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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

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UncategorizedA wake-up call for Ron Conway

A wake-up call for Ron Conway

Protesters show up at tech mogul’s front door to highlight pay-to-play politics

Tenants Union Policy Director Jennifer Fieber says good morning to the city's leading tech oligarch
Tenants Union Policy Director Jennifer Fieber says good morning to the city’s leading tech oligarch

By Marco Gonzales

SEPTEMBER 17, 2015 — Wake up Mr. Conway! It’s seven in the morning, and dozens of protesters are at your doorstep.

A coalition of community and labor groups rallied outside of tech investor Ron Conway’s residence at the Four Seasons on Market St. in the wake of a new pay-to-play politics report published by Jobs with Justice.

The 60-page report highlights the tech industries overall $3.6 million in contributions to political campaigns in San Francisco between 2004 and 2015. According to the report, Conway donated 26% of all tech contributions in that time period.

The city official receiving the most out of these monetary political donations was Mayor Ed Lee, who collected ten times more money ($427,625) from the tech industry during his tenure as mayor than his predecessor Gavin Newsom brought in.

Many long time San Francisco residences see Lee’s giant intake of tech industry money as a culture shift skewed toward private interests at City Hall.

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Larry Bradshaw, a representative of SEIU Local 1021 and retired paramedic, said his 800-square-foot Bernal Heights house sold for $1 million after he was evicted.

“Most of our numbers are being pushed out to Contra Costa or Modesto to make way for high end living” Bradshaw said, “I don’t mind development, but we would like this to be a diverse city, not a playground for the wealthy.”

The money doesn’t stop at political donations. The report also notes payments made by tech moguls “At the Behest” of city officials, where politicians request wealthy individuals or companies to donate, at the behest of the official, to a local organization, charity or nonprofit.

“It’s a way for companies to give favors to officials,” Kung Feng, a report contributor and spokesperson for Jobs with Justice, said. “That company gets influence and positive good will with the official. Unlike political donations, which are limited, these behest payments you can do as much as you want.”

The number one city official to request behest payment was, again, Mayor Lee ($16 million dollars requested). The leading contributor at the behest of Mayor Lee was Ron Conway.

The report lays out the astonishing and extensive numbers on tech and real estate money contributed or lobbied through multiple levels of city government.

The weight of these monetary transactions between the tech industry and city governance ultimately falls onto the backs of those protesting outside of Four Seasons: nurses, teachers and working class residents.

“Only a third of our nurses live in San Francisco,” Maureen Dugan, the director for California Nurses Association, said. “These big companies aren’t paying their taxes, and the working people have to subsidize them.

“Mayor Lee is clearly giving breaks to tech, like Ron Conway, and he’s putting it in on the backs of the working people and we are folding under it.”

The march out front of Four Seasons was suddenly interrupted when a hotel security guard threw down a protester.

With megaphone in hand, Gus Feldman tried to reach for the door to enter the Lobby of Four Seasons. He was reportedly tossed to the ground by a security guard (one of four standing at the entrance way).

When I turned from my interview to see the commotion, I only saw Feldman on the ground, getting help up from fellow protesters.

“We saw the guards allowing a lot of other people inside, so we thought we could go inside, so when I reached for the door I was immediately thrown to the ground.” Feldman said.

The lobby of the hotel was apparently off limits to protesters. Feldman’s run in with the security guard established a fine line separating the brick sidewalk from which community activists were allowed to march and the prohibited entrance way to Mr. Conway’s residence.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

188 COMMENTS

  1. I disagree. Anyone who wishes to influence the political system uses what they have. If you have money, you will use that. If you have time, you will use that. If you have energy, you will use that. If you have a website or newspaper, you will use that.

    So, Tim uses this website and, before that, SFBG. A union will use their dues, or strikes. Activists will go on protests and demonstrations, and flood city hall meetings.

    Everyone uses what they have, so why not money? And indeed, many moneyed interests cannot even vote, but are affected by outcomes. Why should they be shut out?
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  31. Just FYI, the seller in the Mission Bay property transaction was Salesforce (the company, which Benioff runs as CEO but owns less than 10%)… the $100m was from the Benioff family.
    @jhayes362:disqus The question you implied remains fairly ambiguous (how much will Benioff “get” from the sale of the property?), given the actual facts of the situation.

