Supervisor Gordon Mar called his “Public Financing 2.0” legislation “the greatest expansion of our public financing program since it was created two decades ago.” (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

SF increases public funding to help those running for mayor, supervisor

Those running for the Board of Supervisors or mayor will have access to more public funds to help their campaigns under legislation unanimously approved Tuesday.

Supervisor Gordon Mar said his “Public Financing 2.0” legislation is “the greatest expansion of our public financing program since it was created two decades ago.”

Supervisorial candidates will be able to receive $100,000 more than the current cap of $155,000 in matching public funds and mayoral candidates $225,000 more than the current cap of $975,000.

“Public officials should be accountable to the public and this accountability must start with how we are elected,” Mar said. “Public financing of elections allows candidates to compete in campaigns increasingly flooded with private funds from super PACs, it amplifies the voice of our constituents and it provides greater regulation and accountability for those who seek office.”

In addition to boosting the amount of public funds available for candidates, the legislation changes the match calculation from $2 of public funds for every $1 dollar raised to $6 in public finds for every $1 raised. It also limits the matchable portion of a contribution to $150, down from $500, the maximum contribution a donor can give a candidate.

“This will significantly amplify the overall impact of the program while specially amplifying the impact of grassroots small donor donations from individuals because the value of your voice in our Democracy should not depend on the value of your bank account,” Mar said.

Other changes include how much candidates can receive initially once qualifying for the program.

The candidates for supervisor who initially qualify for the program used to receive $20,000 in matching public funds. Now they will receive $60,000.

Candidates could previously receive up to $155,000 in public funding, but that is now increased to up to $255,000.

Mayoral candidates would receive an initial $100,000 upon qualifying and the potential to receive up to $975,000. That now changes to an initial $300,000 and the potential to receive up to a total of $1.2 million.

Mar said the legislation picked up broad support with backing from such groups as the Ethics Commission, the Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause and the Campaign Legal Center and Fair Vote California.

The changes go into effect Jan. 2020, in time for six elections for the odd-numbered seats on the Board of Supervisors.

In other business, Supervisor Sandra Fewer introduced a resolution calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign into law Assembly Bill 857, which would clear legal impediments for cities like San Francisco to launch public banks. Newsom has until Oct. 13 to sign or veto bills. Fewer said that the bill will allow up to 10 public banks in California.

“I want San Francisco to be first in line with an application to the state for a public banking charter to provide an alternative to large commercial banks that don’t serve our interests and reinvest our public dollars for the public good,” she said.

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