Record-breaking spending floods District 1 with political propaganda

Political hit pieces have filled the mailboxes of Richmond District voters.
Steven T. Jones

District 1 supervisorial candidate David Lee and independent expenditure campaigns supporting him have spent nearly $800,000 – shattering previous spending records for a district election – bombarding Richmond District voters with a barrage of mailers and other media pushing a variety of claims and criticisms about incumbent Sup. Eric Mar that sometimes stretch credulity and relevance.

But is it working? Or is the avalanche of arguments – much of it funded by “big money from Realtors, Landlords, and Downtown Special Interests,” as a recent Mar mailer correctly notes – feeding speculation that Lee would do the bidding of these powerful players on the Board of Supervisors?

Mar campaign manager Nicole Derse thinks that's the case, arguing the Lee campaign would have leaked internal polls to the media if they were favorable, and it wouldn't be escalating its attacks on so many fronts hoping for traction, such as yesterday's press conference hitting Mar on the issue of neighborhood schools.

“They're pretty desperate at this point and throwing anything out there that they can,” Derse told us, later adding, “I feel good, but we really have to keep the fire up.”

Mar and the independent groups supporting him, mostly supported by the San Francisco Labor Council, have together spent about $400,000. Most of the mailers have been positive, but many have highlighted Lee's political inexperience and his connections to big-money interests, raising questions about his claims to support tenants and rent control.

Lee campaign manager Thomas Li, who has been unwilling to answer our questions throughout the campaign, did take down some Guardian questions this time and said he'd get us answers, but we haven't heard back. On the issue of why the Realtors and other groups who seek to weaken tenant protections were supporting Lee, Li simply said, “Our position has been steadfast on protecting rent control and strengthening tenant protections.”

The Lee campaign has repeated that on several mailers – possibly indicating it is worried about that issue and the perception that Lee's election would give landlords another vote on the board, as tenant and other progressive groups have argued – but most of its mailers recently have attacked Mar on a few issues where they must believe he is vulnerable, even when they distort his record.

Several mailers have noted Mar's support for a city budget that included funding for a third board aide for each of the 11 supervisors – a budget the board unanimously approved – as well as his support for public campaign financing, despite the fact that Lee's campaign has taken more than $150,000 in public financing in this election, 30 percent more than Mar's. They have also criticized Mar for supporting the 8 Washington high-end condo project, even though Lee also voted for the project as a member of the Recreation and Parks Commission.

As this Ethics Commission graphic shows, Lee has been by far the biggest recipient of independent expenditures in this election cycle, with hundreds of thousands of dollars coming from the downtown-funded Alliance for Jobs and Sustainable Growth and the Realtor-created Citizens for Responsible Growth.

Mar and his allies have hit back with mailers noting that most of the funding for the Chinese American Voter Education Project, Lee's main political and communications vehicle in recent years, has simply gone to pay his $90,000-plus annual salary, which he didn't fully report on financial disclosure forms required of city commissioners. They have also hit Lee for his support for the Recreation and Parks Department's closure of recreation centers and other cuts while he “consistently supported privatization of our parks.”

At this point, it's hard to know how this flood of information and back-and-forth attacks will influence District 1 voters, but we're now days away from finding out.


influence voters, but it's not OK for business and the moderate majority?

Er, OK, got it.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 02, 2012 @ 12:07 pm

What you rather prefer? A candidate that supports a right-wing agenda on behalf of a fascist plutocracy, or a candidate that supports average San Franciscans, including union workers?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 02, 2012 @ 12:26 pm

What planet are you from? What right-wing agenda can there be in SF? Hell, except for Howard Epstein, there aren't any Republicans in SF. However, there is an embarrassment of a Supervisor in D1...I don't claim to know what type of Supervisor David Lee will be, but I am confident he will do a better job than Mar.

Posted by Richmondman on Nov. 02, 2012 @ 2:58 pm

in this race, I know a few people in that district and they are wondering who that candidate is.

Posted by matlock on Nov. 02, 2012 @ 4:34 pm

The Chron reported last week about a guy in District 5 who is collecting and sorting all the mail/flyers from supervisorial candidates in his district.

The day before the election, he is going to count the number of propaganda pieces he has received from each candidate.

The one with the lowest number gets his vote. Not a bad voting strategy!