  32. Maureen Dugan drove me out of San Francisco, didn’t seem to matter that I was a nurse, only that I was a young mother. I would trust more in someone who practices what they preach.

  33. $100 million is much less than Benioff will get from the sale of Mission Bay property to the Golden State Warriors if the deal goes through. Still think he’s disinterested in public policy?

  34. I’m pro-union, 1021 just gives them a bad name. Just because you disagree with progressives doesn’t mean you’re a Republican.

    Did you even read the article I posted? 1021’s own members criticized their leadership for bypassing normal process and contracting out jobs. These jobs went to politically connected folks like Tim Redmond and Nato Green and were very, very well compensated.

    There was little to no explanation for why Chris Daly quit 1021 so suddenly and before the election, even though it would of made more sense just to go work 2 more months til the end of the election.

    Why not see through the rest of the campaign season, especially when his nemesis David Chiu was in a very contentious race against 1021’s endorsed candidate? Since then, it appears that Daly is still out of work. This all seems to point to Daly being given the choice to quit in order to save face. Keep in mind that both stories happened just weeks apart.

  35. 48hills should do an expose on the $100M that Benioff donated to the UCSF so that they could build a Children’s Hospital. What corruption!

  36. If SF voters knew they were really voting for Conway instead of Lee for mayor, they wouldn’t have.

    “Why do you hate democracy?”

    Sounds like I’m arguing with Spam. Did you change your name again, Spam? I think I recognize your disingenuous, circular pseudo-logic.

  37. oh please this city panders plenty to poor people. This city spends millions on non profits and the homeless industrial complex. It’s why we have an obscenely high city budget.

  38. You are correct that I am not super rich or well connected. But that doesn’t mean I see the super rich as screwing me. I don’t think i am poorer because they are richer, so your cited claim of inequality is meaningless to me.

    I have made more than 90% of my money from the markets (real estate, stocks, commodities) and I have to thank the Reagan/Thatcher revolution for liberalizing the markets to let small players like me achieve that level of success. And for not taxing the beejebas out of my profits.

    If you ask me whether I identify more with Conway than, say, a unionized city worker, then I would say yes, definitely.

  39. We are not merely allowing them to defend themselves. We are allowing them to vacuum up a larger and larger share of U.S. and global wealth (see Thomas Piketty’s book). This has little to do with talent or hard work and a lot to do with inheritance and the access to political and economic power that money gives them.

    This is access that the rest of us, including you $am, do not have. Right now, you think your interests align with the 1 percenters, but one day they may not. Then you’ll be SOL and your vote won’t do you a damn bit of good.

  40. Then you vote for a different mayor. One who doesn’t like Conway.

    In fact the voters could have done that last time by voting for the Avalos. But 50% more voted for the pro-Conway candidate.

    Why do you hate democracy?

  41. The founding fathers also didn’t envisage income taxes, women voting and blacks not being slaves.

    Here is the problem. Logically the 99% would vote to enrich themselves at the expense of the 1%. Fortunately in the US the voters have more common sense to do anything that punitive and confiscatory. But it has happened in some other countries.

    The fact remains that the rich by definition are a minority and this nation looks after its minorities. By allowing the 1% to use their resources, we are enabling them to defend themselves.

  42. I don’t think the founding fathers envisioned an oligarchy, and that’s where we’re headed. One needs only to see where this has happened already — Putin’s Russia for example — to know that it is not a desireable situation for the 99% that are not in the inner circle.

  43. Many people also don’t have the ability to go out to every planning and board meeting like the unions and non-profits do. Who the heck represents the rest of us?

  44. That’s false equivalency. That implies that Ron Conway is the equivalent of a union leader, when actually he’s more like a union member with a lot of votes or influence, since he’s just one investor in the tech industry.

    Can any San Franciscans, including who are not 1021 members vote out 1021’s leaders?

