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News + PoliticsDeveloper money to Haney may violate SF's ethics rules

Developer money to Haney may violate SF’s ethics rules

Three builders with projects pending or just approved in SF donated to a sitting supervisor.

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UPDATE: After this article was published, Haney decided to give back all the money illegally donated to his campaign from individuals with development agreements pending with the city.

At least three developers who have projects pending or recently approved by the city have donated to Sup. Matt Haney’s campaign for state Assembly, an apparent violation of one of the city’s most important campaign-finance laws.

Section 1.127 of the city’s Campaign Code bars any sitting elected official from soliciting or accepting a contribution from anyone who has a contract with or a development agreement pending with the city if that person could have some role in approving that contract.

Developer Simon Snellgrove (in the back) shown trying unsuccessfully to stop people from signing petitions against the Wall on the Waterfront in 2012, has exclusive negotiating rights for Piers 38-40. Bay Guardian photo.

Since any major development could wind up before the Board of Supes, any sitting supervisor is barred from taking that money.

Among those who have donated money to Haney’s campaign for Assembly:

–Simon Snellgrove, whose Pacific Waterfront Partners has an exclusive negotiation agreement with the Port of San Francisco for Piers 38-40. Snellgrove was behind the massive Wall on the Waterfront that the voters rejected in 2004. He gave $4,645.

–Matt Field, president of TMG Partners, which is seeking approval for a project at 88 Bluxome, gave $1,000.

–John Mayeda, chief executive of Urban Land Development LLC, which just won approval for a project at 321 Florida. He gave the maximum allowable $4,900.

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The law says that anyone who has sought or won an entitlement in the past 12 months is ineligible to contribute to a sitting official. It applies to

any member of an entity’s board of directors or any of that entity’s principal officers, including its chairperson, chief executive officer, chief financial officer, chief operating officer, any person with an ownership interest of more than 10% in the entity.

Peter Keane, the former chair of the Ethics Commission, who helped write the law, told me that it makes no difference whether a sitting supervisor is running for local or statewide office. “If they are in a position to vote on something involving a developer, they can’t take the money,” he said.

Haney told me that “our compliance team didn’t catch the conflict in their initial check [from Snellgrove], but we are aware and are issuing a refund.” He did not comment on the other contributions. (UPDATE: He now says he will refund all of them, saying they were missed because “there is no universal way to search everyone who has or may possibly have in the future a land use matter in front of the city.”

These things are complicated, and when you are getting a lot of checks, it can be difficult to make sure that nothing violates the complex set of state and local rules regarding campaign finance. So maybe those developers just sent in the money, or came to an event, and Haney’s staff didn’t notice the problem. All told, the three make up about 1.6 percent of the $650,000 Haney says he has raised.

It would be different if Haney had called the developers and asked for the money himself. I texted him to ask if that had happened and he hasn’t replied.

But in a race where one of the two major candidates, David Campos, has vowed not to take corporate money, the very fact that Haney is getting support from developers like Snellgrove could become an issue. Already, the Latinx Democratic Club has asked him to give back the money he raised from several medical organizations that are not fans of single-payer.

Daniel Anderson, manager of the Campos campaign, told me:

Corporations and billionaires using their money to buy or influence our elected leaders is a serious problem. That’s why our campaign rejects all corporate contributions and David strongly believes it is important for progressives to fight to ban all corporate campaign contributions to prevent situations like this from occurring in the future.

But simply returning the contributions that violate our laws is not enough. Supervisor Haney should return the contributions from the special interests that endanger our lives by opposing Medicare for All. We already expect our leaders to reject police union money because it inhibits their ability to fight for reform, and we expect our leaders to reject fossil fuel money because it inhibits their ability to combat climate change.

We must apply the same standard to the medical lobby that is working to kill universal healthcare—a system that will save lives and save money.

Haney has told me and others repeatedly that he supports single-payer healthcare, and the author of this year’s single-payer bill has endorsed him.

Bilal Mahmood, who has begun spending heavily on advertising, has given $300,000 to his own campaign, dwarfing any other contributions that any candidate has received.

We will know a lot more Jan 31 when the first formal campaign finance reports will be filed.

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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