Inhuman Contributors

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By Oliver Luby & Marc Salomon

Section 4 – Candidates’ & Ballot Measure Committees’ Contributions from Non-Individuals

 Our last article regarding mid-year candidate financing analyzed contributions received from non-individual contributors.  The analysis presented below is an update[i] of the amounts received[ii] from non-individuals, covering both (1) the First Pre-election reporting period for candidates[iii] and (2) 2011 reporting by Ballot Measure Committees (BMCs).

While San Francisco law prohibits corporations from making campaign contributions to San Francisco candidates, various other types of non-individuals are permitted to contribute to candidates.  BMCs have no restrictions on who or what they can receive contributions from.  The charts below list the percentage of each candidate’s and BMC’s itemized monetary contributors that are non-individuals.  Such contributors are entities (not individual human beings), such as political committees or businesses (often LLCs).

Required disclosure for such contributors is more limited than for individual contributors, since candidates must report the Occupation and Employer of individual contributors while no comparable disclosure (such as industry type or organizational purpose) is required for entity contributors[iv].

In addition, the authors note that entity contributions are problematic from a campaign finance reform perspective because, despite affiliated entity and money laundering laws, these contributions effectively provide a potential means for an individual to both (1) contribute over $500 to candidates, thereby circumventing contribution limits on candidate campaigns, and (2) obfuscate the original source of the funds.

Example 1: Nice Guy gives $500 to Candidate and $500 to PAC & PAC then gives $500 to Candidate, resulting in Candidate receiving $1,000;

Example 2: Plutocrat Boss gives $500,000 to State PAC, which gives $500,000 to SF PAC, which gives $500,000 to SF BMC, which publically reports only SF PAC as the source of funds.

In the DA’s race, Gascon remained the only candidate accepting 5% or more of his contributions from non-individuals, with his rate of such contributions increasing (he was at 5.6% prior to 7/1/11 and was at 7.8% during the First Pre-election period).

In the Mayor’s race, candidates receiving 5% or more from non-individuals included Yee (previously at 7.6%, more recently at 9.5%), joined by Baum (5.8%) and Adachi (6.7%).

Mayoral candidate Herrera’s percentage of donations from non-individuals dropped, from 6% prior to 7/1/11 to 3.9% during the First Pre-election Period.

As for Sheriff candidates accepting over 5%, Mirkarimi (previously at 13.6%, more recently at 10.5%) was joined by Cunnie (8%).

The only candidates who received all of their Pre-election Period contributions from individuals were DA candidates Trinh and Fazio and mayoral candidate Rees (each 0% non-individual; Rees was previously at 0.4%).

Previously, mayoral candidate Avalos (most recently at 2.2%) and Sheriff candidate Miyamoto (most recently at 3.1%) were also 0%.

Contributions from non-individuals had the most impact in the ballot measure contests.

While several committees received less than 5% of their monetary contributions from non-individuals and three (Students First, Friends of Ethics, and Adachi’s Yes on D) were at 0%, half of the ballot measure committees received large amounts of their contributions from non-individuals.

San Franciscans United (Yes on C, No on D) was at 59.7% and Fix Our Streets (Yes on B) at 98.7%.  Two committees, Standing Up For Working Families (Yes on C, No on D), and Yes on G received 100% of their support from non-individual donors.

In light of those findings, the pension measure fight between the Yes on C and Yes on D campaigns could perhaps be viewed as individuals vs. institutions (or more specifically, wealthy individuals vs. institutions representing municipal workers).

I. District Attorney candidates- First Pre-election Period – % of contributions from non-individual donors

Instances where non-individuals comprised 5% (1 in 20) or more of the itemized monetary contributors of a candidate are highlighted in red in the charts below.

 

II. Mayor candidates- First Pre-election Period – % of contributions from non-individual donors

Instances where non-individuals comprised 5% (1 in 20) or more of the itemized monetary contributors of a candidate are highlighted in red in the charts below.

 

III. Sheriff candidates- First Pre-election Period – % of contributions from non-individual donors

Instances where non-individuals comprised 5% (1 in 20) or more of the itemized monetary contributors of a candidate are highlighted in red in the charts below.

 

IV. Ballot measure committees – % of contributions from non-individual donors

Instances where non-individuals comprised 5% (1 in 20) or more of the itemized monetary contributors of a candidate are highlighted in red in the charts below.


[i] Note that the non-individual donor analysis presented here differs from the analysis presented in the last article.  Our August 24 article’s analysis was based the number of contributors.  For BMCs, the number of contributors is not particularly meaningful because BMCs are not subject to contribution limits; one contributor may give $100,000 while another gives only $100.  As a result, the analysis here is based on the total amount of the contributions, not the number of the contributors.

[ii] This analysis reviewed only monetary contributions.  Non-monetary (in-kind) contributions and loans were not included.

[iii] Caveat: Since mayoral candidate Terry Baum’s contributions were not reviewed in our prior articles (because she had raised under $15,000 as of 6/30/11), we merged her 1/1/11-6/30/11 data with her data from the First Pre-election Period for purposes of conducting the analyses in Sections 3, 4, and 5 in this article.

[iv] Entity donors, but not recipient campaigns, need only disclose such information if they qualify as Major Donors (contributors of $10,000 or more a year), when they must then file their own campaign finance disclosure reports.  Ironically, the public receives no disclosure of an entity donor’s organizational purpose when it contributes $9,999, while an individual donor’s occupation and employer must be disclosed when he or she contributes just $100.