Pension reform ads will not feature Jeff Adachi's name or photo

UPDATE: The Ethics Commission has reversed its stance and now says Adachi can use his name and image to promote his pension-reform measure on the ballot.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi cannot use his name or photo on any election materials supporting his pension-reform ballot measure because he’s also running for mayor, the Ethics Commission said Thursday.

Adachi’s Proposition D is backed by two billionaires, and critics have said it will serve as a soft-money vehicle to boost his  bid for mayor, in effect getting around campaign finance rules for candidates.

After Adachi filed to run for mayor on Aug. 12, Supervisor Sean Elsbernd said he didn’t understand until that moment why Adachi wouldn’t drop his pension measure since Mayor Ed Lee’s measure and Adachi’s are “marginally different.” “[Adachi] needs a soft-money vehicle for his billionaire funders to boost his mayoral chances,” Elsbernd said at the time.

Adachi has denied he was trying to game the system, but if that was his intent, he suffered a blow Thursday.

“If a candidate controls a ballot measure committee, that committee may not use that candidate’s likeness or name in any of its election materials,” said John St. Croix, executive director of the Ethics Commission, which informed the Adachi pension campaign of the rules Thursday morning by email.  

Adachi initially said Thursday he was unclear about the restriction and thought he could use his name and image on Prop. D campaign materials, but later, after consulting with St. Croix, he said he would abide by the rule.

Candidates have $500-per-person contribution limits, and all the main mayor candidates except Mayor Ed Lee have agreed to a voluntary $1.4 million spending cap. Ballot measure campaigns can receive unlimited amounts in contributions.

Different rules, however, apply to the campaign for the Proposition C, the pension-reform measure crafted by Lee with labor leaders and members of the Board of Supervisors, including Elsbernd.  Since neither Lee nor any other mayoral candidate control the Prop. C committee, election materials could use Lee’s name or likeness or any other mayoral candidates’ for that matter, according to St. Croix.

Adachi didn’t sound too concerned about that. He said campaign mailers and ads for the rival pension measure will look like a “City Hall yearbook.”

Elsbernd said Lee wouldn’t see an advantage in his mayoral bid with pension materials using his likeness, since “one of the strongest points of the campaign” is that it is a “consensus” measure, created by a host of parties.

“This wasn’t just the mayor,” Elsbernd said.

Adachi didn’t think the lack of his name or image on materials would hamper his pension measure. “The initiative will stand on its merits,” he said.

But Craig Weber, the treasurer of the Adachi ballot committee, thought it could impair the campaign.

“The Adachi brand is pretty strong,” Weber said.


Pension pay

$1.1 million: Amount spent in support of Adachi’s Proposition B last year

$1.6 million: Amount spent in opposition to Adachi’s Prop. B last year

$594,000: Amount raised in 2011 as of July 15 for Adachi’s Proposition D

$250,000: Amount billionaire George Hume has contributed in 2011

$250,000: Amount billionaire Michael Moritz has contributed in 2011

Source: Ethics Commission

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