Just as the Bernie Sanders campaign is stepping up its criticism of the role party officials play in the nomination process, a proposal to create 12 new superdelegates for the city’s Democratic Party comes up for a vote Wed/13.
The motivation behind the idea, its backers say, is to allow more grassroots participation – by making sure that the mayor and members of the Board of Supes get automatic seats and thus can’t compete for elected positions.
Instead, the plan calls for 31 elected posts (seven more than the current 24) and a committee of 52 total members.
There are a number of problems with the idea, particularly the timing: It doesn’t seem fair to change the rules after the filing deadline. And while the supporters of the plan say the local party has the legal authority to change its own membership, there are arguments on the other side.
Jon Golinger, a lawyer and Reform Slate member, notes:
The new Proposed Bylaws Amendment is not simply bad policy – it is also unlawful. As proposed it would 1) violate existing state law that expressly states that the SF DCCC shall have 24 elected members; and 2) violate the constitutional rights to Due Process and Equal Protection of all San Francisco Democrats who may have chosen to run for an elected seat on the SF DCCC under the proposed new rules but who are all now prohibited from doing so because the March 11 candidate filing deadline has passed.
Not to get too legal and technical, but here’s the argument:
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[The proposal] would enable up to an additional 9 candidates running in this election to be eligible to fill the seats of the 9 Supervisors who are currently running in the SF DCCC election, should they be elected by the voters on June 7th and then be immediately required to vacate their elected seats since they would already be “ex officio” members of the SF DCCC .
Consequently, the Proposed Bylaws Amendment would enable up to 16 more of the 51 non-Supervisor candidates who are currently running in the June 7th election to win a seat on the DCCC than would have be able to win seats under the election rules that are in place today and were in place on the official filing deadline of March 11.
By doing so, the Proposed Bylaws Amendment would allow only its author, the other current non-Supervisor members of the SF DCCC who filed to run for re-election by March 11, and the other non-Supervisor candidates for SF DCCC who filed to run for election by March 11, to be eligible to win one of these newly created SF DCCC seats. It would exclude every other registered Democrat in San Francisco from this same opportunity. This would deprive San Francisco Democrats who did not file to run by the March 11 deadline of their constitutional right to both fair notice as guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and deprive them of their constitutional right to equal protection under the laws as guaranteed by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
In other words: The progressives, who would suffer if this passed (and it’s supported by every one of the pro-real-estate members of the DCCC) carefully ran a slate of exactly the same number of candidates as there were slots. If there had been nine more slots to fill, there would have been at least nine more progressive candidates. I know people who decided not to run to avoid “left-v-left” conflicts.
The other side, perhaps foreseeing this change, did no such thing.
Which means if the plan is put in place, there will almost certainly be a lawsuit over the makeup of the DCCC. I don’t understand: Why can’t this wait until after the election? (One reason: If the real-estate folks win, then they control the Democratic Party endorsements in the crucial fall supes races. Which, I could argue, is what this is really about.)
John Diaz (who plays into the utter nonsense the Chron likes to put out about local politics when he talks about “a field of candidates who share many beliefs”) – no, on local issues, they don’t – tries to play the whole battle as some sort of Aaron Peskin power play. But when Peskin chaired the DCCC, he never tried to change the rules in the middle of an election. I’ve never seen anything quite like this.
And in the middle of all of this talk about why we need to protect the power of the grassroots, the real, radical problem with the DCCC elections will have to wait until after the election. That’s the loophole that allows unlimited contributions to DCCC campaigns.
It’s a way for people who are running for another office – say, supervisor – to raise what would be illegal chunks of money and use it to promote name recognition.
By law, the campaigns have to be totally distinct – that is, you can’t use money raised in unlimited amounts for a DCCC race to also promote your campaign for supe, where contributions are limited. That could leave you with a Mark Farrell problem.
But on the ground, it’s often pretty loosey-goosey: Most voters don’t know the difference between a mailer saying a candidate is wonderful, has a nice smiling face, and would be a hell of a DCCC member and a flier saying the same candidate should be on the Board of Supes. Promotion is promotion; introducing yourself to voters is the same game no matter what office you’re seeking.
In fact, Josh Arce, who is running for both DCCC and District 9 Supe, just send out an email to supporters urging them to contribute to his (supe) campaign and saying “with our first filing deadline fast approaching on April 23, we have to show that we have the strongest team and the deepest support network in the field.”
The email links to a website paid for by Josh Arce for supervisor.
Problem is, there’s no April 23 filing deadline for candidates for supervisor. That’s the deadline for DCCC candidates. So there’s already some crossover between what by law must be distinct and unconnected campaigns.
I asked Arce to explain; if he gets back to me I will update. (UPDATE: Arce told me that “Campaign reporting guidelines require candidates to file a report for all campaign accounts under a candidate’s name at the same time that DCCC reports are due, in this case April 23.”
Arce has raised $75,000 in amounts of as much as $25,000 – and nearly all of it from the conservative labor union where he works – for his DCCC race. And he’s not the only one.
In fact, candidates for DCCC have so far raised $223,850 in contributions of $1,000 or more, all of which would be illegal if the city’s current contribution limits for other offices were in effect. That’s why some critics are saying the campaign money – not the superdelegates – ought to be the real issue here.
Among the biggest recipients of unlimited money, Ethics Commission filings show, is Sup. London Breed, who is running for both DCCC and re-election. She took $10,000 for her DCCC campaign from Ecobay Services, an environmental contractor that has done work for the city, $5,000 from BCSF Inc.; $5,000 from Grassroots Nonprofit Collective Inc; $5,000 from the Firefighters Union; and $5,000 from John Konstin, owner of John’s Grill.
None of those entities could have given that much to her campaign for supervisor.
Sup. David Campos, who is termed out and can’t run for re-election, got $5,000 from UniteHere, the hotel workers union.
The biggest check to Peskin is $2,500 from Recology.
The Potrero Democratic Club asked all of the D17 candidates (the east side of town) if they would support limits on contributions to DCCC campaigns. You can see the questionnaires here. It’s a pretty easy question, and most of the candidates said they would favor that change. (I mean: Who in San Francisco politics won’t say they support better campaign finance rules?)
But some, including Arce and Sup. Scott Wiener, refused to take that stand. It’s pretty stunning, and very telling. While most of the candidates from both slates simply said yes, Arce said only that “I am interested in hearing proposals that will make our campaign finance system more fair for everyone.” (Translation: No.) Wiener said he was “open to the idea,” which is political-speak for: I won’t endorse it now.
We are reaching out to the D19 candidates on the same question, and will let you know what they say.
The shooting last week of Luis Gongora will be on the agenda at the Police Commission meeting Wed/13, and I suspect it won’t be a quiet night. Chief Greg Suhr will report on the incident, and there will be, as always, public comment.
Not on the agenda, but on everyone’s mind, is the insanity that was the mayor’s response to the shooting. Instead of talking about what even C.W. Nevius noted (that there was no effort to de-escalate the situation; the cops went in ready to shoot), the mayor immediately blamed homeless people for the death and said he will now sweep away all homeless camps.
I must admit, when I first read the Matier and Ross Column with Ed Lee’s announcement, I thought it was some sort of late April Fool’s joke. The cops shoot a homeless man – and now all of the tents where people with no place else to go are staying out of the rain have to come down?
There is no evidence that Gongora was a threat to the life of any other campers. Now he’s dead. How many others will die of exposure because the mayor wants to take away their tents?
In what universe does any of this make any sense?