Before appointed caretaker Mayor Ed Lee had announced his intention to run for the office, there was a political campaign encouraging him to run. Money was funneled through the three or four groups that coordinated this effort, and it raised Lee’s profile as the candidate who wasn’t.
That campaign spending fell into a legal gray area. It was not technically supporting a candidate for office since Lee had not declared an intention to run. Yet it was clearly backing an individual for office. That allowed the campaign donors to avoid the rules and limits in place for contributing to formal candidate campaigns.
This week, the Ethics Commission ruled that there should be a new set of rules for “draft committees” such as the one that backed Lee. These groups would have to state which person they are backing as a candidate, and in the event that their desired candidate becomes an actual candidate, the group would have to disband or comply with a new set of regulations.
As we have seen in national politics, super-PACs with hidden donors can cause chaos. The commission was smart to take this step toward transparency in election spending, and the Board of Supervisors should vote to enshrine it as law.