monopoly_money.jpgWith the release of six months of campaign finance activity Monday, this is political wonks’ Shark Week — but the piles of cash accumulated into various campaign war chests often translates into boring copy for most readers, who find wading through wads of numbers about as enjoyable as skimming the phone book (remember those?).

Much more fun than regurgitating how much each candidate raised and spent is telling exactly how that money — some $2 million all told, with months of serious campaigning, fundraising and spending still to come — was blown.

So come along, dear reader, and find out What Stuff Your Mayoral Candidates Like. Or agree with just enough to shell out cash on, anyway.

All numbers are for activity in 2011 as of June 30, 2011, unless otherwise noted. Every candidate has agreed to take public financing, which caps spending at $1.5 million per campaign — and which also means city taxpayers are the biggest donors to campaigns, whether they like it or not.

This is why most every candidate has more money on hand than they’ve spent. Funny how that works, eh?

Bevan Dufty Likes: Consultants, Lots of Consultants, Any Consultants

•Total Raised (including 2010): $418,000
•Total Spent (including 2010): $489,000
•Cash on hand: $493,000
•Biggest Expense: Political consultants, $230,922

Former Supervisor Bevan Dufty is the nice guy in the race — and twice as nice if you happen to be a political consultant (or at least the one the Bevster happens to be paying this month).

Dufty’s campaign has greased consultants’ palms from here to the Potomac, dishing out $66,400 to political neophyte Bob Mitchiarian (hired in December, let go in March), $33,000 to former Obama consultant Steve Hildebrand of Sioux Falls, South Dakota (hired in 2010, let go in March), $55,000 to local boy Michael Terris, and $19,500 to David Feighan (hired in the spring, let go in June).

And with the recently-hired Alex Tourk now on board — who, according to the bills Tourk filed with the Herrera campaign, is a five-figure-a month man himself — the Bevster is only getting started.

Joanna Rees Likes: People, and Taxes

•Total Raised (Including 2010): $369,000
•Total Spent: $384,600
•Cash on hand: $441,000
•Biggest expense: Campaign staffers, $130,000, and accompanying federal income taxes, $43,000.

Venture capitalist Joanna Rees knows money: she raised tons and tons of it, funding companies, products and wherever else it is rich people like funneling heaps and heaps of dollars.

She also knows people: of all of the declared candidates Rees has the most campaign staffers, with twelve different names listed. These faithful soldiers receive what we can only assume are biweekly paychecks, ranging from $2,703 on the most generous side to $1,001.52 on the pork-and-beans diet side.

While other campaigns pay a bit better, we’re happy to report that Joanna evidently rewards hard work: payments for several staffers increased, with one going from $1614.13 to $1911.18 for two weeks’ toil. Rees is also the most precise campaign check-writer, drawing dollars down to the penny, whereas other campaigns stick a couple zeros at the end of their paychecks and leave it at that.

These paychecks might sound nice, but considering what hours campaigners generally work, we’ll stick to blogging (not like we have much of a choice anyway).

We know admittedly very little of exactly how payroll works at political campaigns, but we do know this: Rees reported sending $43,000 directly to the federal government and thousands more to the California Employment Development Department. In other words, Rees has created jobs, and she hasn’t even been elected yet.

Other fun facts: rent on her campaign headquarters in the Richmond has run her $28,000, and she’s spent $18,500 on her campaign accountant. She’s gone light on the consultants, dishing out a mere $15,000 to Ace Smith’s SCN Strategies.

David Chiu Likes: Being Cheap

•Total Raised: $398,000
•Total Spent: $185,000
•Cash on hand: $396,000 (though he now has closer to $660,000 sitting around, according to reports)
•Biggest expense: Deposits into his bank account. And consultants, $47,500; campaign salaries, $120,400.

The Board of Supervisors President is far from profligate: after jumping into the race in late February, Boston’s own David Chiu has slowly and surely amassing a pile of money with which to play sometime down the road, whenever that may prove to be.

Some posit Chiu is waiting for Mayor Ed Lee to jump into the race before he decides what to do with all that money. It’s not that Chiu is tragically tight-fisted: his campaign manager earned $31,500 for about four month’s work, not a bad haul even in the 80-hour a week world of running political campaigns.

He just isn’t spending his money, not on consultants — the biggest check there is $32,000 for polling firm Lake Research Partners of Washington, DC — and not on much else aside from staffer salaries, which totaled $120,400.

John Avalos Likes: Window signs

•Total raised: $86,882
•Total Spent: $37,600
•Cash on hand: $99,000.
•Biggest expense: Signs, $12,000.

The progressive standard-bearer, Excelsior District supervisor John Avalos is sometimes dubbed the Latino George Clooney — and he would be, if George Clooney eschewed political consultants, paid staffers, an office and anything else aside from campaign signs.

This spending gap makes perfect sense — Avalos declared only in mid-April, and his campaign had yet to rent an office by the close of the June 30 reporting period — but no other candidate’s campaign spent less ($0) on political consultants and staffers ($8180) than on signage ($12,000).

Proof of this is in people’s windows, and in a large stack of said signs stashed somewhere at Chris Daly’s bar. If visibility won elections, Avalos would cruise to at least a third-place finish, behind evidence of the Giants’ World Series victory, spider plants and — in certain neighborhoods anyway — ancient lace window curtains turned brown from sun and your aunt’s cigarette smoke.

Phil Ting Likes: Eric Jaye

•Total Raised: $67,000
•Total Spent: $120,000
•Cash on hand: $37,000 (not including public matching funds)
•Biggest Expense: Jaye’s Storefront Political Media, $95,000 (including $37,500 in unpaid bills)

Our Assessor-Recorder is not the hippest guy in the room. Even Phil Ting’s backers admit to that — and so what? The man is in charge of real estate records and property values, important things that we wouldn’t want a rock star to take charge of.

