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UncategorizedPolitics: Does Ron Conway run this city?

Politics: Does Ron Conway run this city?

Can Conway money control San Francisco politics?
Can Conway money control San Francisco politics?

By Tim Redmond

OCTOBER 9, 2014 – My usual Politics on Tuesday column got preempted by Airbnb, so now it’s Politics on Thursday. Couple of things to think about as the campaign mailers start flooding in:

The Campos-Chiu race is about a lot of things; two very different candidates are offering very different visions of how politics ought to work. But there’s an element that isn’t being talked about much, and it’s important.

I saw it Tuesday afternoon, when the supervisors voted 7-4 to legalize most of what Airbnb is doing in the city.

Some of that vote can be traced to the organizing work by Airbnb and its allies; yes, as Randy Shaw notes, every supervisor heard from constituents who like the service and are making money from it. But there’s another factor: Ron Conway’s money.

Conway is an investor in Airbnb, and a tech overlord who is close to the mayor and seems to think he runs the city. He has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into an Independent Expenditure committee attacking Campos. And many of the members of the Board of Supervisors are thinking about future political careers – and angering a man who can, singlehandedly, create a vicious smear campaign against you is a bit frightening.

So when you think about the Campos-Chiu race, remember this: If Campos wins, up against the Conway money, it will send a message that no, this guy doesn’t control the city, and yes, you can beat him, and no, resistance is not futile.

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That will spill over into local politics in a very significant way.


I’ve been reading endorsements (whoda thunk the Ex would go Yes on G? And back Campos and only Tony Kelly in  D10?) and I’m noticing an interesting trend. There are progressives (like the League of Pissed Off Voters and the Bay Guardian, along with the ACLU of California) siding with the health insurers and medical establishment, and against the consumer groups and trial lawyers, on medical malpractice awards.

Prop. 46 seeks to raise the cap on malpractice awards to $1 million. The cap is currently $250,000, and was set in 1975. If you indexed for inflation, you’d probably get about the same number as Prop. 46 seeks.

This matters: No lawyer is going to take on a complex malpractice case when the most he or she can win is a few hundred thousand dollars – less than it costs to bring the case to trial. So raising the cap would give people who have legit claims against their physicians a better chance of getting a day in court.

But that wasn’t enough for the sponsors of Prop. 46. The also decided (perhaps because it polled really well) to include mandatory random drug testing for doctors. And for a lot of people who support higher malpractice awards, that’s a nonstarter.

Suppose you’re an emergency room physician and you go to a party Friday night and smoke pot with your friends. You don’t work again until Tuesday, by which time you are certainly no longer impaired. And yet, you could be forced to pee in a bottle, and potentially disciplined or fired, because THC is detectable in your system for more than a week.

Nobody likes the thought of stoned doctors operating on them. (I like even less the idea of drunk doctors, who are more common, and this measure does nothing about that.) But progressives in California have always opposed mandatory drug tests, except in very limited circumstances.

So the proponents of what could be a pretty popular measure on the left have made it impossible for the left to support them. Wonder what they were smoking – and why we don’t drug-test political consultants.


The campaign finance reports show that the landlords are going to spend a fortune defeating Prop. G – but interesting, they also show that Campos (who, according to the Chron, was having trouble raising money) has collected more than enough to run his campaign against Chiu.

Also interesting: Tony Kelly is doing remarkably well for someone challenging an incumbent, Malia Cohen, in D 10. With public financing, he’ll have more than $200,000 for the campaign. And, according to a press release from his campaign, 48 percent of all his money comes from within the district.

So that’s going to be a close race.


Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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  1. Tim – You make a perceptive observation on Prop. 46. I have been campaigning heavily against the initiative among my friends who take my voting advice, and based exactly on what you say here. Mandatory drug testing is always a disgusting invasion of privacy, and I and many others will be voting against the initiative for this reason.

