Mayoral candidates London Breed, Jane Kim and Angela Alioto have either closed or promised to close campaign finance accounts from their previous Democratic Party board races.
Two weeks after I revealed that Kim and Breed’s accounts — which Friends of Ethics founder Larry Bush called a “slush fund” — could serve as a loophole to circumvent campaign finance laws for mayoral races, Kim told me she closed her Democratic County Central Committee campaign account.
“I also have not raised or received outside dollars in my [DCCC] campaign of any amount since I filed to run for mayor,” Kim told me in a text message Monday, and added she closed her account last Wednesday.
Breed’s campaign spokesperson, Maggie Muir, told me, “DCCC member Breed’s account is in the process of being closed and the remaining funds distributed to charities.” Those charities have yet to be determined, and Muir did not disclose the amount left in the account.
The accounts must expend all of their money in order to be closed, according to the San Francisco Ethics Commission.
As of June last year, Breed spent more than $50,000 and had a balance of $24,000 in her 2016 DCCC campaign account. Kim spent $9,627 and had a remaining balance of $7,666. The candidates are required by law to reveal current funding levels Jan. 31.
Alioto also confirmed she started the process to close her DCCC account “a week and a half ago,” but is waiting on the closure process to complete.
The Ethics Commission was not immediately available to verify the status of the DCCC campaign account closures.
“They can and are” used for unlimited fundraising, Alioto said. “But after the election is over, they should be closed. … I didn’t raise a penny after the election as I don’t believe that to be fair political practices.”
Those DCCC campaign accounts, which the candidates opened in an election for June 2016 to sit on the local Democratic Party board, were still active as of this month. The DCCC accounts are not subject to the same restrictions their current mayoral campaign accounts enjoy, including a $500 per person contribution limit.
Potentially, if they wanted, a wealthy political donor could have dropped $100,000 in their DCCC accounts today to spend towards raising name recognition for to help their mayoral races, had those accounts not been closed.
Breed and Kim, in particular, took large donations in $5,000 and $10,000 increments from major housing developers and major tech industry sources long after their 2016 races were done. As long as the accounts remained open, the candidates had ample opportunity to misuse their DCCC cash to bolster their accelerated, high-stakes June mayor’s race — especially as candidate Mark Leno has revealed he has $400,000 in small donations in his mayoral account, a sizable warchest.
The two candidates’ acceptance of these large donations was particularly startling considering they both voted at the Democratic Party board to approve a non-binding resolution — a pledge, essentially — saying party members running for the board should voluntarily not accept donations above $500, to combat the perception of the body serving as a campaign finance workaround.
State law would need to be changed to legally enforce limiting that funding to $500 donations, which the DCCC said is being pursued by Assemblymember Phil Ting. At an August 2016 meeting, the local party asked members to vote a non-binding resolution as a statement of intent.
Kim told me in a text message that she’s also accepting a Friends of Ethics’ Clean Money Pledge, asking all mayoral candidates to commit to not fundraise or spend money from outside committees, which also may accept contributions of any size — reminiscent of the Citizens United judicial decision that allowed the proliferation of Super PACS in national political races.
Leno also pledged to accept Friends of Ethics’ Clean Money Pledge.
Kim, Leno and candidate Amy Farah Weiss also tasked their opponents to publicly renounce independent expenditure committees — San Francisco’s version of Super PACS — which cannot be run by or coordinated with candidates but are often run by allies in order to raise large contributions.
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