such as CalDPAC contributes to an independent expenditure committee, that committee may spend money on races and issues that CalDPAC supports, but may also spend money on other campaigns. CalDPAC does not control how those committees spend money, and in this case, CalDPAC has no interest in and no position on Proposition B.

UPDATE TWO: Ron Cottingham at PORAC just called me and said his group has no position on or interest in Prop. B. The money that went to the PAC was earmarked to support Rob Bonta for Assembly in the East Bay. Presumably the PAC folks keep track of such things.

Maybe not. Maybe Willie or someone else made a call. It happens all the time.  I mean, somebody clearly was raising money for this PAC, which right now isn't doing a hell of a lot besides No on B in San Francisco. (Oh, I called Brown, too. He hasn't called back. He never does. I still always try.)

Either way, it's a classic San Francisco political story -- and it reflects how muddy and corrupt local politics can still be, even in an era of electronic disclosure and ethics laws. Why, if the dentists and Indians don't like Prop. B, didn't they (or any of the others in the PAC) create a No on B committee, disclose who was behind it and let the voters know a little more about the real money trail? Why funnel all this cash through a little-known Southern California PAC?

And for that matter, why is there a sudden influx of late money in this race? Has the mayor and the Chamber types suddenly discovered that Prop. B might pass -- and might set a precedent against future privatization efforts?

June 5 is Election Day. Vote early and often.







Which, if passed, The Guardian will then use as a cudgel to support its own views. However if the "policy statement" is in opposition to something The Guardian supports (like the ban on military recruitment in the SFUSD) - then the statement is meaningless and a waste of ballot space and was passed for ALL the wrong reasons.

Posted by Troll II on Jun. 04, 2012 @ 8:19 pm

Speaking of funny money, you should see how much Recology contributed to its Keep SF Green campaign -- and who took money from Recology/Keep SF Green. Look carefully at the 5/26/2012 e-filing. There will be some surprises. Dirty garbage money.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2012 @ 9:56 pm

>"close Coit Tower to the public and rent it out for fancy corporate parties."

According to the SF Parks Department web site the tower closes at 5:30 to the public anyway. Yes, there might be some early closings but the blanket statement saying that the Parks Department is going to "close Coit Tower to the public for fancy corporate parties" is wholly misleading. This is another example of why Redmond deserves the ridicule he gets. This city needs honest journalists looking at the issues and he takes up space that could go to one.

The private parties at Coit Tower are a win-win. The Tower is closed at night to the public anyway. The city gets revenue from convention sources, from businesses that don't even operate in San Francisco. The convention planners have an additional reason to bring their revenue to San Francisco. The conventioneers get a great memory of San Francisco. A city facility in one of the wealthiest areas of the city generates revenue that creates playgrounds in some of the least wealthy areas.

There are just two problems. One is, as Tim alludes to, the money doesn't come as a result of taxing businesses. Progressive dogma states that businesses should always be taxed to the max. Other creative solutions are against the Progressive religion.

The other problem is that Tim's master, Aaron Peskin, lives nearby the tower.

Posted by Troll on Jun. 04, 2012 @ 10:30 pm

> The private parties at Coit Tower are a win-win.

Not so. Think about it: red sauce spattered on the frescoes. A waiter blows out candles and the wax is splattered over the walls.

It doesn't take much at all for the frescoes to be ruined!

Posted by CRS on Jun. 05, 2012 @ 12:32 am

and every other building with "nice things in it" that frequently and routinely host parties.

Oh, and never cross the road - you might get run over.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2012 @ 6:40 am

...perhaps we can give the Parks Department some credit for using common sense without requiring a public ballot measure. If candles present a danger then they won't allow candles and nobody will care.

In New York they use the Temple of Dendur (15 BC) for their functions. But they don't have to deal with the perennial silly season like we do.

Posted by Troll on Jun. 05, 2012 @ 7:16 am

Given that nobodyc ares about any of it.

But I give you credit for trying to drum up some excitement and controversy out of nothing.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2012 @ 7:11 am

were not a neighbor- it wouldn't be an issue at all. Plenty of city venues have corporate events- City Hall, museums, etc. What is so darn special about Coit tower that it is an issue?

Posted by D.native on Jun. 05, 2012 @ 7:42 am

Think about it...the public palace, the seat of government. I've frequently seen the main rotunda/staircase area roped off for a private event.

If it weren't for Peskin and the SFBG's other THD masters we wouldn't be having this discussion. A bunch of wealthy '1%' types complaining because their local park is used for events that fund playgrounds in Hunter's Point. And the SFBG is on the front lines saying that we shouldn't help deprived areas with revenue from events in the wealthiest of neighborhoods.

Posted by Troll on Jun. 05, 2012 @ 8:27 am

Ah, so good to have the comments working again so my friends and loyal readers can get back to the business of ignoring my point (why are dentists even involved in this local issue) and attacking me. Welcome back, folks!

Posted by tim on Jun. 05, 2012 @ 9:38 am
Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2012 @ 9:49 am

So what is Tim's point...that he should be allowed to consistently print misleading statements and that the readers should ignore them? And that we should only respond to what he considers 'the point'?

The ballot measure is about the use of one city resource to generate revenue for playgrounds throughout the city. It isn't about dentists or Native Americans. My guess is that those groups have some interest in the city's convention business (unlike the SFBG, which only cares about TAX revenue).

Posted by Troll on Jun. 05, 2012 @ 1:05 pm

I thought the mayor arrived at some agreement that means this "policy statement" no longer applies?

Posted by Troll II on Jun. 05, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

The Mayor came up with good money to take care of the murals. But that doesn't address the decree by the Telegraph Hill Dwellers that we shalt not have private parties in their Coit Tower. And the revenue that went to playgrounds in the city's deprived areas? Let the kids play in the street. We don't want a bunch of dentists having dinner in our park.

Posted by Troll on Jun. 05, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

Folks, we clearly disagree on Prop. B. That's fine; Vote No if you don't like it. But isn't the larger point interesting -- that the No campaign is funded in part by people who had no idea their money was going to No on B? Isn't that a little funky?

Or is it all about me?

Posted by tim on Jun. 05, 2012 @ 2:31 pm

The rest of us already knew that campaign finding is a bizarre practice where things are never as simple as they seem.

We don't think that the Native Americans and the dentists of America are part of a broad conspiracy to have private parties at Coit Tower.


Posted by Troll on Jun. 05, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

Sorry, its all about your paper, and its continued support for the 1% in telegraph hill.
Is there a cause that they threw their weight behind in the last couple of years that this paper did not also start editorializing for?

Its ridiculous! Anything they want, the SFBG writes an editorial in favor of.
Baron Aron isnt even in office anymore and you guys are so used to bending over the barrel for him that I can count the barrel imprint lines on your midsection.

Posted by Judith on Jun. 05, 2012 @ 2:46 pm

Your sometimes adversary Joe Eskenazi is an INDEPENDENT THINKER. He wrote an excellent series about the 'city family', how it is robbing San Francisco of services....and yet here he is exposing corporate influence in the Coit Tower proposition.

Have you ever, even once in your journalistic life, taken a stand opposing leftist causes?

Have you ever been unorthodox? Unpredictable? A non-conformist? If so, please cite examples.

Posted by Troll the XIV on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 7:13 am
Posted by Troll the XIV on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 8:55 pm

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