  2. Exactly, Tim. If you look at Dan’s posting history, not only does he claim that anyone who disagrees with him is paid, but in fact they are paid by the CIA.

    Yes, that’s right, if you disagree with Dan (and who doesn’t?) then you’re on the CIA payroll. It’s true – I read it on Dan’s blog. You know, the one which only three people visit because he censors out anyone who doesn’t agree with him.

    Thankfully, your blog values civility and diversity, and understands that we only learn and grow by being exposed to critical and informed debate.

  3. I think it’s hilarious that anyone who comments with an opinion contrary to the majority is immediately called out as a paid shill for some mystical dark right-wing force, as if payment was the only possible motivation for anyone to disagree. If this is the common belief, then I regret to inform you that many, many people in SF disagree with the extreme, highly-biased ramblings herein. They all just don’t happen to comment on blogs.

    I disagree with most of the things on this blog but I read it (and respond occasionally) because, well, it’s entertaining.

    Often, the simplest answer is the most obvious one.

  4. Of course billionaire Ron Conway runs this city. He owns it and runs it, assisted by Willie Brown and Rose Pak with figure head Ed Lee, playing the puppet role.

    This is the only blog I visit that is obsessed with this so-called “civility.” And I’m not referring to Tim. I’m referring to these obnoxious Greed-At-Any-Cost/Class Warfare trolls who vegetate and camp out here on a daily basis with their libertarian/conservative/right-wing agenda. I wouldn’t give them a platform. They appear to be opposed to most of what this site stands for, so why the fuck are they here? I’ve read the ludicrous reasons they’ve given using their newspeak bull shit. They’re not fooling anyone.

    I’ve learned that some of the biggest abrasive assholes on the internet smugly wrap themselves in the “civility” card. And then they take it upon themselves to lecture others on someone else’s site about “civility” and what the owner of the site wants on his/her blog. The nerve!

    I turned comments back on on my blog recently and I’ve gone through the Greed-At-Any-Cost/Class Warfare trolls here (their names) and put all their names in the spam block, so even if they happen to show up at my blog and try to comment there, their comment will remain permanently in spam. Because I’m not giving that crowd a platform. Their crowd is in the process of destroying this city and I’m not about to have my blog and its comment section be complicit in that. Fuck them! How’s that for “civility” trolls?

    What Marcos wrote up above was correct. I agree with him completely. No one with an operative brain camps out on a blog they can’t stand unless they have a monied agenda. I’m sorry to see Tim give them a platform, because by doing so he is complicit with and part of the problem, because they have limitless venues/websites already. They don’t need this one.

  5. Sam, my comment speaks for itself. There is no need to proselytize further; it comes off a bit needy. Sorry if this doesn’t appear to follow Tim Redmond’s call for civility. But man, you really don’t know when to quit, do you?

  6. I don’t need to. Tim has made his views well known and you are violating them.

    What’s worse is that you don’t care.

  7. The litmus test for an activist is this. Does he ask me what I want, or does he tell me what I should want? If the latter, run away as fast as you can.

  8. So if Tim told you that your endless comments about me are contrary to his wishes, would you concede his point or would you continue to personally attack anyone whose views here you disagree with?

  9. I think whether or not Ron Conway runs San Francisco is beside the point, in this election, anyway. There is not one ballot proposal I would vote for, and I think I’m going to sit out the Assembly race as well. I am very concerned about pedestrian safety, overcrowding, and emergency services; however, there’s nothing on the November ballot that guarantees any of these issues will be adequately addressed, funded or otherwise. I don’t drink soda and don’t have a weight problem, but I don’t like the soda tax. I am not a property owner but I don’t like Prop G, either. I wish the BOS had left the Ellis Act alone. Those of us with any chance to negotiate a reasonable buyout from property owners are screwed.

    And Sam is right about activists. The ones in this city don’t seem to have anyone’s best interest in mind but their own.

