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Sweeping SF campaign finance reform possibly set for a vote on April 3

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(Rachael Garner/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced a motion Tuesday for the Board of Supervisors and the Ethics Commission to hold a joint meeting to vote in April on adopting sweeping campaign finance reforms.

The Ethics Commission has spent two years drafting reforms regulating areas including behested payments, bundling contributions, independent expenditure committees or Super PACs and conflicts of interest related to developers and city contractors.

Backers of the reforms had hoped to place them on the June ballot. However the Ethics Commission was one vote shy of the votes needed to do that at its Feb. 16 meeting.

The failure to place a measure on the ballot prompted commission Chair Peter Keane to abruptly resign in protest. He later told the San Francisco Examiner that he “couldn’t with any sense of integrity stay on the commission” and warned of the board further watering down the reforms during the legislative process.

Peskin said Tuesday that the meeting is “to consider, and with any luck, finally adopt the sweeping reform to our campaign finance and conflict of interest codes.”

“As far as I know this body has never convened in joint session with the Ethics Commission and I don’t believe the circumstances have ever been more pressing for us to do so than now,” Peskin said.

He highlighted the importance of the reforms given the June mayoral race, although it’s unclear how many of them could impact that election.

“While third party soft money pours into unregulated campaigns during one of the most consequential elections cycles in our city’s history, we have an opportunity to shed light on that hidden economy and to enhance the public’s trust in the work that we do in this building,” Peskin said.

The full board could vote next week on the motion to schedule the April 3 meeting. Both the commission and the board need to approve the same version of the reform legislation for it to become law.

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