In the world of San Francisco political contributions, there can be too much of a good thing.
San Francisco law aimed at curbing the tilt toward big money contributors caps donor contributions to candidates at $500.
Less well known – in fact, virtually unknown – San Francisco law also caps the total amount that can be contributed in any election. It is based on a formula based on the number of offices on the ballot times the $500 cap.
In November 2011, with candidates seeking election to one of three offices -– mayor, district attorney and sheriff – the cap was $1,500. Candidates were expected to ensure that donors were not breaking the speed limit with their contribution.
Violators could be subject to a variety of penalties in theory, but, as with all things at the city’s Ethics Commission, theory rarely meets up with practice.
One reason why the cap is virtually unknown is that the Ethics Commission did nothing to inform the public, candidates or committees. There were no press releases, no information posted on the Ethics web page, no mention of it at the Ethics Commission meetings and no outreach to candidates and committees.
Having failed to take any steps to implement the law it is charged with enforcing, Ethics now seeks to have the law repealed. (see accompanying article)
CitiReport performed its own review of the 2011 election donors to identify those who exceeded the $1,500 limit.
The preliminary results – final numbers can’t be determined until after the January 31, 2012 filing of November candidates – turned up 51 contributors who exceeded the limit (see list here)
That number is likely to be significantly higher after the numbers are public on contributions that came in after the cutoff for public disclosure, which is ten days before the election.
The figures to be added are late contributions, deficit reduction contributions, and contributions made by entities such as businesses controlled by a donor who already reached the cap.
Kevin Reed of Green Cross medical marijuana dispensary topped the list with a total of $3,100 in contributions, $1,600 over the limit, including contributions to five different candidates for mayor.
Michael Antonini, a member of the Planning Commission, was the anchorman on the list with $1,525 in contributions, just $25 over the limit, and including contributions to seven candidates for mayor.
The preliminary results do not indicate that any one contest or candidate was the major beneficiary of the contributions, and they span the full diversity of political viewpoints.
The list also includes city contractors who may be prohibited another ethics law aimed at preventing pay-to-play politics. It also includes lobbyists, realtors, attorneys, and those seeking City Hall approval for their projects.
Gus Murad, owner of Medjool Restaurant that faced challenges to its Mission District restaurant, contributed to four different candidates for mayor.
Luxor Cabs vice president, whose company has a strong interest in City Hall requirements for taxi companies, contributed to three mayoral candidates and to District Attorney George Gascon.
Sam Singer, the prominent consultant and strategist specializing in damage control, contributed to two mayoral candidates and two sheriff candidates.
Others who exceeded the limit include:
* the manager of the Japan Center garage,
* Ron Conway who also contributed more than $140,000 to an independent committee supporting Ed Lee and who Lee identified as a key advisor on tax breaks for companies where Conway invests,
* construction company owners,
* a hot dog peddler who won a change in city permitting laws,
* a contruction company owner with city contracts
* apartment building owners