Campaign finance filings have revealed that for a second year in a row Mayor London Breed may have used campaign finance gymnastics to pay for her San Francisco Pride Parade float.
In each instance, Breed used funds from older campaigns that she had already won to pay for election activities from her current campaigns. And while the newest instance may not be illegal, I’m told, it certainly violates the spirit of campaign contribution limits.
The first instance — which decidedly flouted the letter of the law — was reported by yours truly in this column in January. The newest allegation comes from an Ethics Commission complaint filed by Jon Golinger, a campaign strategist for Supervisor Jane Kim’s mayoral campaign.
“I think it’s not just going up to the line, but crossing it,” Golinger told me, because Breed is “directly soliciting money from those who gave her the maximum amount a few months earlier.”
In his complaint, Golinger alleges Breed accepted $2,800 in funding into her 2016 supervisor campaign account on June 27, this year.
“Hell’s bells, Joe! Why is Breed accepting thousands of dollars into her 2016 supervisor account when she just won a mayor’s race?” you may ask, if you were an avid political reader who watches too many 60’s sitcoms on Nick-at-Nite.
Well the reason, Golinger alleges, is that the contributors had actually already contributed the legal $500 limit to her mayoral campaign — and were only contributing to her supervisors campaign to circumvent that $500 legal limit.
“This is a scheme,” Golinger wrote to the Ethics Commission, “to circumvent” Section 1.114 of the San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code, that notes no candidate shall solicit or accept” any contribution which will allow a donor’s amount contributed to a candidate committee in an election to exceed $500.
However, to my eye, the key words in the law on contribution limits are “candidate committee,” fancy legal lingo for a funding account. The supervisorial and mayoral accounts are two different accounts, I’ve been told by ethics experts — meaning this allegation may be dismissed.
Laws and ethics are different ideas, however. Just because it was legal doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a slimy move.
And while the fact that Golinger was Kim’s strategist may cause your eyebrows to shoot to the moon, the numbers are all in black-and-white in Breed’s latest campaign filings, which were revealed after a key ethics deadline last night.
To wit: Joe Cassidy, a property manager, donated the legal maximum, $500, to London Breed for Mayor 2018 on Feb. 19; Sean Dunleavy, a broker associate at Coldwell Banker, donated the legal maximum, $500, to London Breed for Mayor 2018 on Feb. 16; Mary Dunleavy Cassidy, a contractor at Centrix Builders, donated the legal maximum, $500, to London Breed for Mayor 2018 on Feb. 16; Matthew Goudeau, deputy chief of protocol for The City of San Francisco, donated the legal maximum, $500, to London Breed for Mayor 2018 on Jan. 9; Erwin O’Toole, owner of Granite Excavation & Demolition, donated the legal maximum, $500, to London Breed for Mayor 2018 on Feb. 16; Sean Treacy, a construction worker with Fastnet Construction, donated the legal maximum, $500, to London Breed for Mayor 2018 on April 20.
And on June 27, Cassidy, Dunleavy, Dunleavy Cassdit, Goudeau, O’Toole and Treacy each donated $500 to Re-Elect London Breed for Supervisor 2016.
Though the alleged double-dippers comprised $2,800 of Breed’s funny money, she actually raised a total of $10,750 into her supervisor fund in June — an odd thing, since she was declared the winner of the June 5 mayoral election on June 15.
Jesse Mainardi, attorney for Breed’s mayoral campaign, said in a statement, “This complaint is an attempt to harass the Mayor whose campaign committees each raised contributions within the $500 per contributor limit under San Francisco law.”
Golinger, anticipating Breed’s campaign would make exactly that argument, told me “If you believe that, I’ve got a golden bridge to sell you.”
The same month Breed accepted the double contributions, she shelled out thousands of dollars toward her Pride Parade float. She spent $4,430 on the float itself, $2,142 on fliers and other materials for people to carry on the float, and also paid a number of campaign workers she owed from her mayoral campaign. Lastly, Breed spent $1,500 on a DJ for her float.
Ethics watcher Larry Bush said the campaign finance allegations should give voters serious pause about Breed’s ethics, though the consequences may not be severe. “I think (she’ll) have to pay a fine and a penalty, and refund the money,” he said. “They were gaming the system, and cutting corners.”
This isn’t the first time she’s dipped into old campaign accounts to pay for her Pride Parade activities, but that time the legal violation was more clear cut.
In January, this column revealed Breed spent $7,000 from her Democratic Party board race on her 2017 Pride float, which explicitly advertised her as “London Breed: Supervisor District 5.” It’s illegal to use funds from one campaign for the activities of another campaign — in this case, a Democratic Party board race fund to pay for advertisements for her supervisorial seat. It’s also especially problematic because those Democratic Party board committees allow donations of unlimited size, making them an easy place for real estate interests, tech industry lobbyists and others to influence peddle.
Breed also used her Democratic Party board campaign account to pay for trips to Vancouver for a “fact finding mission” about safe injection sites, another supervisorial activity.
After my January column highlighted her campaign finance shenanigans, Breed closed her Democratic Party board campaign fund.
That was a good call then, and you know what? It’s a good call now. Mayor Breed, please close your supervisor fund — getting away with it doesn’t make it right.
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.
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