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The six million dollar mayor:
Why the 2007 mayor's race will be so different

(Part 4 of a 5 part series)

Mayor Gavin Newsom
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Joe Lynn

February 22, 2007

Editor's Note: Part 4of 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 Gavin Newsom's fundraising is lagging behind the $6 million pace he set for the 2003 campaign. We attributed most of this to the new campaign finance laws in effect this year since there hasn't been sufficient time to see directly the effects of the scandal on Newsom's donors, and the Mayor's own political position.

We will now discuss Newsom's availability during rehab for fundraising chores and the dodges that a candidate can employ to our campaign finance regulations.

Rehab Means Less Time for Fundraising

The Chronicle reports Newsom is engaged in four hours of rehab every evening. He's also made repeated promises to attend to the business of the City. If this is true, it will certainly limit the number of fundraisers he can personally attend. There exists an expectation that contributions from previous years, built on his noted personal charm, will consequently drop.

However, the Mercury News reports Newsom attended a fundraiser in Los Gatos on at least one of the nights he was alleged to be in rehab. This sort of thing casts doubt on the mayor's rehab efforts; it creates suspicion that the mayor is engaging in rehab, not for sincere reasons, but as damage control for his public image.

Earlier, we saw Dan Savage's report of the Reverend Ted Haggard's miraculous recovery from homosexuality after only three weeks of therapy. Rev. Haggard issued this news in a press release, and I'd guess that his former followers, as much as they'd like to believe in his recovery, would still have doubts about the speed and nature of it.

Newsom could face similar doubt from previous contributors.

Sidestepping Campaign Finance Rules

There are two ways for the Mayor to fatten his campaign spending beyond contributions to his own committee:

1. Ballot Measures. One of the biggest abuses in candidate campaigns is the use of a ballot measure to trumpet the vision of a candidate up for election at the same time as the measure. These measures are financed by superdonors who have not been previously identified with the subject matter of the measure.

Some go so far as to call them "pimp" ballot measures. For example, in 2002 an additional $1 million from the Care Not Cash campaign polished Newsom's image as he ran for D2 Supervisor unopposed. This was the year before the Mayoral election and effectively branded the Newsom to this day.

In 2003, Stop Aggressive Panhandling spent over $500,000 to trumpet his policy initiative.

This year, there is talk of a police ballot measure that could conveniently style Newsom on an issue where his positions have been unpopular. Contributions to such a measure are not subject to the $500 limit. A $3 million ballot measure underwritten by a few of the Mayor's friends is within the distinct realm of possibility.

2. Independent Expenditures. In 2000, voters ordered a $500 contribution cap to committees that make independent expenditures in candidate races. However, the Ethics Commission adopted regulations that make this contribution impossible to enforce.

In last year's District 6 election, there were apparent criminal violations by committees making independent expenditures. I have some credible information that the amount of these expenditures was fraudulently underreported. Last week, I asked the Ethics Commission staff to work for repeal of the regulation so that enforcement of the limit can be transparent. If that does not happen, I pledge to file complaints with the Commission against any committee making candidate independent expenditures and accepting contributions over $500. This will tend to forestall a repeat of the District 6 fiasco.

I trust that the Ethics Commission will take this into account when planning their budget for next year.

One would hope that we could inoculate the public to the campaign finance dodge represented by candidate ballot measures and independent expenditures. To the extent that Newsom should decide on such a dodge, there ought to be further repercussions to his political standing.

Tomorrow, I will conclude with a brief look at the new Mayoral Public Finance Program and strategies for good government advocates in this election year.

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 joelynn114@hotmail.com


Editor's Note: Views expressed by columnists published on FogCityJournal.com are not necessarily the views or beliefs of Fog City Journal. Fog City Journal supports free speech in all its varied forms and provides a forum for a complete spectrum of viewpoints.



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