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Monday, December 6, 2021

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ElectionsCampaign TrailThe big GOP and real-estate money moves into District One

The big GOP and real-estate money moves into District One

Fake tenants group and big outside cash is now trying to promote Philhour over Chan in a race that could determine the balance of power on the board.

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The big outside money (including Republican money) is now pouring into District One, with at least three new political-money groups backing Marjan Philhour.

Philhour in a recent tweet said that she is “the only candidate in the race to denounce all independent expenditures and super PACs.

She said that after the San Francisco Labor Council – which is pretty transparent; you know who is funding it – send a mailer supporting her main opponent, Connie Chan.

The Labor Council — and we all know who they are — said that Philhour refused to respond to questions from teachers.

But now there are IEs linked to the Chamber of Commerce, big tech, and GOP donors that are putting money into supporting Philhour. They are a lot less transparent.

And most of the front groups they are using have only come into existence in the past few weeks.

One of the groups is called SF Families First, and you can see its mailer here.

This is a slate-mailer organization, and its disclosure records are filed with the Secretary of State’s Office. They show that some candidates who are featured on its mailings (including Sup. Ahsha Safai, candidate Vallie Brown, and Sen. Scott Wiener) gave $500 to the group, which isn’t unusual.

But most of the money came not from those candidates but from the Chamber of Commerce ($5,000) and Neighbors for a Better San Francisco ($29,000). That money came into the SMO in the past ten days.

The Chamber of Commerce money comes almost entirely from Big Real Estate, and is aimed at defeating Prop. I and all of the other taxes on big business that are on the ballot.

Philhour told me she supports Prop. I.

Neighbors for a Better San Francisco is funded in part by money ($300,000) from William Oberndorf, who has given more than $1 million to help keep Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party in control of the US Senate.

That group has been attacking candidates in Districts Five, Seven, and 11 who are opposed by Mayor London Breed.

This is the first time we’ve seen a move into D1.

But the outcome of this race could be critical — depending on what happens in some of the other district elections, the winner in D1 could swing the balance of power on the board.

Connie Chan has the support of Sen. Kamala Harris and Assemblymember Phil Ting and nine members of the Board of Supes. She has both of the former supes from D1 (Jake McGoldrick and Eric Mar). Philhour has the mayor, Wiener, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and Gov. Gavin Newsom.

And it appears that the big GOP money is also on her side.

Then there’s a group called the “Renters Alliance Voting Guide.” It’s endorsing candidates that are opposed by the San Francisco Tenants Union and most other pro-tenant groups. It has received $30,000 from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, state records show.

The Renters Alliance is run out of the office of Maggie Muir, who is also involved in Philhour’s campaign.

The Chamber has never, ever, been on the side of tenants in San Francisco.

This group has taken pretty much identical positions to the mayor.

We are also seeing mailers from something called the Democratic Voter Victory Guide. It is not in any way connected to the Democratic Party; in fact, from state filings (which in this case are a little hard to read) it appears the group got $500,000 from the same Neighbors for a Better San Francisco that is funded by GOP donors.

Pretty much every candidate supported by the “Renters Alliance” is opposed by every major tenant group in the city. This mailer was funed by the Chamber of Commerce, which has always been hostile to tenant rights.

In a press release this week, David Campos, chair of the local Democratic Party, said:

“Only in 2020 would Republicans try and take over San Francisco. Oberndorf is the ringleader of a shadowy group of rich white men who think their money should be more powerful than our votes.” 

Campos told me tonight: “To see something like this is outrageous. The Democratic Party has an obligation to its members to protect the integrity of our endorsements.”

The party has sent a Cease and Desist letter to the “Victory Guide.”

Philhour told me:

“Let’s be clear about the facts here: the only two Independent Expenditures currently operating in this race are supporting my opponent, Connie Chan. 
From the beginning of this campaign I have been the only candidate to issue a pledge rejecting and denouncing all Independent Expenditures and Super PACs. When one group tried forming an Independent Expenditure in support of my campaign last month I publicly called on them to stop, which they did. 

She has talked a lot about so-called “Big Money” trying to influence elections, but when outside money has come in to support her campaign, she has refused to condemn it.
More than 20,000 Richmond residents have applied for unemployment, burglaries are on the rise in our neighborhood, and more small businesses continue to close every week. This is what I am focusing on and talking about in this race. 
My opponent is instead resorting to scare tactics because she doesn’t want to defend the failed policies of the previous supervisor that she wants to continue, which have led to many of the challenges we face today. If my opponent doesn’t want to appear clearly hypocritical, she should denounce the outside money pouring into this race supporting her and attacking her opponent.”

Actually, there are three independent-expenditure committees supporting Philhour. As of tonight, she has denounced none of them.

Chan’s campaign manager, Kelly Groth, told me that:

We know what’s happening here. Outside billionaires, corporate developers, realtors and special interests are clearly trying to influence this election while covering their tracks. This is deja vu for voters whose mailboxes have been overwhelmed by dark money organizations supporting Marjan Philhour. She received hundreds of thousands in outside money in 2016 and is on pace to do the same this year – it’s just hidden behind shadow groups. 
“Connie is proud to have the support of working men and women, teachers, nurses and the San Francisco Labor Council, a long-standing, respected organization. We’re confident the voters will ultimately stand with the candidate who fights for our working and immigrant families.

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 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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