By Luke Thomas
November 3, 2012
London Breed, a leading candidate in the race for District 5 Supervisor, pledged Friday in an interview with Fog City Journal to protect tenant’s rights and to oppose any attacks on rent control if she were to be elected to the most progressive and tenant-heavy seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Her pledge comes on the heels of recently landed oppositional mailer funded by SEIU 1021 that accuses Breed of being “bankrolled by landlords and realtors.”
“Landlords and realtors are bankrolling London Breed because she’ll vote for them, not for you,” the mailer, which depicts Breed being showered with $100 bills, states. “London Breed doesn’t list them on her website, but she can’t hide the truth: she’s endorsed by San Francisco’s apartment owners, building owners and realtors because they know she’ll be a loyal vote for landlords, not for renters.”
SEIU 1021 endorsed community organizer Julian Davis, Mayor Ed Lee-appointed Supervisor Christina Olague and College Board Commissioner John Rizzo in the ranked choice race that will be decided by voters on Tuesday.
In response, Breed released a press statement Friday accusing Olague “and her backers” of taking a page “right out of the Romney playbook.”
“When the truth isn’t working and the voters aren’t supporting you, resort to lies and deception,” Breed stated in her press release. “The hit pieces are flying accusing London of opposing rent control. That might be funny if it wasn’t such a blatant lie. London grew up in public housing, has been a life-long renter and lives in a rent-controlled apartment.”
Records filed with the San Francisco Ethics Commission show combined spending of $50,000 in support of Breed from two independent expenditure committees funded by the San Francisco Association of Realtors. Total supportive independent expenditure funding for Breed is $69,000. Independent expenditures spent in opposition to Breed from the San Francisco Tenants Union and SEIU 1021 totals $10,000.
A review of contributions to Breed’s candidate-controlled committee shows a pattern of strong support from real estate interests.
In an interview, Breed said she doesn’t know why landlords and real estate interests are backing her candidacy and pledged to protect rent control and tenants rights if elected to the District seat where more than 70 percent of its residents are renters.
“I don’t know what their thoughts are or what they think they’re going to get, but the one thing I have been clear about with people in terms of any promise is, I am willing to be open-minded, I am willing to listen – but I don’t owe anybody anything,” Breed said, referring to the supportive independent expenditure funding of her candidacy from real estate interests. “Personally, I’d rather see all that money spent on my kids giving them stipends to focus on schools, to do volunteer activities and other things that are needed in this community.”
“My goal is to focus on running a positive campaign, communicating my message and staying focused on what I need to do, and I think it’s really disgusting that it has taken this kind of turn. I don’t support negative attack ads whether it’s against me or anyone else running in this race,” Breed added.
Why do you think the realtors and landlords are supporting your candidacy?
“I’m not here to be anybody’s puppet. I’m here to work for the people of this District,” Breed said.
Can you state categorically that if you were elected that you would not in anyway, shape or form, support any attack on tenant’s rights or rent control?
“Hell, yes,” Breed responded. “That almost goes without saying. I am a renter. My mother is in a rent-controlled unit. It would be like trying to put my family out.”
“I will not do anything as supervisor to destroy the integrity of what rent control represents. I will not do anything that’s against rent control and I will do everything to protect tenant’s rights in this city as a supervisor,” Breed added.
And, if elected, you would not vote in support of any attack on tenant protections?
“Hell, no.” Breed responded.
So why are they supporting your candidacy? What do you think they think they’re going to get from you?
“I think people in District 5 don’t like all this big money bullcrap that is coming into our community and they may have seen that I was doing really well and, I don’ know, it may be a tactic or what have you. I don’t know, but I don’t like it.”
You don’t like the fact that the realtors and landlords are backing your candidacy? Is that what you’re saying?
“I don’t like the fact that people are spending money on these independent groups whether it’s to support me or be against anyone else. I’m not a fan of that. I don’t support that.”
Are you saying that the money the realtors and landlords have spent on your behalf is a complete waste of their money because they’re not going to get anything from you?
“Ummm, I mean, I guess you can say that because… I don’t understand what they would expect to get from me. What could they get from the District 5 Supervisor, the one who has over 70 percent of the people in this District who are renters? The renters or the people of this District who are impacted by the laws we push at City Hall are my top priority,” Breed said. “When I look at how much money is going into this campaign, it’s crazy – and anyone who gives me a dime, a dollar, or $500, if they think that I owe them anything then they’ve got a whole another thing coming. The only thing I owe anyone is to do the right thing, to be honest, to work hard for the people of this District. I don’t owe anybody a vote.”
But what do you think the realtors and landlords are thinking in terms of what they can get from you?
“You’ve got to ask them. I’ve got to tell you, I don’t know. This is not a popular landlord District so I don’t know what to tell you. I mean, obviously, all of this stuff that’s going on, I just feel in a lot of ways is a way to, you know, bring me down potentially.”
(The San Francisco Association of Realtors did not respond to multiple requests seeking comment).
Are you saying the realtors and the landlords are spending all this money to bring you down?
“I don’t know. People in District 5 don’t like that stuff. They don’t like big money coming in here to try and influence decisions for District 5 candidates. This is a community supervisor seat. This is not a playground,” Breed said.
With this attack against you from SEIU 1021, voters are being left with the impression that you are carrying water for the realtors, landlords and downtown business interests. What do you have to say about that?
“All I have to say is that I am not carrying the water for anybody, but the folks that have been consistently neglected by folks who try to have their whole power machines to control what’s going on in San Francisco, which negatively impacts the people in my community, that’s who I’m carrying the water for – people who don’t have money to defend themselves,” Breed said. “I’ve got a mouthpiece and I’m going to use it to make sure I do what’s necessary for the folks in this community.”
“I have been running a really good race,” Breed added. “People slammed the door on me, they wrote me off. Some of the same people funding these independent expenditures tried to destroy me and work against me in so many different ways – and that’s the thing, I’m not here to be anybody’s puppet. That’s just who I’m never going to be.”
In retrospect, would you have preferred that the realtors and landlords not backed your candidacy?
“Well, they’re doing it on their own merits through an independent expenditure,” Breed said.
But wouldn’t it have been better for you if they hadn’t spent all this money on your candidacy via independent expenditure committees, because they are hurting your profile in the District, right?
“Yes. Definitely,” Breed said.
SEIU 1021 Political Director and former District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly said Breed’s disassociation from the spending in support of her candidacy from real estate interests amounts to “plausible deniability.”
“There’s plausible deniability,” Daly said. “You can say that you don’t want these independent expenditures on your behalf, but let’s be honest – it’s done with a wink and a nod.”
Asked why the SEIU 1021 mailer was necessary, Daly said, “If you follow San Francisco politics, you know that at a certain point you need to follow the money, and the forces in San Francisco politics that are the most pro-development and anti-rent control forces are all in with David Lee (District 1) – and they are now all in with London Breed. And the reason why they are assisting these candidates is because their assessment is that these two candidates are going to be the best for them at City Hall.”
Daly said he does not consider the mailer against Breed to be an “attack mailer.”
“I think that it is more educational because it highlights who is spending the most significant dollars in the D5 race,” he said.