[Hpn] SOFT-MONEY SLEAZE VS. GRASSROOTS POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS
Fri, 15 Dec 2000 16:55:34 -0700
Soft-Money Campaigns Didn't Sway Voters
$1.3 million couldn't save Brown's allies
Ilene Lelchuk, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, December 14, 2000
©2000 San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco -- Mayor Willie Brown's allies in corporate San Francisco
spent more than $302,500 -- $28 per vote -- to help Board of Supervisors
candidate Linda Richardson in District 10.
And she still lost.
The same big businesses, builders, restaurant owners and a coalition of
neighborhood merchants opened their wallets and rolled out what amounted to
$25 per vote for District 6 candidate Chris Dittenhafer and about $13 per
vote for Juanita Owens.
They lost, too.
"It reminds me of the Beatles song lyric 'Money can't buy me love,' " said
Ken Cleaveland from the Building Owners and Managers Association of San
Francisco. His group donated roughly $50,000 to independent expenditure
committees that paid for mailers, bus shelter ads and phone banks in the
Reports show the unprecedented "soft money" spent so far on 14 of the 18
supervisors candidates who qualified for Tuesday's runoff election hit more
than $1.3 million -- an expensive first for supervisors races. That total is
likely to grow when the final expenditures are reported.
Most of that money, which was raised and spent independently from each
candidate's own campaign, went to political moderates supported by the mayor
who were resoundingly defeated by a disparate group of progressives making
corporate San Francisco wring its collective hands with worry.
"I think most of the business community is shell-shocked right now," said
Cleaveland, whose organization represents the owners of about 300 buildings.
"Worst case, we fear more taxes . . . like the taxes proposed by Supervisor
Tom Ammiano four or five years ago," he said. "I think the corporate
business community is holding its breath."
Their fears may be grounded in reality.
"Of course, taxes are on my mind," District 6 winner Chris Daly said.
The low-income housing fees that the city charges downtown developers are
way too low, he said. And he likes Ammiano's old proposals to tax downtown
businesses to help pay for Muni as well as creating a property transfer tax,
which he would apply to land that changes hands within an extremely short
period of time.
"Certainly, we need to do something about this flipping of properties to cut
down on real estate prospecting," Daly said.
The business community also has other concerns now that many of the
candidates they backed -- Richardson, Dittenhafer, Supervisor Amos Brown,
Supervisor Michael Yaki, Juanita Owens and Lawrence Wong -- lost.
The Committee on Jobs and BOMA will watch closely how the new board tackles
development issues and try to open lines of communication with the new
Many of the board winners supported Proposition L, a stringent growth-
control measure aimed at dot-com offices, while many of the losers supported
the mayor's opposing Proposition K, a more lenient control plan. Both
measures lost in November, although voters narrowly defeated Proposition L.
"It's obvious that the issues are around the growth of this city," said
Nathan Nayman, executive director of the Committee on Jobs, which represents
some of the city's biggest companies such as the Gap. The group spent
roughly $250,000 on candidates in the general and runoff elections.
Cleaveland added, "There is no question that Proposition L is going to come
back and the people who vote in San Francisco have clearly said 'let's slow
down on development.' And that's something the business community is going
to have to look at pretty hard and live with."
Kathleen Harrington, president of the Golden Gate Restaurant Owners
Association, which spent almost $60,000 on some of those candidates, said
her members are concerned about future attempts by the new board to expand a
living-wage law. And she wonders how the new board will deal with nuisance
complaints about noise, smoking and late hours at bars and restaurants.
Winner Sophie Maxwell in District 10 saw no soft money spent in her behalf
compared with the roughly $28 per vote for opponent Richardson's benefit
during the general election and runoff campaigns. And in District 6, special
interest groups including the Labor Council spent only about $1.10 per vote
in behalf of winner Chris Daly.
©2000 San Francisco Chronicle Page A26
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