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Ron Conway, Big Tech drop thousands into sleepy SF election

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Angel investor Ron Conway, left, and Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founder of Airbnb, talk before an announcement in San Francisco on April 19. (Jeff Chiu/AP)


It’s raining Bitcoin on San Francisco Democrats.

Well, not literally, but with the amount of cash-ola tech is funneling in local campaign contributions, the tech industry might as well have switched to the fanciful digital currency.

Facebook, Instagram, Medium and other big tech names dropped big dough in local races, according to the most recent election filings from Thursday night.

Much of this money funneled to the usually sleepy but now red-hot June race for the Democratic Party board. Yes, it’s super wonky, but the Democratic County Central Committee’s rubber stamp endorsement can sway close elections.

Since DCCC elections are only every four years, the newly elected folks will not only endorse in this November’s supervisor race, but next year’s, and the next mayoral election …

So Mayor Ed Lee’s “moderate” democrats are playin’ for keeps.

Progress San Francisco is a statewide committee that gave tens of thousands of dollars to candidates on the “progress slate,” including candidates Tom Hsieh and the ever-controversial Mary Jung (a realtor lobbyist who — cue shivers of revulsion — is also, somehow, chair of the local Democratic party).

Tech companies funneled money to those candidates through Progress San Francisco: Facebook contributed $50,000; Kevin York Systrom, CEO of Instagram, contributed $30,000; Evan Williams, CEO of Medium, contributed $50,000; Google contributed $50,000; The Committee to Expand the Middle Class (funded by Airbnb) contributed $20,000; and billionaire tech investor (and big-time Lee backer) Ron Conway donated $25,000.

Conway also directly donated $19,500 to Mark Farrell’s DCCC campaign, $5,000 to DCCC candidate Rebecca Prozan, $5,000 to candidate Alix Rosenthal, and $5,000 to Jung.

So why the flying flute (this is a family paper) does Google give a dang about the DCCC?

Insiders with knowledge of political machinations suggested to On Guard that Conway may be soliciting these donations on Mayor Lee’s behalf.

I always give Conway a call before I write about him. Usually, he tells me he’s on his way to a meeting.

Big surprise when I called Monday (Memorial Day) and he said, “No comment, and I’m walking into a meeting.”

That sure is funny that you go to so many meetings, I told him.

“I sure do, I sure do,” he said.

If you’re looking to vote for Democrats who aren’t taking major contributions from the tech industry and Conway, check out the Reform Slate. You can Google them.

* * *

A Facebook post from Zoe Dunning on Monday appears to show Sen. Bernie Sanders catching some Z's during a Memorial Day event in the Presidio. (Courtesy photo)

A Facebook post from Zoe Dunning on Monday appears to show Sen. Bernie Sanders catching some Z’s during a Memorial Day event in the Presidio. (Courtesy photo)

Snoozing may not be the best way to salute fallen soldiers, but no one told presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, apparently.

Zoe Dunning, a DCCC member and Navy commander publicly known as among the first to serve as openly gay, posted a photo of a (perhaps) sleeping Sanders to Facebook. It was taken at the national cemetery in the Presidio on Monday.

“Attending the Memorial Day Ceremony honoring the over 1 million Americans who have lost their lives serving our country, and watching Bernie Sanders fall asleep during it,” Dunning wrote on Facebook, adding #imwithher (a hashtag supporting Hillary Clinton).

Don’t trot out the executioner just yet. A photographer who was working the event, Cristina Flores, told On Guard, “I saw him looking down with his hands on his lap, but I didn’t read it as ‘sleeping.’”

Whether or not he’s sleeping is for you to decide. But in the end, shouldn’t his policies on veterans affairs matter more?

* * *

Candidates for the DCCC are jumpin’ out of their shorts, worried about a potential 1,400 June election vote-by-mail ballots sent incorrectly by the Department of Elections (which the Examiner reported yesterday). Those incorrect ballots would not feature the DCCC vote at all.

The worry is that, historically, the DCCC has been decided by a teeny-weeny, wafer-thin slice of votes, sometimes fewer than a hundred votes.

“This will be a squeaker,” DCCC candidate Alix Rosenthal told me.

And if ballots in either progressive or moderate districts were sent incorrectly — even though they were eventually replaced — you can bet one side will allege wrongdoing. Legal action may follow.

* * *

Rose Pak isn’t shying away from vocalizing her preferred chief of police. The alleged Chinatown power broker — or community leader, depending who you ask — told On Guard, “I need to talk with the mayor what his thoughts are on the subject,” but, “I’ve always been supporting [Deputy Chief] Garrett Tom for chief, there’s never any ifs or buts about it.”

Of new interim chief Toney Chaplin, she said, “Toney was just put there by helicopter … just to quiet down the African Americans … He’s a very nice guy, but he does not have the administration skills.”

Tell us how you really feel, Rose.

* * *

One more On Guard tip has come to fruition, dear readers.

Weeks ago we told you the Mayor’s Office was interviewing replacements for spokesperson, Christine Falvey. No wonder, as Mayor Lee has taken a drumming in the press.

Now it seems she’s out, and her replacement will be former Examiner Executive Editor Dierdre Husse.

For those keeping score, I’d like to point out that On Guard dug out Falvey’s departure weeks ago. Husse’s hire was then magically reported by The Mayor’s Office’s favorite mouthpiece, San Francisco Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius.

Makes ya think.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each Tuesday. Email him at joe@sfexaminer.com.

Click here or scroll down to comment

  • sffoghorn

    Zoe Dunning should have dispatched one of Clinton II’s drones to wake Sanders up.

  • PatrickMonkRn

    Any particular reason why my comment did not post

  • Dwalso2013

    A spokesperson (or spokesliar) is like a piece of bathroom tissue. You can only use one so many times before they become disgusting to the people around you and must then be replaced.

  • IanFlowers

    Thank you for your outstanding work, Joe.

    Watching greed infested “conservative” manipulators like Conway destroy what was once a world hub of justice-and-liberation thought/action is heartbreaking. San Francisco has devolved to a materialistic cesspool dominated by a few money grubbing tech robots.

    How sad!

    Yet, we know that — in due course — when millions awaken from their digital trance, the pendulum will swing back.

    So keep up the good work, Joe!

  • Mark Lewis

    To quote Zula Jones, “You got to pay to play here. We got it. We know this. We are the best
    at this game … better than New York. We do it a little more
    sophisticated than New Yorkers. We do it without the mafia.”

  • HMM burritos

    airbnb also contributed 100k to prop B

  • Tod1732

    Why does “power broker” Rose Pak, who has never been elected to public office, wield so much political power in San Francisco?