Much ink has been spilt about the “City Family,” a euphemism alluding to the political machine whose gears and pulleys include politicos and staffers who influence San Francisco’s future.
But an ethics complaint filed Monday takes the City Family allegation to an all new level.
A local politico, Meagan Levitan, alleged supervisor candidate Nick Josefowitz broke campaign finance laws by illegally coordinating with his mother-in-law in the complaint, which was obtained by this columnist.
Yes, as in his wife’s mother. Cue outdated mother-in-law joke, here.
Josefowitz is running against incumbent Supervisor Catherine Stefani to represent District 2 this November on the Board of Supervisors, overlooking neighborhoods like the Marina, Pacific Heights, Laurel Heights, and other such hoity-toity hoods (I say with authority, since I’m from the Marina.)
The allegation follows the following logic:
Josefowitz’s wife, Tali Rapaport, works on his campaign full time, other news reports have revealed. Her mother, Cobey Rapaport, donated $15,000 to an independent expenditure campaign committee, SF Workforce Housing Alliance, on August 22. Importantly, those IE committees are barred from coordinating their efforts with candidates, and because of that are allowed to raise in increments of any amount — say in $20,000 chunks — whereas candidate committees can only take donations in $500 increments.
Interestingly, Levitan wrote in her complaint, Rapaport has only made one other San Francisco political donation, and that’s to her son-in-law’s campaign, the maximum amount, $500. The implication being, donating to both his campaign and the IE shows someone told her where to send her money. Notably, Rapaport’s listed address is in Florida.
The complaint alleges Josefowitz and family violated that devil’s bargain — and the SF Workforce Housing Alliance IE committee only has about $45,000 in the bank anyhow, making his mother-in-law’s donation a pretty hefty portion of its punching power.
Campaign spokesperson Max DeNike (full disclosure, DeNike was a one-time editor at the San Francisco Examiner) claimed to have no knowledge of the issue.
“We have no idea what you’re talking about,” he told me. “It’s an IE (independent expenditure committee), and we have nothing to do with it.”
Honestly, I speak to my wonderful girlfriend’s ever-sweet mother quite often (Hi, Sue!), on matters ranging from the mundane to dire. I can’t imagine a universe where Nick Josefowitz is unaware of his mother-in-law’s donation activities to an IE against his key opponent.
But ethics watchdog Larry Bush, founder of the Friends of Ethics group and principal author of many San Francisco Ethics Commission reforms, told me complaints about families meddling in IE committees are rarely acted on.
“It’s never resulted in any slap on the knuckles for anything,” he told me, though the complaint is not common.
Still, the allegation is especially key now that SF Workforce Housing Alliance has sent out mailers slamming Josefowitz’s opponent, Stefani, for disputes she’s had with her family’s tenant (in a somewhat cringe-worthy moment for this columnist, the mailer critiques Stefani using a headline from a July column of mine, where I wrote about Stefani’s tenant suing her for wrongful eviction. This is a common enough campaign tactic, but it always raises my hackles).
“You wouldn’t want Catherine Stefani as your landlord, and we don’t want Catherine Stefani serving on the Board of Supervisors,” the ad reads, above the Examiner headline.
Stefani’s campaign consultant. Mark Mosher, rejected the accusations.
“Nick Josefowitz’s mother-in-law paid for a nasty, untrue hit piece on Catherine Stefani — just the latest in a long line of examples of his family trying to buy him an elected office he isn’t qualified for,” Mosher told me in a statement. “But the problem is, when you need your mother-in-law to fight your battles for you, you run the risk of her getting her facts wrong.”
Despite the tenant previously suing Stefani for wrongful eviction, campaign consultant Mark Mosher told me that since then the tenant is back living in his old unit at his old rent — and, he added, it has even been remodeled.
On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.