  10. First off, “trolling” is a pejorative terms widely used to try and disparage anyone who disagrees with the speaker. Not helpful here.

    Second, I trust the democratic process by which I means primarily elections and then the ability for those elected to do their job.

    I trust the ordinary working people who have neither the time nor the inclination to spend hours and hours advocating this and pushing that.

    I trust least those who advocate ceaselessly, whether full-time or just in every off-work hour. I seriously doubt their good intentions since they invariably pursue narrow partisan agendas rather than actually listen to what the people want. I think that’s an inherent distortion of true democracy – it should not be rule by those who put in the most hours whining

  11. No, if you respected this space you would not hurl repeated personal attacks. Tim defines this space, not you, and he has asked for zero personal attacks.

    I support him.

  12. But we are all very busy. So the current system means that those with a lot of time on their hands, such as those without jobs or families, are disproportionately represented at public meetings and other activities outside elections. That’s why the folks who, say show up at public meetings always seem to be much more left-wing then the average SF voter.

    Elections are not “going through the motions”. It’s the fundamental basis of our democracy because most of us most of the time, can not do more but still want to be counted.

    Sorry but i do not trust political agitators, activists and advocates

  13. It’s Tim’s definition of civility that matters here and not yours or mine. He has specifically asked posters to refrain from personal attacks and yet you persist.

    I find it very odd that you and he are ideological colleagues and yet you do not respect his space. While I disagree with Tim on almost everything but am very happy to abide my his rules because that’s a simple matter of respect and decency.

  14. Going through the motions of an election is not a sufficient condition for democracy. A healthy democracy depends on an informed, and active, electorate. A society where people are too busy to be involved as full citizens, is one where a minority oligarchy exersizes effective control. It’s not a democracy.

  15. marcos, as per Tim’s explicit guidelines on civility, please refrain from personally attacking other posters, and stick to the subject.

  16. marcos, as per Tim’s explicit guidelines on civility, please refrain from personally attacking other posters, and stick to the subject.


  17. I am always suspicious of anyone who spends an undue amount of time and effort into politics because, inevitably, that means that they are seeking to impose their view on others and skew the political process in favor of their beliefs for no reason other than that they personally prefer them.

    That’s why I am cynical about politicians, lobbyists, activists (who are really just lobbyists with no money), and anyone else who tries just a little too hard. When was the last time an activist ever asked my opinion? Never.

    The world needs makers and producers and wealth creators far more than they need yet another person telling them what to think and do. So, no, I’m afraid full-time advocates aren’t the solution – they are the problem.

    The whole point of a representative democracy is that we elect leaders, let them lead, and then throw them out if we don’t like them. Attempts to micromanage the process through pressure, protests, money, strikes, activism etc. are all essentially distortions designed to benefit one group over anther.

    Most of us have to work so that a small number of politicians can spend our money. We can’t all spend all day in meetings like the trust-fund activists who appear to flock to this city precisely because of the ease with which they can squirm their way into influence.

  18. Y, yes, there is a distinction between ideological puff pieces and genuine substantive arguments. I draw a clear bright line between the two. Hence the two comments only seem disparate when taken out of context.

  19. “When in doubt, ask a busy man.”

    Couldn’t disagree more. Generally, I find that people who are too busy to care about politics and policy, have very simplistic thinking on the subject. It almost goes without saying. We should all take the time to be full citizens. Of course the capitalist system makes that very difficult.

    As for the comment that churches are less political… that’s just laughable on its face.

  20. Sam, 48H, 7/22: “…it only takes a few minutes to debunk most of the ideological puff pieces here. So sadly this is not even a part-time gig. More of a distraction and the provision of a public service.”

    10/11: “I am here because I enjoy a diversity of viewpoints, spirited yet civil debate and respect for those with different outlooks.”

  21. No, I am here because I enjoy a diversity of viewpoints, spirited yet civil debate and respect for those with different outlooks.

