If politics were like the high school prom, third-party spending accounts are the fat ugly kid whose out-of-town parents have an unlocked liquor cabinet: nobody professes to like him, but come 2 a.m., everyone’s over at his house quaffing Peachtree schnapps and Triple Sec.
San Francisco’s progressives aren’t big fans of so-called “independent expenditure accounts” because the accounts aren’t subject to the same restrictions as a campaign’s primary account, and are considered by some to be havens for big money from downtown.
The Guardian last week rang that bell, decrying the huge gobs of cash business interests, developers and landlords are dumping into third-party accounts — entitled “Alliance for Sustainable Growth” — supporting moderate supervisorial hopefuls Steve Moss, Theresa Sparks, and Scott Wiener.
But progressives play this game, too, and in a big way. SEIU Local 1021 — whose purple-shirted union members include nurses, teachers and other “front-line” workers — contributed $100,000 to a third-party account that supports District 8 candidate Rafael Mandelman last month, records show.
While still less than the total sums the Building Owners and Managers Association and others have dumped on Mandelman opponent Wiener as well as D6 hopeful Sparks and D10 aspirant Moss, the $100,000 lump sum is nonetheless one of the largest single contributions made this election cycle, and evidence that labor would very, very much like to have Mandelman at City Hall.
And why not? “We early-endorsed Rafael — he’s been at all our rallies and all our pickets,” said Gabriel Haaland, SEIU 1021 San Francisco’s political director.
Both Mandelman and his campaign are prohibited by law from coordinating how the money’s spent with the bosses at the independent expenditure committee (one of whom is Tim Paulson, the executive director of the labor council). There’s speculation, for example, that the Jane Kim campaign is guilty of such coordination.
Not that there’s much need in Mandelman’s case: everyone knows the message by now, and it’s not like Paulson or anyone else needed to consult Mandelman before creating a Spanish-language mailer, which went out last week, attacking opponent Scott Wiener for his opposition to San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy.
SEIU’s big donation “levels the playing field somewhat,” according to Sasha Cuttler, an SEIU 1021 member who is a registered nurse at SF General. And unlike developers, who have huge wads of cash to spare, labor’s $100,000 came from small voluntary donations (Cuttler donates $5 per paycheck to SEIU’s political fund).
For all these reasons, Haaland bristled when this reporter compared SEIU’s $100,000 check to the money going into the third party IE accounts backing Wiener.
“There’s a huge difference between the Chamber of Commerce, the Building Owners and Managers Association, and registered nurses contributing $2 per paycheck,” he told The Appeal.
“To compare the two is a profound misunderstanding. There’s a huge difference between [nurses] and corporate spending. To think otherwise is to have blinders on.”