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How a growing Democratic club whupped Supervisor Aaron Peskin

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Democratic County Central Committee member Tom Hsieh Jr. speaks at the committee’s regular meeting on Wednesday. (Courtesy Vincent Woo)


On Wednesday evening, a relatively new Democratic club — whose power is growing by the day — completely (politically) whupped longtime Supervisor Aaron Peskin.

By the end of the night, Peskin was so summarily smacked he walked straight out of the meeting, accompanied by a chorus of cheers from his opponents.

The showdown wasn’t at the O.K. Corral, but the Democratic County Central Committee’s monthly meeting, which Wednesday rotated locations to the African American Art and Culture Complex.

It was Peskin versus the infamous United Democratic Club, formerly known as the Robert F. Kennedy Democratic Club (you know, until a living Kennedy told them to knock off using the name for their alleged corporatist shenanigans).

UDC was rumored to be on the chopping block for the Democrats that night, who were slated to re-charter all of our city’s Democratic clubs. Peskin was to be their executioner.

Instead of an ax, he came armed with a litany of governmental codes and procedures, one of his more well-known tactics.

Peskin tried to stall UDC’s chartering to April, but that measure failed 14-15. He tried to force his fellow Democratic Party Board Member, Tom Hsieh, Jr., to recuse himself from voting on UDC’s charter — he failed in that, too, 14-15, largely due to one swing vote from progressive Supervisor Norman Yee.

It was perhaps pushing for Hsieh’s recusal where Peskin overplayed his hand. Hsieh has sparred many times with Peskin over the years — he’s a knowledgeable opponent.

Hsieh was also paid $60,000 by UDC to aid in their election efforts.

Peskin failed finally in a vote to ultimately charter UDC, or not, which was won more handily than the other votes. Only members Bevan Dufty, Sandra Fewer, Rafael Mandelman and Peskin voted against UDC’s recharter.

In one heated moment, Peskin allegedly called DCCC member Kat Anderson “stupid” when she, unwittingly, called to re-charter UDC for a month.

She stood up and shouted, “You’re a mean man!”

Peskin seemed frayed. The Machiavellian strategist had let UDC get under his skin.


To this columnist, at least, chartering UDC was a no-brainer. A separate measure which gained steam that night would allow the Democratic Party to require more transparency in Democratic Club fundraising.

It’s even smarter to keep UDC as a chartered Democratic club in that case, as they may eventually be required by the party to disclose their shady funding.

The night did reveal the moderates’ values: The appearance of politeness over moral fiber, and the veneer of unity over transparency to the public.

To wit, UDC and its famous bowtie-sporting representative Justin Jones stood accused by Peskin of taking $900,000 in “corporate” money by the likes of billionaire tech-investor Ron Conway, and a number of tech CEOs Conway was rumored to recruit to his cause.

That money was then used to back moderate-leaning San Francisco Democrats in our last election, and even back Proposition Q, the measure that banned tents on city sidewalks and authorized city officials to remove them 24 hours after offering shelter.

Shelter which doesn’t exist, as 1,200 souls are on a waiting list for it even now.

UDC morally washed their hands of this by frequently phone banking to fight Donald Trump nationally, a positive value many of their members touted at the Dems meeting that night –– all while shrugging off accusations of damage done to the lives of longtime San Franciscans through their flood of corporate cash.

Party member Rafael Mandelman argued to the Dems, “A million dollars from Ron Conway and the (Police Officers Association), that’s crazy to me. If the Democratic party stands for anything, it doesn’t stand for the idea that a rich man can buy our elections.”

But former supervisor and current Democratic party board member Angela Alioto shouted down Mandelman, to cheers of the UDC members.

“I guess it’s okay for Marc Benioff and Ron Conway to spend millions of dollars on our hospitals” but not in our elections, she said.

Supervisor Jane Kim rightly pointed out that the moderate Democrats were using the exact same arguments Republicans made to defend the infamous Koch brothers, who spent billions to buy off national politicians.

“We need to be very careful when we conflate the first amendment with financial interest,” Kim said, pointing out “that’s what Republicans argued in Citizens United.”

“Every Democrat has stood up against equating money with speech,” she said.

She’s right. After the 2010 Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court to allow the creation of Super PACs (which arguably, UDC resembles on a local level), President Barack Obama decried the growing presence of money in politics in his State of the Union address.

“Last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections,” our former president said.

Obama continued, “I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities.”

But moderate Democrats fail to heed the most popular Democrat president of our time, at least, when it serves to their advantage.

They continue to stomp on local elections with corporate-backed millions, take tents from the homeless, and tell local progressives they’re petty for complaining about our “few disagreements.”

Because as long as you fight Trump, apparently, the rest of San Francisco is fair game.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at joe@sfexaminer.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at Facebook.com/FitztheReporter.

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