    But why not discuss Tim’s topic rather than personalities?

  22. There are many more media sources that promote your viewpoint, they are in no way constrained. You are camping our here and in other local comment sections as a campaign of aggression against your ideological opponents trying to shout everyone else down as called for by Citizens United.

  23. I don’t mind labels, categorizations or stereotypes very helpful here or elsewhere. Nobody is 100% progressive or 100% conservative – that is just an assumption made by those who wish to denigrate others. For example, I’d be considered a liberal in most of this nation.

    There are few topics that are not enriched by the input of a diversity of viewpoints, and it is only those who are unsure of their beliefs who fear disagreement and debate.

    Better to stay on topic and discuss the issue here than speculate about other posters and their motives.

  24. This is not a problem with conflicting viewpoints. What you are doing by setting up shop on progressive blogs is tantamount to a fraternity of straight men deciding to hang out in a lesbian bar. There are plenty of establishments that cater to your fetishes, you chose to camp here because you are waging war on other ideas. Tim is too timid to put up any sort of defense to these attacks because, like the SFBG, he’s probably pimping for hits.

  25. It’s not clear to me that either Sean or Iaminitforme are “subjugating” themselves at all, any more than you are. People choose to post for a variety of reasons and not because they are “rattled”. I could equally argue that you have allowed yourself to be rattled by having to read opinions that you disagree with, but assumptions about the motives of others are not helpful. The better posters here are not reactive or emotionally brittle.

    I’d be fairly confident that Tim prefers thoughtful, informed and articulate posts that disagree with him over either sycophantic pandering or reactive speculations about other posters. The essence of debating is a rhetorical back-and-forth where the truth is uncovered through a systematic approach such as dialectic and Socratic methods.

    And that entails the presentation of conflicting viewpoints, and not the mindless gainsaying of anyone who ventures a different opinion.

  26. I think it’s great that Tim, now ex-SFBG, still manages to rattle your cages so effectively to the point where you subjugate your selves and opinions to his comments section.

    It’s not like you couldn’t start your own blog.

  27. I’m beginning to think SF has no housing shortage. What it has is an over abundance of wacko uber liberal leftist who constantly complain about people who make money.

    Timmy loves holding up straw men like Conway while throwing stones from Oakland…..don’t you Timmy?

  28. Sam – thank you for your responses. Good to have someone with common sense commenting, otherwise the board would be filled with folks like Marcos and Greg.

    SFBG like to scare us boogeymen like Conway, but I’m much more worried about the Chris Dalys and David Campos’ of the world, ideologues who advocate crazy policies that culminate in things like this housing shortage we’re facing.

  29. The social services non profiteers proudly self identify as activists, rarely have support, a base or any sort of democratic legitimacy in the communities they serve and get paid to advance their own agenda by making common cause with the political opponents of their bases.

  30. Yes, that’s another thing to like about them. Because activists don’t help people. They merely pursue their own agenda.

  31. I’m not a huge fan of non-profits. I’d prefer to see charity work conducted by churches and charities, who typically are much less political, as well as being cheaper for the taxpayers.

    My comment was restricted to comparing SF non-profits with SF so-called activists. The former get things done. The latter merely whine about the former.

  32. The nonprofits are getting paid to “lead” their constituencies over a cliff and you are defending them because they are ineffective.

  33. Non-profits do real work and deliver real services, like housing and help for the homeless.

    That gives them more credibility than, say, some blogger or activist who merely shouts from the gallery while their hands stay clean and unsullied from hard work.

  34. “I live in the city of San Francisco, you live in the city of Palo Alto. […] Ed Lee, who you ridicule—how dare you, Palo Alto resident!” Conway sneered as eyes widened behind him.

  35. The nonprofits build nothing like consensus, they take the energies and outrage of others and capitalize on them for their own narrow interests. That is why by every measure the circumstances of those for whom the nonprofits purport to act is deteriorating rapidly. At the current rate, the nonprofits and their charges will be extinct in ten years time.

