The six million dollar mayor:
Why the 2007 mayor's race will be so different
(Part 3 of a 5 part series)
Mayor Gavin Newsom
February 21, 2007
Editor's Note: Part 3 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
Mayor Newsom's fundraising is off the pace set in the last
We had earlier noted that Newsom's fundraising before the scandal
was not keeping pace with his 2003 record $6 million haul. Despite
headlines (which was removed from the home page the same day
it was published), it reports facts that confirm my analysis.
I wrote, "His next report - if he is to keep pace with reaching
a $6 million goal this time - will need to collect $2.7 million
compared to the $1.5
million raised in the same period in 2003."
That's a pace of over $400,000 a month. The Examiner reports
he has raised $350,000 all this year. Most of that time was before
the scandal broke February 1st. That's a monthly pace of about
$240,000, some $160,000 a month short of where he should be and
$10,000 short of his 2003 pace when he had twice as long to reach
New laws account for most of this dip. We have yet to see how
the scandal will play with his base but can confidently predict
that it will have an effect as well. Now let's look at the other
ripple effects of the scandal.
Newsom ethics have been challenged
Since the scandal broke, the Mayor's own ethics have been challenged
twice. I'm not talking about the sex. I'm talking about how he
views using other folks' money to pay off his own debts.
Here's the Chronicle's
Thursday's announcement by CIty Attorney Dennis Herrera about
an inquiry into the payments to Ruby Rippey-Tourk is the second
time that financial questions have been raised involving the affair.
Last week, the mayor agreed to continue to pay Tourk's salary
as campaign manager out of his own pocket until his former aide
finds new employment.
Newsom campaign aides had considered paying the severance arrangement
out of campaign funds collected from political donors -- but a
city attorney opinion raised doubts about the legality of such
Taken individually, these recent incidents might cause only moderate
alarm. However, they fit into a pattern of questionable actions
regarding Newsom's use of campaign and government resources.
Scandals open old wounds
Let's start by listing the past stories just involving misuse
of City and campaign funds to relieve Newsom of liabilities:
1. In 2004, his "low-key"
inauguration cost $321,000 and involved a campaign finance scandal.
An email from his campaign attorney revealed a plan to use funds
raised for the inauguration to pay off campaign debts. Such a
scheme may well have been illegal according to Bob Stern, the
author of California's Political Reform Act, and now the head
of the Center for Governmental Studies and Jim Knox, then the
Executive Director of California Common Cause.
Money used to pay campaign debts are subject to the $500 contribution
limit, a limit not honored by the inaugural committee. His attorney,
Jim Sutton explained
that the email was the product of confusion in his office. (Mr.
Sutton is discussed further below.)
2. In 2004, the City Attorney found
that SLUG gardeners had been improperly coerced into working for
the Newsom campaign. Although Mohammed Nuru was implicated, Newsom
kept him on the City payroll.
3. In 2005, Tony
Hall tied Newsom's treatment of Treasure Island with a major
contributor, Darius Anderson. This is the same Darius Anderson
who may hire former Campaign Manager Alex Tourk. That would relieve
Newsom of a $120,000 liability under his agreement to pay Mr.
Tourk personally for lost salary and may be questioned as an illegal
$120,000 gift to the Newsom.
4. In 2005, the Sacramento paper, Capitol
Weekly, reported stories of excessive fundraising costs and
overhead enriching his political consultants and their fundraisers.
My own calculations indicate as much as 50 cents out of every
dollar raised went for overhead.
These stories have not been adequately refuted. Some folks have
been paid quite well. This in part explains why Newsom's fundraising
advantage of seven to one did so little to advance his candidacy.
Furthermore, Newsom has not always eagerly complied with existing
ethics laws. Put the list above into the following context:
1. In 2002, Newsom filed
Statement of Economic Interests. Questions were raised as
to whether he had received an illegal gift from his patron, Gordon
Getty. When called to account for the misleading document, Newsom
first blamed the City Attorney, then changed that story and accepted
2. His campaign withheld reporting the possibly illegal donation
of office space in 2003 by Julie
Lee. Then, when she became involved in the scandal that led
to the resignation of California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley,
Newsom did not ask for her resignation. She stayed on like Mr.
3. His campaign collected more than $500 in contributions under
rules that allowed them to collect $500 checks as long as debt
was owed from the November 2003 election. Data suggest that Newsom
abused this, but only an Ethics audit can tell for certain. I
call upon Newsom to ask Ethics to perform such an audit publicly
so that any questions can be aired publicly.
4. His 2004 "triple play" to transfer then Supervisor
Tony Hall to Treasure Island required an illegal
meeting of the Ethics Commission and eventually backfired
when Hall refused to play ball with the Newsom's big development
contributors. We now know Newsom rushed the Ethics Commission
into an illegal meeting to freeze out possible competition in
the election to his chosen man, Supervisor Sean Elsbernd.
5. In 2006, Newsom aides
misrepresented to the Board of Supervisors a
letter supposedly from the Director of the Planning Department
repudiating his department's position on legislation affecting
parking zoning downtown.
6. In 2007, his press secretary, Peter
Ragone, became the center of his
own Ethics whirlwind.
Finally, the continued association of Newsom with attorney and
Newsom Campaign Treasurer, Jim Sutton, will color the way his
contributors view him. Sutton was
hit in 2004 with the largest fine for campaign finance violations
in the history of San Francisco and one of the largest in the
history of the State.
Sutton has been associated with such right wing projects as the
Free Republic sharing
space with such articles as "The Homosexual Agenda."
In San Diego, Sutton became the subject
of discussion as a possible liability for a candidate whom
he represented. Then last year, he was implicated
criminal activity in an attempt to elect Newsom protégé,
Rob Black, to district 6 supervisor.
Taken together, these stories create an unfavorable climate for
fundraising this year. And we can expect a lot more coverage of
the sex scandal story. It implicates Newsom's playboy image, demonstrates
his disrespect of a loyal friend, defines what he means by the
sanctity of marriage, and casts in new light his best practices
policies for the workplace.
New laws and the direct implications of the scandal, all point
to a lowered campaign treasury for Newsom in 2007.
Tomorrow we will look at how rehab will affect fundraising and
put the fundraising into the larger picture of the new public
finance program and alternatives to direct contributions.
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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