Newsom aide donates to rival

Mayor Gavin Newsom’s senior adviser has “egg on his face” after sinking $95 into the war chest of one of the mayor’s election opponents who goes by the name of Chicken John.

A senior adviser to Newsom, Michael Farrah, who was part of Newsom’s wedding party — and, for that matter, Newsom was part of Farrah’s wedding party — made the political contribution last month. The donation was noted on election papers filed by Chicken John, aka John Rinaldi, with the Ethics Commission to qualify for public campaign financing for the mayoral race.

A renowned showman, Rinaldi has found popularity among San Francisco’s artist community as well as fellow Burning Man devotees. He is the only mayoral candidate — in a race in which Newsom is considered to have no serious competition — who may have found enough support to receive public funding.

Farrah wasseemingly apologetic Monday when asked by The Examiner to explain why he made the contribution. “I regret helping him [Rinaldi] feather his nest,” Farrah said. “I clearly have egg on my face.”

In case you’re wondering, Farrah has donated the maximum allowed to Newsom’s re-election campaign, which is $500.

The political contribution apparently ruffled the feathers of Newsom’s campaign manager, Eric Jaye, who said he had a “conversation of volume about it” with Farrah. He added, however, that the two remain good friends and that the contribution does not cast doubt on Farrah’s loyalty to Newsom.

The contribution, Jaye said, is a “reflection of [Farrah’s] sense of humor and his generous spirit.”

While the contribution shows Farrah has a “devilish sense of humor,” Jaye said that “those of us on the campaign side didn’t get the joke,” and while Farrah is known as the guy to go to for help, this time “he went a little too far, in my view.”

Rinaldi, who prides himself on running a campaign for the arts and for innovation, said he didn’t see anything wrong about Farrah being one of his donors.

“There’s no conflict here. I’m not running for first. This isn’t a subversive act by Mr. Farrah,” Rinaldi said.

Rinaldi said Farrah had attended a dinner campaign fundraiser last month at his house where “he ate the food.”

Rinaldi’s filing to qualify for public financing, which listed more than 250 donors with contributions totaling $26,271, did not pass muster upon an initial review by the Ethics Commission and he was given five days to submit additional information. The commission is now reviewing his resubmission and will render a decision soon as to whether he qualifies.

jsabatini@examiner.com

Each day until voters go to the polls Nov. 6, The Examiner lays odds on local figures beating Mayor Gavin Newsom. Check out our exclusive blog: San Francisco's Next Mayor?

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