Spending on local ballot measures soared in 2012 election

Technology investor and staunch mayoral ally Ron Conway

The rush of money into city political campaigns was not just limited to candidates. Campaigns for several San Francisco ballot measures had price tags in the neighborhood of $1 million.

Based on recent filings with the Ethics Commission, the largest spending on ballot measures was for the $195 million parks bond and on the measure to replace San Francisco’s business payroll tax with a tax on gross receipts. Both campaign war chests were about $1 million.

Among the largest contributors to Proposition B, the parks bond, were the San Francisco Parks Alliance, real estate investor Thomas Coates, and technology investor and staunch mayoral ally Ron Conway, with donations of $100,000 apiece. Total contributions to Prop. B totaled $953,956.

That’s a heck of a lot more money than the $260,000 that was raised for the last parks bond back in February 2008. But there was no organized opposition at that time, whereas opponents of the measure raised nearly $8,000 this year.

Similarly large contributions poured in to help pass the Conway-backed Proposition E, which will replace San Francisco’s tax on business payrolls with a tax on their gross receipts, which is seen as more favorable to labor-intensive tech companies. Contributions from a who’s who of the tech world built a war chest exceeding $1 million.

Among the largest contributions were $250,000 from Salesforce.com, $100,000 from Riverbend Technology and $100,000 from Zynga. Other large contributors included AirBnb, Napster co-founder Sean Parker, Expedia, Opentable and AT&T. Meanwhile, Conway lent the campaign $250,000.

Other six-figure war chests included the $480,000 in contributions to help pass the Housing Trust Fund, Proposition C, which included large contributions from developers, police and firefighters unions, and Conway.

And $691,814 was raised to sink Proposition F, a measure that would have required a study of draining the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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