Posted by Troll the XIV on Nov. 02, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

A month ago, I was more worried about Mar. I'm still worried now (and I still think he damaged himself with the Mirkarimi vote). But I think he's turned the corner. A month ago, there was nothing but David Lee house signs all over the Richmond. Now Mar has a sizeable house sign advantage. Of course house signs don't vote -they've always been an imperfect measure to say the least. But I do think it's a *rough* measure of how the field campaigns are going. I think the message is getting out to renters.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 02, 2012 @ 3:06 pm

Only in SF would those who aren't successful enough to be able to buy a home be deemed more important than winners.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 02, 2012 @ 3:22 pm

Nearly two-thirds of San Franciscans are renters, a sizable portion of our city and its voters that you're dismissing as losers. You're worse than Mitt Romney, who only dismissed 47 percent as losers.

Posted by steven on Nov. 02, 2012 @ 3:26 pm

He should have said that "only those on rent control who view it as an inalienable right in a city suffering from a desperate lack of housing" should be considered losers.

Posted by Troll II on Nov. 02, 2012 @ 4:12 pm

The fact that they may be "squatting" in apartments for which pay only their original rent times the rate of inflation compounded every year, rather than match whatever price would-be newcomers would offer -- and they do so based on some fancy *law* protecting them from such rough treatment makes them absolute losers.

Posted by Troll II's mom on Nov. 02, 2012 @ 4:36 pm

dingy flat in a bad part of town just because "the rent is low". Winnder knows their limits and don't relay on property owners effectively being forced to subsidize their lifestyle.

Losers live somewhere that fits their financial power. They don't expect to be able to live in Aspen, St. Moritz, Aruba or Pacific Heights.

Losers don't sponge off those who are smarter or worked harder.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 03, 2012 @ 12:57 am

Winners sponge off of those who are smarter and work harder, witness Wall Street and speculators and developers who are pouring cash into elections so that they can buy advantage and rig the game in their favor and no longer have to compete in the market.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 03, 2012 @ 6:43 am

Pleas explain. (Perhaps in juggling the words around in your brain to do so, you'll realize what an utter crock that is.)

Posted by lillipublicans on Nov. 03, 2012 @ 6:46 am

Property owners pay property taxes- these taxes then support things like the schools, city college and the city in general. Only a small portion of the costs of theses taxes can be passed on to tenants. When we the people vote on bond measures- a renter is secure int he knowledge that only a portion of the cost will get pass ed on to them if any at all. In fact the pro-Prop A carton on the SFBG the other day made sure it noted that renters do not pay on the bond measure.

Then there is the rent control issue. Landlords don't get full market value from a pre-1978 unless it is newly vacant. A person who started renting that apartment in 1980 would be paying just a fraction of the actual market value. In the meantime, inflation has greatly decreased the real income the landlord is getting from the unit. So essentially the landlord is subsidizing this hypothetical tenants ability to stay in the City.

Posted by D. Native on Nov. 05, 2012 @ 2:18 pm

I've always rented, and whether I was in a rent-controlled place or not, I've always believed it's important. San Francisco's lack of affordable housing isn't because of rent control. It's because landlords think they can get more for their units some time in the future.

Posted by Hortencia on Nov. 05, 2012 @ 1:25 pm

There are a myriad of factors which contribute to the lack of affordable housing in SF. One is the lack of space in which to build, the other is the difficulty in gaining permits for new multi-unit construction and the other is rent control - which is not means tested. There are probably others as well.

Posted by Troll II on Nov. 05, 2012 @ 2:01 pm

The large percentage of renters in SF is unfortunate. The upshot is that only a small proportion can truly secure their place in the city and/or receive direct benefits from local economic growth. I wish Progressives would help create more ownership opportunities across the income scales.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2012 @ 2:03 pm

I will be happy to see Mar go. The plastic bag law, smoking in public law, and other harebrained attempts to force us to do the "healthy" thing or what he deems is healthy is a disgusting misuse of office. I can't wait to have someone who's influenced so much easier to work for San Francisco and not a nanny state.

Posted by B34NS on Nov. 05, 2012 @ 11:31 am

I'm now cautiously optimistic that Mar will win. I wouldn't have said this a month ago. A month ago, you drove around the Richmond and all you saw were David Lee signs. Now, it's the opposite.

We'll see if a million bucks can buy the Richmond, but I think people have been turned off by the ridiculous spending. Anyway, tomorrow we'll know. If the early absentees show Mar within 10 points of Lee, I think Mar wins. If Lee is 10-20 points ahead, it will be close. Any more than a 20 point gap will likely be difficult to overcome in the precincts and provisionals.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 05, 2012 @ 5:39 pm