I’m spending the final days before the election talking to voters in the Richmond, the neighborhood where I grew up and raised my kids, and now hope to represent as supervisor for District 1. Their message is clear: They don’t like big money being spent to influence our local election.
They’re tired of the kind of noise and nasty campaigning that big money buys. What gets lost amid the slick commercials and glossy brochures are the issues Richmond District voters care most about, like affordable homes, effective transportation and public safety.
Real estate interests and companies like Airbnb, Facebook and Salesforce have spent more than $600,000 for my opponent, Marjan Philhour. As of Nov. 4, a record-breaking amount of outside spending has flooded our neighborhood elections with a total of more than a million dollars backing Philhour. Why are big corporations interested in the Richmond? They want a friend on a Board of Supervisors that’s grown wary of the special deals granted to corporate interests at the expense of everyday San Franciscans. And they see fertile ground in a neighborhood that’s so far escaped the explosion of luxury condos seen elsewhere in The City.
These corporate interests are now spreading lies to voters through a barrage of last-minute attack mailers and radio ads. I encourage voters to get the facts about the issues they’re bringing up. I have the sole endorsement of the teachers union because of my more than 30 years of work in the public schools. I have voted publicly to support the soda tax this year on the Democratic County Central Committee. And our campaign has followed all ethics laws 100 percent, which has been verified by the City Attorney’s Office and the Ethics Commission.
These attacks are coming from the independent corporate interests supporting Philhour, who have outspent the independent labor and community groups in support of my candidacy by a staggering 10 to 1. A mind-blowing $707,771 of outside money has come in to support Philhour and oppose my candidacy. Ninety-percent of contributions for Philhour come from two committees whose funding is difficult to trace, especially for the average voter. Referred to as “Dark Money,” these third-party contributions can come in unlimited amounts, far beyond the $500 contribution limit allowed to individual voters. Large sums pass through several political action committees before being used to support a candidate.
For example, during this election, Airbnb contributed $900,000 to the Committee to Expand the Middle Class. That money has passed through several committees, collecting other corporate tech and real estate donors, before going to Robert F. Kennedy Democratic Club, created last February in time for the November election. The final destination of hundreds of thousands of these funds? Support for Philhour’s election bid.
While it is illegal for candidates to coordinate with independent expenditures, it’s clear who the corporate money is backing. Throughout San Francisco’s district races, big money interests are spending obscene amounts of money to elect their candidates of choice.
The stakes in this election are high. The results will determine if the Richmond continues to be hospitable to seniors on fixed incomes, young people starting careers and families, multigenerational immigrant households, and mom-and-pop businesses. And it will decide if San Francisco, a city admired around the world for its beauty, tolerance and diversity, will remain true to its values.
But money isn’t going to win this election. People are going to win this election. I am proud to be supported by teachers, workers, families, tenants and Democrats. Everyday people are stepping up for the Richmond District because we all know what’s at stake in this election. I am confident that voters will push back and elect candidates who will stand up for our neighborhoods. Join me on Nov. 8 in declaring that San Francisco is not for sale.
Sandra Lee Fewer is a 50-year resident of the Richmond District, an elected member of the San Francisco Board of Education and a candidate for District 1 Supervisor.