    In the case that I laid out above 1021’s leadership were misrepresenting their membership by using dues to pay for Daly’s personal vendetta against Chiu. Even if you could consider Ron Conway the leader, he is not misrepresenting the tech community, moderates, or the people who pay him ultimately. If Conway were to say, start spending his money on Republicans candidates and social issues in SF, think anybody would listen to him?

  45. I am generally pro union. The decline of union is a large part of why wages have stagnated since the 70’s. That said, public sector unions are the reason the State has a nearly $200M in unfunded pension and healthcare liabilities, and why 60% of BART’s operating costs is compensation.

  46. I disagree. Anyone who wishes to influence the political system uses what they have. If you have money, you will use that. If you have time, you will use that. If you have energy, you will use that.

    So, Tim uses this website and, before that, SFBG. A union will use their dues, or strikes, or put feet on the ground. Activists will go on protests and demonstrations, and flood city hall meetings.

    Everyone uses what they have, so why not money? And indeed, many moneyed interests cannot even vote, but are affected by outcomes. Why should they be shut out?

    .

  47. This whole system gives rich people an outsized influence on public policy, so the answer is yes. We can see the effects here in San Francisco.

  48. Yes, it’s odd how Tim hates political funding unless it just happens to be for a cause that he personally agrees with, and then it is democracy at its finest.

    The hypocrisy of the left on this topic is stunning

  49. Do they actually represent all their members?

    http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/CWA-accuses-SEIU-local-of-contracting-out-jobs-5820301.php

    Redmond got paid more than a minimum wage worker as a side job to do their newsletter.

    1021 had endorsed David Chiu as recently as 2012, and just several years later (and after Chris Daly closed his bar and started working there) was running a scorched earth campaign to portray Chiu as Republican.

    Bet not all the members appreciated their dues being used to pay for a personal vendetta, which is no wonder that Daly shortly quit his job with little explanation after the above story ran.

  50. Based on a contribution lookup on SFEthics, I found that 1021 gave $4,087,471.87, yep $4 million to different campaigns and committees in a period of starting with 8/18/2007 to 2015

    In other words, not only did SEIU 1021 give more, they gave more in less amount of time than the entire tech industry.

    Irrelevant?

  51. Ed Lee is, basically, serving Willie Brown’s fifth term and running for a sixth. (Newsom held the seat through the third and fourth terms.)

  52. This article’s section on “behest” is ridiculous. To use an example outside our city limits, when former Newark mayor Corey Booker managed to cajole Mark Zuckerberg into donating $100M for Newark’s failing public schools, that would be corruption on Booker’s part?

  53. Don’t play stupid: the rank-and-file have no other high-powered representation. (Whassamatter, don’t like workers?)

    So at least you agree with me that candidates should be publicly–not privately–financed? (Then, of course, piggies like Conway would have to pay their fair share of taxes.)

  54. SEIU doesn’t have lobbyists or attorneys? And no clout in Sacramento? Who knew?

    SEIU has clout right here at 48 Hills. Tim’s on a stipend to make sure he follows the party line.

  55. Willie Brown lives at the Regis. You wouldn’t want them to live someplace they might have to rub shoulders with the public.

  56. Whoah! SEIU represents thousands of SF tax-paying workers who don’t have lobbyists or attorneys or otherwise any other representation in Sacramento or DC. Tax-sheltering Conway represents his own piggish ass. False analogy there.

  57. So, you believe that only rich people buy off politicians?

    The SEIU spent $900,000 defeating Jeff Adachi’s efforts at pubic-sector pension reform.

    Leftie bribery: GOOD!GOOD!
    Conway bribery” BAD!BAD!

    Love your orthodoxy.

  58. So Ron “lives” at the 4 Seasons. Not even a resident of a community in San Francisco. Why am I not surprised and continuously and abjectly disappointed with Ed Lee and his BFF funder. Ron is getting an enormous ROI on his investments in SF. Go Aaron

  59. “The tech industries overall $3.6 million in contributions to political campaigns in San Francisco between 2004 and 2015.”

    Is that as much as the SEIU gave?

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