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Commissioners: Pay to Play?

by Larry Bush on 06/22/2011

in Uncategorized

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Over 70 percent of City commissioners and appointees wrote checks totaling $433 247 to local candidates and ballot measures since 2007, according to a CitiReport survey released today. In CitiReport’s count, 230 city appointees out of 313 wrote checks in local political contests.

Political contributions are only one form of civic engagement, and San Francisco’s commissioners and appointees often have a significant commitment to the community beyond the confines of politics. Still, contributions that head toward the half-million dollar mark get attention.

Diane Wilsey, a member of the War Memorial Board, accounted for $143,500 of that total, including $50,000 for an independent expenditure committee to elect Mark Farrell as District 2 Supervisor and $25,000 for the ballot committee “Civil Sidewalks” to pass then-Mayor Newsom’s measure to ban sitting or lying on city sidewalks.

One in Three Contributed to Newsom

Contributions to Mayor Newsom or to committees formed to support ballot measures he authored totaled $71,750. With contributions to Newsom capped at $500 per contributor, the bulk of the money was directed toward Newsom initiatives. About one-third of city appointees – 74 – contributed directly to Newsom for Mayor since 2007.

City appointees to Newsom’s backed measures include $26,100 for the November 2010 “Civil Sidewalks” ballot measure, $3,500 for his “Free Wireless” measure, $13,700 for his measure aimed at defeating the requirement that the mayor appear before the Board,

Dufty Leads for 2011 Mayoral Candidates

When it comes to the next mayor, city commissioners showed a strong preference for Bevan Dufty, who received almost four times as many contributions from city appointees than all the other mayoral candidates based on the 2010 reports.

Former supervisor Dufty took in $7,700 from 48 city commissioners, board members or appointees. Dufty was still a sitting supervisor during the reporting period.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera received $4,250 from 13 contributions.

State Senator Lee Yee drew in $3,050 from 8 contributions.

Joanna Rees received $850 from three contributions.

Supervisors Cash Checks

Supervisors also were the beneficiaries of contributions from the city’s “official family.” In all, $43,935 was contributed to 10 incumbent supervisors. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi did not appear to have received any contributions from city commissioners or board members.

Wilsey’s $50,000 contribution to an independent committee to benefit Mark Farrell is not included in this total.

Supervisor Carmen Chu led the list, with $18,130 in contributions to her campaign (where she ran unopposed).

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd came second, with $7,100.

Others were:

Supervisor Farrell ($4,650 not including the $50,000 in independent contributions)

Supervisor Weiner ($4,325)

Supervisor Cohen ($2,720)

Board President Chiu ($2,350)

Supervisor Jane Kim ($1,350)

Supervisor Avalos ($1,320)

Supervisor Mar ($1,050)

Supervisor Campos ($950)

Top Ten Fat Cat Commissioners

The top ten city commissioners ranked by the amount of their contributions after 2006 are:

  • Diane Wilsey, War Memorial Board of Trustees, 28 contributions totaling $143,500.00
  • Nancy Bechtle, War Memorial Board of Trustees, nine contributions totaling $15,000.00
  • Victor Makras, Retirement Board, 24 contributions totaling $14,900.00
  • Richard Guggenhime, Airport Commission, 11 contributions totaling $8,750.00
  • Alan Martinez, Historic Preservation Commission, 5 contributions totaling $7,500.00
  • Neveo Mosser, Rent Board, 15 contributions totaling $7,250.00
  • Mel Murphy, Building Inspection Commission, 15 contributions totaling $6,700.00
  • Tanya Peterson, Board of Appeals, 13 contributions totaling $5,350.00
  • Charlotte Shultz, War Memorial Board of Trustees, 9 contributions totaling $5,000.00
  • David G Gruber, Rent Board, 12 contributions totaling  $4,850.00
  • Mary Y Jung, Civil Service Commission 23 contributions totaling $4,525.

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