Supe wants spending cap boosted

When at least six seats are up for grabs in the next Board of Supervisors election, candidates receiving public financing could have a lot more spending power under legislation expected to be voted on Tuesday.

Supervisor Chris Daly has introduced legislation that would increase the voluntary spending cap candidates must adhere to in order to receive public financing. The bill would also increase the amount of public financing a candidate could receive.

The proposal comes as six board seats are up for grabs in the November 2008 election, with four races without an incumbent because the sitting members are termed out. The District 4 seat could also be up for the November 2008 election, depending on if and when suspended Supervisor Ed Jew is removed from office.

The election will be a big political battle as progressives work to maintain a majority on the board and ensure they have enough votes to shoot down any veto issued by Mayor Gavin Newsom on legislation, which takes eight votes from the 11-member board.

In the 2006 board races, candidates stood to receive $43,500 in public financing if they agreed to a spending cap of $86,000. Six candidates had received public financing.

Under the proposal, the spending cap would be increased to $140,000 and a candidate who raises $52,500 would receive $87,500 in public financing.

Also, if the spending cap is lifted — which happens if a candidate in a district race raises or spends more than the cap, or if independent expenditures for or against a candidate exceeds the cap — then hopefuls receiving public financing would receive a dollar-for-dollar match for money raised above the cap.

The legislation is expected to be voted on by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

Political analyst David Latterman said the increase in the cap makes sense given the rising costs of running a campaign. However, he said, the proposal is clearly timed to help progressive candidates as moderate candidates will have hefty war chests, funded by downtown interests groups.

“I’m seeing a big red flag,” said Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of San Francisco Planning and Urban Research, a public-policy think tank. “When politicians are changing the rules of the game, the right thing to doing to do is to make the change apply to the next crop of elected officials.” Metcalf was referring to the 2010 election cycle.

Daly, who is termed out of office in 2011, said the proposal would create more of an incentive for candidates to adhere to the spending cap, and serve as a disincentive for downtown interest groups to spend large amounts of money to influence the outcomes. Daly said the plan would better ensure that candidates represent their constituents and not a few big contributors.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who is up for re-election next year, said that because voters approved the public financing for supervisor races, the voters should also be able to decide whether The City should start “using more city taxpayer dollars to fund political campaigns.”

jsabatini@examiner.com

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