  36. The non-profits at least know how to compromise and build consensus. Progressive ideologues and extremists typically do not, and so achieve less.

  37. I thought you liked makers like me, innovators in the new innovation economy as representing the future of San Francisco? When libertarians defend the nonprofits, you know that something is amiss.

  38. I’d love to see a shred of evidence that anyone fears you. Not that I am disbelieving you even for a minute, of course. But it seems reasonable to ask you to substantiate and document such a precisely identified and specifically declared fear.

    From what I see, you are more cuddly than dangerous. And from your posts, I suspect you spend a lot more time thinking about them than they spend worrying about you.

    Oh, and why does it matter where they live?

  39. Perhaps, but at the same time the non-profit community delivers real services and help to people, and they are at the sharp end of making an effort to make a difference in peoples’ lives every day.

    So why would we listen less to them and listen more to those who are mere ideologues, louche theoreticians and part-time political wannabees and has-beens?

    When in doubt, ask a busy man.

  40. Too many of them have given up on SF, moved to the East Bay, and now commute in to be given stakeholder status to represent is before City departments. All the mayor has to do is to threaten the funding of any one of them and they all stand down on contesting neoliberal dominance. By their actions, they fear me more than they fear Ed Lee.

  41. I’m trying to say something snarky about dogs and fleas, but I’m really speechless. Hats off to you, Sir! You’ve outdone yourself.

  42. This is OT, but the only reason that they got all that spam is that people could include links back to their own web sites that counted for their Google rankings. In comment sections you are supposed to add the code ‘rel=”nofollow”‘ to tell Google to ignore the links and you remove that motivation. Then you don’t get “This is a wonderful article. Thank you!” with a link to a Viagra site embedded in the poster’s name.

    But perhaps they let the spam go to camouflage the real problem of people keeping score of how many times Steven looked foolish. He is an embarrassment.

  43. I think that is a good point, Marcos. There is a fairly large segment of the non-profit community that likes the status quo squish moderate developments on the board. It is afraid of progressive reform of any kind.

  44. Why is this happening? It is happening because the corrupted social services and “livability” nonprofits are running interference for the neoliberals and that gives Ron Conway a free hand.

  45. SFBG’s eyeballs are way down since they barred comments. They barred comments partly because of having their positions destroyed in plain public view by posters who were, frankly, smarter than anyone else left on SFBG staff.

    And partly because they lacked the technical nous to stop the African and Asian hackers polluting the comments.

    I suspect that corporate management leaned on Steven to plug the leak and his endorsements reflect that. But he’s thrashing around like a drowning drunk.

    Come back, Tim. All is forgiven.

  46. There is no daylight between the League of Pissed Off Voters and SFBG endorsements on the “progressive” side and those of The City Family.


  47. SFBG endorsements were a train wreck. Steve Jones had to write a separate article to try to calm the shitstorm, swearing up and down that the new corporate ownership has nothing to do with it. Weiner? Tang? Farrell??? No on H???? Sorry, I don’t buy it, and it seems like neither does anyone else. The Guardian is dead.

  48. They included random drug testing of doctors because it actually polled better than the other provision. In most parts of the state, that’s what the campaign is playing up. But for me, like most progressives, it makes prop 46 untenable. It’s a deal-breaker. I’m all for lifting the cap, but random drug testing to peer into what doctors (or anybody) does in their private lives, is a gross violation of privacy. Two states have legalized recreational marijuana use, and we’re going backwards in California on this civil rights issue? Hell no!

  49. Conway makes me think of Joe O’Donoghue, the man to fear in SF politics during dot-com 1. Whatever happened to him?

    The SFBG endorsements were puzzling to me. They seemed, as a rule, more compromising than during the Brugmann/Redmond years. I was surprised to see them recommending every single incumbent supervisor to either the #1 or the #2 choice.

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