The six million dollar mayor:
Why the 2007 mayor's race will be so different
(Part 1 of a 5 part series)
Mayor Gavin Newsom
February 19, 2007
Editor's Note: Part 1 of a 5 part series by
elections and ethics expert Joe Lynn. Lynn explains that scandals
aren't all that will reduce Mayor Gavin Newsom's campaign fundraising
Gavin Newsom set fundraising records in his 2003 mayoral race.
His haul of over $6 million almost doubled Willie Brown's previous
record. He now has filed his first report for his re-election
campaign covering a four-month fundraising effort in 2006.
This go-around, he has so far raised almost $650,000.
So it looks as though he'll reach that mark again, doesn't it?
Not so fast - three new San Francisco laws to tighten campaign
finances will show that even without a scandal, he is likely to
fall about $2 million short this year. In fact, San Francisco
mayoral campaign spending is now on an order of magnitude greater
than anywhere else in the country. The Mayor spent more than $7.65
per voter to be elected in 2003.
You might expect that Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa spent more
per voter because his campaign was in a market that requires expensive
television advertising. However, compare the Los Angeles cost
per voter of less than $1.40 to Newsom's $7.65!
This year, though, the fundraising laws are different. Anyone
considering a run for the mayor's office needs to understand these
changes. The scandal and the new mayoral public finance program
need to be examined.
This series concludes with lessons for good government advocates.
A Look at the New Laws
New campaign finance rules are very likely to reduce the amount
raised by all candidates, particularly Newsom, during this year's
election. Here's why:
The contribution cap this year has been reduced to $500 from
$750. In the 2003 election, mayoral candidates making it to the
runoff collected up to $750 from contributors because there was
- This year's election - with no runoff - has a no-frills
cap of $500. Records
on file at the Ethics Commission show 4,274 contributors gave
more than this year's limit of $500 in 2003. That amounted to
over $1,000,000 of his $6,000,000 take.
He can't expect that money this time.
- No more corporate contributions are allowed. In this
year's election, corporate donations are banned thanks to legislation
sponsored by Supervisor Aaron Peskin in 2006. The campaign finance
reports at the Ethics Commission don't easily reveal which business
contributors were corporations and which were partnerships or
trusts. However, there may be as much as another $1,000,000 (probably
less) to subtract from this year's potential Newsom donor base.
- A much shorter fundraising period this year. The time
in which money can be raised has been truncated in legislation
that I sponsored at the Ethics Commission. In the last election,
Newsom raised money over a period of three and half years during
which he paid off a large accrued debt.
This year, he has only six months after the election to pay off
his debt. Instead of three and a half years, he will only have
two years, 4/7ths the time he had before. His next report - if
he is to keep pace with reaching a $6 million goal this time will
need to show he collected $2.7 million compared to the $1.5
million raised in the same period back in 2003. Otherwise,
it's possible he could forfeit those donations.
Let's wait and see. I don't predict that Newsom will set such
a blistering pace. His first report - for fundraising before the
scandal broke - was only modestly ahead of the pace set last time.
Predictions are always difficult, but halving the fundraising
period and subracting as much as $2 million in past contributions
to Newsom's campaign means, by conservative estimates, that Newsom
will have a hard time reaching $4 million. And we haven't even
mentioned the effects of the scandal on his fundraising!
In future articles, we will look at how the scandal will play
with the demographics of Newsom's contributor base, and we will
study the ripple effects of the scandal on his fundraising. We
will conclude with the lessons good government advocates can learn
from our analysis: San Franciscans can control unbridled spending
in their elections through innovative strategies.
Joe Lynn was the campaign finance and budget officer of
the San Francisco Ethics Commission from 1998 to 2003. From 2003
to 2006, he served as one of the five Ethics Commissioners. The
San Francisco Examiner called him the backbone of the Ethics
Commission. While on staff, he received numerous awards
and has been a speaker at many conferences on Good Government.
He maintains an active interest in good government laws. Email
Joe at email@example.com
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