Campaign contribution black hole may be plugged after $2.3 million SF Democratic Party race

The local Democratic Party board is essentially a giant black hole into which millions of dollars swirl.

That’s $2.3 million, to be exact.

For city politics watchers, that’s a jaw-dropping, mind-boggling amount for the Democratic Party board. By contrast, the last Democratic County Central Committee — nicknamed the Dee-triple-C — election in 2012 barely broke $500,000 (at the time, it was believed that broke DCCC fundraising records).

Ha! Shows what they knew in 2012.

The Democratic Party’s soft power is in its endorsements — a big deal when voters are trying to figure out complicated ballot measures and navigate myriad candidates. Their endorsement is a golden rubber stamp, and it’s worth a lot of dough.

As On Guard has ceaselessly pointed out, the DCCC allows its candidates to take in unlimited contributions.

That means someone running for the Board of Supervisors, who would face $500 limits on individual contributions, could net $10,000 or more from the same contributor.

Like the roughly $10,000 that registered Republican and local S.F. socialite Dede Wilsey contributed to both DCCC candidates Marjan Philhour and London Breed (Board of Supervisors president) this year. Both also have supervisor candidacies this election.

Wilsey also contributed $10,000 each to DCCC candidates from the “moderate” side of the political spectrum, like Alix Rosenthal, Rebecca Prozan, Mary Jung, Leah Pimentel, Tom Hsieh, Trevor McNeil, Emily Murase and Kat Anderson.

I guess Republican money is just as green, even if you’re a Democrat.

Now, new DCCC member Pratima Gupta and returning member Petra DeJesus will introduce a measure at their Aug. 17 meeting to cap DCCC candidate contributions to $500 going forward, citing a need for grassroots DCCC candidates to rejoin the group.

It’s about dang time. Maybe then Republicans and big real estate interests will face a tougher time funneling their funny money to politicians through the DCCC black hole.

* * *

Shenanigans are afoot to cut the legs out from under Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s 2016 ballot measure to curb the power of the Mayor’s Office of Housing.

The common-sense measure pitches merging two entities — the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development — to be overseen by a “Housing Development Commission.”

Right now, the powerful entities make major development deals around affordable housing and business development — like the huge 5M project on Mission — but answer only to the mayor.

MOHCD oversees $1.5 billion in public money with a $69 million operating budget; OEWD has a budget of $39 million. All that dough with no public oversight? That’s bonkers.

Peskin’s proposal would merge the two offices and make them more accountable, bringing their deals into the daylight for public scrutiny. But an odd byproduct of that is merging staff.

Some senior managers in the Mayor’s Office of Housing, who are “at-will” — technically called “permanent exempt” — are now hired or fired. Peskin’s new commission would be able to hire a new director of the agency, who, in turn, could hire and fire those senior managers.

In plain English: They’d clear out the cronies.

Those most likely to be loyal to the mayor — those most likely to reward mayoral-friendly groups with favored grants — may get the boot. And now it seems some may be trying to finagle the rules to keep their jobs, new director be damned.

An anonymous tip to a number of news outlets detailed a staff “talk” led by Deputy Housing Director Benjamin McCloskey, who was said to “announce” that staff members in “a Mayoral appointee position can move to a Civil Service class position prior to the passage of the ballot.”

Just like that, they’d sidestep Peskin’s ballot measure, keep their jobs and ostensibly keep Mayor Ed Lee happy.

When asked if this was the case, Lee’s spokesperson Deirdre Hussey wrote in an email that the meeting was simply an explainer for staff on the consequences of the ballot measure.

The Department of Human Resources and the mayor’s housing office, she wrote, “will be undertaking an analysis of current exempt positions and the plan is to convert currently-exempt positions which are needed permanently” to civil service positions.

One perhaps troubling spin of this merger, is at least 30 Mayor’s Office Of Housing employees who are “at will” may need to reapply for their jobs too — they’d be caught in the crossfire.

As for the senior managers, she stressed they wouldn’t be guaranteed a job, but would need to take “competitive examinations.”

This is to convert positions, the Mayor’s Office said, not jobs for specific people.

Which, you know, may as well work out to the same thing.

Pawn to rook. Peskin was unable to comment by press time to tell us his counter move.

* * *

Homeless people have great ideas on how to solve homelessness.

Case in point: At the recent Homeless People’s Popular Assembly meeting, a gathering of — you guessed it — San Franciscans who are homeless, attendees offered some zinger retorts to Mayor Lee’s homeless sweeps and Supervisor Mark Farrell’s recent ballot measure reforming rules around tent encampments.

The suggestions were captured by Kelley Cutler of the Coalition on Homelessness, who wrote them on a board, and they read thusly:

“Make mayor be homeless for a week!”

“Make mayor & supervisors spend a week on the street!”

“Make Supervisor Farrell start with nothing and live in encampment before making legislation on it!”

On Guard texted Farrell for a response, but word is he’s in Germany. Perhaps he’ll spend time in some exotic obdachlosen (homeless) camps while he’s there. Fact-finding field trip, anyone?

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

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