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News + PoliticsIs Josh Arce supported by the cops?

Is Josh Arce supported by the cops?

Independent expenditure campaign in D9 raises questions -- and shows how fast everyone is running away from the Police Officers Association

The support of the Police Officers Association has become a campaign issue in District 9, with Hillary Ronen pointing out that the campaign of her opponent, Josh Arce, is backed by the POA and Arce denying it.

While four years ago a candidate like Arce, who has been very friendly to the POA in the past, might welcome the police union endorsement, today that’s a political liability, particularly in a D9.

How bad is the POA’s rep? Ronen sent out an email in August saying that “just two weeks ago we learned that my opponent’s campaign is backed by the San Francisco Police Officer’s Association and describing the association as “a group that has consistently stopped all reforms and defended racism and excessive use of force.”

Her description, sadly, is true. And her email makes clear that the POA endorsement is political poison.

But Arce insists her suggestion that he’s got the POA backing is false.

In a Facebook post September 2, Arce says:

Despite inaccurate reporting as well as false statements made by my opponent, I have not received, nor will I accept, any contributions from the San Francisco Police Officers Association. As it relates to any money that the POA may be donating to any independent expenditure committees, the fact that POA funds will not be spent in the District 9 race to support me has been conveyed far and wide since initial inaccurate reporting on this issue last month.

This means not a dime of any POA funding is being used to support me. NOT.ONE.DIME. Nor has (or will) the POA endorse me in this race. Again, I welcome and encourage fact checking. Seriously.

So let’s do a little fact checking.

Arce’s official campaign, the Joshua Arce for Supervisor Committee, has not received any money from the POA. That’s absolutely true.

But there’s a lot of money flowing into the district from an independent expenditure outfit called San Franciscans for a City that Works. Already, that committee has spent more than $10,000 on web ads, media, and polling for Arce, records on file with the SF Ethics Commission show.

And who’s funding that IE? Again, public records: The Laborer’s Union, the Sheet Metal Workers Union – and the San Francisco Police Officers Association.

So there’s a committee funded in part by the POA that is spending money to elect Arce. That suggests that the POA supports (at least behind the scenes) Arce and his agenda.

So what gives? How can he say that he isn’t taking POA money or support? Arce told me that

I understand that the POA has insisted that none of their money that you reference may be spent in the District 9 race because they are not supporting any of the candidates.

Since Arce is not supposed to coordinate or even communicate with an IE, I was curious how he found out about this:

It was a third party unrelated to the committee who shared this with me and asked to remain out of the public on this issue.

Okay: Somebody we can’t name says that the POA doesn’t want its money spent in D9 – although it’s given money to a committee that is spending money in D9.

It’s possible, I guess, that the POA gave money to the IE, and then said that its portion of the spending should go elsewhere (the IE also supports Marjan Philhour in D1). But these IEs are basically big money pots – the money goes into one checking account and gets doled out. I’ve never heard of an IE designating one stream of money for one campaign like this – and how would they account for it, anyway? If the POA’s money goes to D1, that’s more money from the other donors that can go to D9.

I suppose you could give money to 48hills and then tell us that it can only be spent paying Marke B to write about culture and none of it can go to that crazy Redmond to write about politics – but then I could use other doors’ money to pay myself instead of Marke, so it’s really the same thing.

And the overhead for the committee, and the payments for consulting, legal work, insurance and all of that must come out of the same pot.

So I’m finding this a bit dubious, to say the least.

In fact, the whole Arce IE thing is a bit dubious. By law, candidates can’t have any contact or coordination with an IE. That means ANY contact. Sup. Mark Farrell got in serious trouble when one of his campaign staffers coordinated with an IE raising money to attack his opponent in D2, and he’s potentially on the hook for $190,000. I’ve always thought that the rules said IEs couldn’t even speak to the candidate, much less coordinate schedules and events.

There’s a reason for that: IE’s can raise unlimited money. Candidates for office can raise money only at a $500 limit. So if the IE can effectively take over a campaign, or coordinate with it, the whole idea of contribution limits becomes pointless.

Tonight I got a postcard invitation to “join us for a neighborhood conversation with District 9 supervisorial candidate Joshua Arce.” That’s fine – the back said to rsvp for location, but above that was a sticker with an address and time. It appears this is part of a series, that Arce will be holding a number of these meetings.

Which is fine, and part of what candidates do.

But the postcard was “paid for by San Franciscans for a City that Works and was not authorized or paid for by a candidate,” according to the disclosure on the back.

So wait: Arce is going to an event organized by an IE, which says he didn’t authorize the ad for the event? How can you arrange an event without coordinating with the candidate – which you aren’t supposed to do?

I don’t get it.

David Waggoner, a lawyer and expert on the city’s ethics and campaign laws, told me that any coordination at all between an IE and a candidate is forbidden. “That’s an absolute rule,” he said.

The city’s campaign finance law, section 1.115, seems to say the same thing.

I called and emailed Arce, and got no response. I called the IE, and got no response.

Is anyone getting these event invited in D1, where the same IE is supporting Philhour? Let me know if you see one, because this all looks to me like the IE funded in part by the POA is at the very least pushing the limits of the city’s ethics laws.

Ronen’s campaign was taking the high road: Her campaign manager, Angeles Roy, told me that “I hope that Josh and the POA’s PAC are following all laws.  Our campaign is focused on running a positive, ethical campaign based on the candidates records and policy ideas and we know that the people of District 9 expect Josh to do the same.”

But there are reasons for these laws, and there are reasons that these IEs are often a big problem, and this one isn’t passing the stink test.

UPDATE: I just heard from Philhour, who said she hasn’t seen any similar postcards and has not been invited to any similar events.

The Arce campaign sent the following:

It is unclear to us how the independent expenditure committee even found out about this house party, but our campaign did not coordinate in any way with the IE on this event.  The host reached out to us and invited Josh to participate in what we thought was a private meet-and-greet at his home.  At this point, we are still unaware of any connection, if any, this host has with the IE.  Your email was the first any of us had heard of any postcard promoting it.  We take these rules of zero coordination very seriously, and out of an abundance of caution, Josh will not be attending the event.

Somebody is getting very sloppy here.



48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Tim Redmond
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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