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Candidate Financing: What We Know

by Larry Bush on 08/08/2011

in Paper Trails

Analysis of Mid-Year San Francisco Campaign Financing of Candidates for November 2011 Election Part 1


By Oliver Luby & Marc Salomon

By this past Monday, August 1st, candidates running for Mayor, District Attorney, and Sheriff in San Francisco’s November election filed their mid-year campaign finance reports.  For the many recently declared candidates, this was the first public disclosure of who is funding their campaigns.  Though California and San Francisco law require that a significant amount of campaign finance data be available to the public prior to each election, the authors believe that these data have long been underutilized for the public good.  While the press occasionally provides interesting reports about campaign contributions, systematic analysis of the data is typically not available.  As for the primary custodian of San Francisco’s campaign finance data, the San Francisco Ethics Commission provides no public analysis of the data in advance of the election.

Part of the reason for the underutilization of campaign data is because the SF Ethics Commission has failed to fully carry out its mission of “Encouraging and promoting integrity in government by education and example.”  The Commission has abdicated its role of educating the public regarding how to research the data under its care.  The last year Ethics offered a workshop on researching the data was 2003, even though Ethics subsequently received a new fulltime Education & Outreach Coordinator staff position beginning in 2007 and released a new campaign finance database system in 2008.  Such public research workshops ceased after the late Joe Lynn resigned as Campaign Finance Officer in 2003.

Moreover, SF Ethics’ privatized online database provides challenges for looking up even the most basic data. Consider: once a user accesses this database designed by election campaign vendor Netfile, the user must make at least five mouse clicks per candidate, and open at least one .PDF file per candidate, just for the simple task of locating charted data of the candidates’ total fundraising and spending without the need for complex manipulations in Excel.  By contrast, the municipally-designed online database of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission automatically provides handy charts of all basic finance points (total contributions, total spending, etc.) for campaigns for each election.  The finance totals for municipal candidates for each election can be reached via two clicks from the site’s campaign finance page.  The chart for the current year’s election is even accessible by a single click from the site’s home page.

To better inform the public, we pulled public data off the SF Ethics website and duplicated the Los Angeles method to present a snapshot of the campaign financing to date for all the major San Francisco candidate campaigns.[1] Note: These data will no longer be accurate after the next campaign finance filing deadline on September 29, 2011.

San Francisco November 2011 Election Candidate Campaign Financing, current to 6/30/11 unless otherwise noted

Race Contributions Expenditures (including unpaid accrued debt) Cash on Hand   Candidate’s Personal Funds Contributed Public Financing Received (as of 7/26/11)
District Attorney
Bock, Sharmin $240,337 $84,444 $186,756 $1,000[2] n/a
Gascón, George $234,486 $156,916 $141,059 $0 n/a
Onek, David $284,435 $128,246 $159,202 $500 n/a
DA Total: $759,258 $369,606 $487,017 $1,500 n/a
Alioto-Pier, Michela $189,055 $174,648 $406,575 $0 $423,200
Avalos, John $86,882 $37,679 $99,203 $0 $50,000
Chiu, David $398,579 $185,213 $396,755 $500 $468,161
Dufty, Bevan $518,675 $524,727 $493,372 $1,250[3] $514,133
Hall, Tony $103,112 $202,724 $173,369 $0 $208,236
Herrera, Dennis $573,086 $522,323 $586,294 $500 $534,507
Rees, Joanna $369,605 $385,462 $441,169 $500 $429,928
Ting, Phil $120,365 $123,014 $37,067 $500 $0
Yee, Leland $396,322 $481,252 $444,820 $0 $470,026
Run Ed Lee Run[4] $49,251 $70,761 $982 $0 None
Mayor Total: $2,804,932 $2,707,803 $3,079,606 $3,250 $3,098,191
Cunnie, Chris Unknown – did not form committee until after June 30. n/a
Mirkarimi, Ross $105,546 $11,427 $94,119 $0 n/a
Miyamoto, Paul $59,423 $14,278 $50,141 $0 n/a
Sheriff Total: $164,969 $25,705 $144,260 $0 n/a

In addition, we have conducted a series of more sophisticated analyses of the candidate finance data.  The purpose of these analyses was to provide interesting insights regarding the campaign financing and to examine whether meaningful distinctions could be observed between the financial constituencies of the campaigns.  Summaries of three areas of research are listed below.  Follow the links to see the results.

Link: Section 1 – Financial Statistics and Status of 2011 Candidate Committees

Summary: This section provides some basic committee statistics and identifies which committees are and are not solvent.

Link: Section 2 – ZIP Code Maps of San Francisco Campaign Donor Support

Summary: This section provides maps grading the regions of San Francisco which have provided candidates with campaign contributions.  Two maps are provided for each candidate in all three races, as well as for an ALL-candidates category – the first map identifies the number of San Francisco contributors by ZIP Code, while the second identifies the dollar amount of contributions by ZIP Code.  All map legends are scaled relative to the candidate in question, as the intended purpose of the maps is to identify the regions of variable support for each candidate.

Link: Section 3 – Federal Donor Profiles of San Francisco Campaign Contributors

Summary: Which San Francisco candidate’s contributors made the most donations to federal elections?  How many of these federal contributions were made to Democrats and how many were made to Republicans?  Whose contributors scored the highest on the George-Bush-O-Meter?

Such questions are addressed in Section 3of this article.  Using a conservative methodology, we looked up the federal campaign contribution history of all individual (human) donors to this year’s San Francisco candidates.  We believe that the federal donor profiles of San Francisco campaign contributors provide a meaningful way of distinguishing between the political priorities of the financial constituencies backing San Francisco election campaigns.

Federal data source: Center for Responsive Politics




Disclosure: Oliver Luby has contributed $25 to the John Avalos mayoral campaign and Marc Salomon has contributed $500 to the John Avalos mayoral campaign and $50 to the Ross Mirkarimi for Sheriff campaign.  Mr. Luby has also done some volunteer work for the Avalos campaign.  The authors have previously endorsed Ross Mirkarimi for Sheriff and John Avalos for Mayor, with a second place IRV endorsement of Leland Yee for Mayor.  Mr. Luby has endorsed David Onek for District Attorney. This article was written in the authors’ capacities as longtime advocates for campaign finance disclosure, and the work was independent of any election campaign.


[1] For purposes of inclusion in this article, we defined “major” as referring to those candidates that have raised, or are overwhelmingly expected to raise, $15,000 or more.

[2] This $1,000 amount is a loan from Bock that remains due back from the committee to the candidate.

[3] This $1,250 amount was a loan from Dufty that the committee paid back to the candidate.

[4] The Run Ed Run campaign’s committee has filed campaign reports under the name, Progress for All.  Though we know that this committee claims that it is not controlled by the candidate it backs and is taking advantage of that to accept contributions well over the $500 limit, we thought that the financial support of a Mayor who is campaigning should be represented in our data analysis


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