From: Kim Alexander <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Friday, July 10, 1998
Subject: Digital sunlight news
Today I have two items to share with you. First, there is a new report from the Center for Responsive Politics available on the Web that provides a state-by-state update on the status of digital disclosure of campaign finance data. It's an excellent, thorough overview and we are really grateful to Marian Currinder and the staff at CRP for preparing this much-needed report. You can find "Digital Democracy" on CRP's web site at:
The second item is a news story from yesterday's San Francisco Examiner, reporting on the $1.4 million received by San Francisco political consultants in the recent election. This information is now easily andpublicly available thanks to San Francisco's new disclosure law for political consultants, adopted by San Francisco voters last year. San Francisco appears to be the only jurisdiction in the country with a political consultant disclosure requirement. That should not be surprising, given that San Francisco has long been at the forefront of efforts to improve political disclosure.
Unfortunately, San Francisco's pioneering efforts to promote "digital sunlight" are not being met with enthusiasm from the powers that be in San Francisco -- specifically, Mayor Willie Brown, who, despite the fact that the city has a $100 million+ budget surplus this year, refused to adequately fund the San Francisco Ethics Commission's new program to implement electronic filing for city lobbyists and campaign consultants. The Commission asked for $50,000 in new funding -- Brown's budget only provides $10,000 -- not nearly enough to implement the commission's new program.
The San Francisco Ethics Commission's experience in getting funding for their electronic filing program unfortunately is not uncommon among disclosure agencies. Politicians may support the concept of better disclosure, but sometimes fail to provide the funding needed to implement the new programs. Hopefully the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will reconsider this funding issue soon. In the meantime, take a look at the story below for more details about San Francisco's new political consultant disclosure law. More information is also available from the SF Ethics Commission's web site at:
Additional "digital sunlight" resources are available from the California Voter Foundation's Digital Sunlight web site, at:
-- Kim Alexander, President
California Voter Foundation
Consultants' tab for S.F. campaigns: $1.4 million -- That's their 3-month
gross before June primary
OF THE EXAMINER STAFF
July 9, 1998
copyright 1998 San Francisco Examiner
Hired guns behind the losing ballot measures for the de Young Museum and a partial rent-control rollback didn't walk away from the June election empty-handed.
Not, at least, by one measure - money, according to The City's first report on cash collected by local political campaign consultants.
Consultant John Whitehurst reported receiving $490,470.91 to run the campaign for Proposition A, the $89 million bond measure for the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum.
Michael Terris and Eric Jaye, whose firm ran the Proposition E campaign to end rent control on owner-occupied buildings with four or fewer units, took in $214,723.78, the report by The City's Ethics Commission shows.
The two firms' money for these issues was half the $1.4 million collected by consultants during a spring election dominated by single-issue ballot measures. No major offices were up for grabs in The City.
"I think the report sheds a lot of light on the role of campaign consultants in the city of San Francisco, what they earn, who is paying and what place they have in the democratic process," said Ginny Vida, the commission's executive director.
The report, covering activity between March 1 and May 31, is the first prepared by the Ethics Commission under an ordinance passed by voters last November.
The measure required professional political consultants to disclose the money they receive on behalf of candidates for elective office and in campaigns to pass or defeat local ballot measures.
Reports on lobbyists
The Ethics Commission produces similar reports on the activities of lobbyists who represent business interests at City Hall. It also maintains campaign finance records on donors to political causes.
The consultants' report shows Whitehurst, Terris and Jaye, and a third firm headed by Don Solem held lofty positions relative to the 21 other political pros who filed disclosure statements.
According to the commission, Whitehurst reported collecting $643,057 during the three-month period, including $135,536.62 for a successful campaign to allow a garage in Golden Gate Park.
The garage measure, Proposition J, was a companion to the de Young bond issue, which garnered 64 percent of the vote, just short of the two-thirds needed for passage.
Whitehurst was paid $17,050 by Supervisor Mabel Teng, who is running for re-election in November and aiming for the Board of Supervisors presidency by finishing first in the race for five seats.
Whitehurst also represents board President Barbara Kaufman.
According to the commission's report, Terris and Jaye disclosed taking in $290,201.
Besides payments for the rent-control rollback measure, Terris and Jaye collected $37,977.95 to produce pamphlets opposing Proposition F, the measure governing use of the restored City Hall building and ending public funding of Mayor Brown's protocol office, the report shows.
Terris and Jaye also reported $17,500 from the successful campaign to re-elect Assessor Doris Ward, and $20,000 from the Police Officers Association. The POA has a measure headed to the November ballot to improve officer retirement benefits.
Solem's firm reported collecting $180,278.51 for its work on the Golden Gate Park garage measure.
Opposition to reporting
The consultants vociferously opposed the ballot measure creating the reporting requirements, which was sponsored by Supervisor Tom Ammiano.
They characterized it as a political stunt and argued it was redundant because the information already was contained in campaign-finance disclosures.
"I continue to believe this was a mistargeted effort aimed at a couple of consultants . . . and no public purpose is served," Terris said Wednesday.
He said the commission's report gave the wrong impression about how much consultants earned.
"It seems like a big, fat, whopping figure," he said, "but it is gross, not net," and doesn't take into account that much of the money collected goes to pay postage and printing costs and the like.
The report also shows that during the spring election most of the 24 consultants were not running high-end, full-service campaign operations.
According to the commission, they received just $35,815 on average - and the bulk took in far less money than that.
Ammiano says law is working
Ammiano said the measure was having its desired effect by highlighting the money in campaigns.
He also said the report made it easier for the public to spot instances of influence-trading, in which a paid consultant also worked as a lobbyist representing clients before officials they had helped elect.
"I'm always amazed by how much these consultants make," Ammiano said. "We need to make it more open to the public."
Ammiano added that The City should now spend a little money of its own to make the information even more accessible.
When the supervisors are scheduled to vote on the mayor's 1998-99 budget, Ammiano said he'd ask that $40,000 be added for the commission to further automate campaign-finance and consultant disclosure reporting.
The commission sought $50,000 from Brown for two projects: developing software for on-line filing of campaign-finance reports and for electronic filing of consultant reports. Brown, however, authorized only $10,000 - not enough to get either project off the ground.
Currently, the campaign-finance reports are published on the agency's Web site at www.ci.sf.ca.us/ethics/ . The consultant reports can only be viewed by visiting the commission's Civic Center offices at 1390 Market St.