This doesn’t necessarily explain why Ting’s fundraising machine has been slow to awaken, though Ting consultant Eric Jaye, ex of Gavin Newsom’s successful bids for mayor, has promised that Ting plans to dial up the dollar-dialing in upcoming days and weeks.

And with good reason: of the $67,000 Ting has raised, all but $58,000 of it has gone straight to Jaye, whose firm is owed another $37,500 in unpaid bills. “We will be viable,” Jaye told the San Francisco Chronicle — speaking, presumably, for his firm as well as his candidate.

Tony Hall Likes: Debt

•Total raised: $102,000
•Total Spent: $204,000
•Cash on hand: $173,000
•Biggest expense: Unpaid bills, $64,000 (also spent $45,043 on consulting firm Chariot LLC and another $33,000 on consulting/accounting firm Mary Khayat Associates of Glendale).

Tony Hall is good for it. Trust him. The man of the people — if people are San Francisco natives who live in West of Twin Peaks and are eligible for AARP membership — can raise money just fine, tapping a long list of Irish-sounding names for plenty money (spending plenty to get it, too, dropping $5,900 on one campaign even).

Much of Tony’s spending has been local — he dropped $45,000 on consultant James Fisfis’s Sunnyside District-based firm Chariot, LLC — but much of it has also been deferred.

The Hall campaign has close to $10,000 in credit card debt owed to Citibank, and owes Fisfis another $20,000 for a total of $64,000 in unpaid bills. That’s less than half of what Leland Yee still owes, mind, but we had a tough time figuring out what else set Hall apart. Was it the $2800 he spent on a television commercial, or the $6,000 on his Web site? Nah.

Dennis Herrera Likes: Spending Money (On Pretty Much Everything)

•Total raised: $565,280 (including 2010)
•Total Spent: $537,437 (including 2010)
•Cash on hand: $586,000
•Biggest expense: Take your pick. Rent and office expenses, $50,000; staff, $122,000; political consultants, $133,000; polling and research, $77,500; fundraising consultants, $56,000.

The Dennis Herrera juggernaut is rolling, with the City Attorney racking up the most in campaign contributions. The lean, mean litigating machine is also a spending machine, dropping 1/3 of the $1.5 million spending cap by June 30.

Before Herrera parted ways with former campaign consultant Alex Tourk, he parted ways with $52,000 to Tourk’s Ground Floor Public Affairs for consultant services, on top of the $80,000 the Herrera campaign paid out to main campaign strategists Whitehurst/Mosher Campaigns.

Strategy is very important to the campaign that wishes you to “Imagine: A City That Works,” as is evidenced by the $77,500 spent on polling and research into opponents’ pasts.

Proving that spending money to make money rings true for politicos as well as the rest of us, Herrera dished out $56,000 — which is about the 10 percent industry standard, according to an opposing consultant — to Integrated Fundraising Strategies, a money-raising firm led by Shari Rubin, who incidentally holds a masters in journalism from UC Berkeley.

With all this cash spent on strategizing, consulting and spending cash, the campaign will show that if there’s a victory to be bought, Herrera will buy it. Or raise money trying.

Michela Alioto-Pier Likes: Washington, DC

•Total raised: $189,000
•Total spent: $174,000
•Cash on hand: $406,000
•Biggest expenses: $44,000 to Secrest Strategic Services of Alexandria, Virginia; $35,000 to Joe Trippi and Associates of Maryland; another $15,800 to DC-based Web developers.

It’s no secret former Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier knows her way around the Beltway — the granddaughter of former San Francisco mayor Joseph Alioto worked in the White House as an aide to Vice President Al Gore, back when Gore was merely a robot and not yet an environmentalist robot complicit in election-stealing.

It’s also no secret Michela wants back into L’Enfant’s Swamp: her first run for public office, at the age of 28, was for a seat in Congress. Maybe that’s why the bulk of her campaign money is headed for points due east, and we don’t mean Oakland: $44,000 has gone towards polling and research firm Secrest Strategic Services, with another $35,000 to Web-based fundraiser extraordinaire Joe Trippi, ex of the 2004 Howard Dean Presidential campaign.

Less certain is why $15,800 went to DC-based web developers to build Michela’s Web site — was nobody good with the web available locally? Or where the $406,000 Michela reported on hand as of June 30 will end up.

Some of it, we suspect, will end up at the Sutton Law Firm, which is owed $65,000 by various Alioto-Pier campaign committees (and that’s after some of that debt was paid off by the odd triumvirate of real estate developer Thomas J Coates ($15,000), angel investor Ron Conway ($5,000) and the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union Local 38 ($2,500)).

Though it’s not as if Michela refuses to spend locally: Chestnut Street-based consultant Sarah Zeiger received $60,000 for myriad services, including $24,000 originally earmarked for Alioto-Pier’s legally-blocked 2010 reelection bid for District 2 supervisor.

Leland Yee Likes: Consistent Consulting (and debt)

•Total Raised: $231,000
•Total Spent: $480,000
•Cash on hand: $444,000
•Biggest expenses: Stearns Consulting, $171,577; Debt, $130,423.

State Sen. Leland Yee is on a 23-year winning streak, though the stakes are somewhat higher than when he was a child psychologist running for San Francisco school board. But whatever worked on the kid shrink’s couch is working in the political world, too, as Yee is unbeaten in races for supervisor, Assembly and finally state Senate.

Not one to alter a winning formula, Yee is sticking with longtime political consultant Jim Stearns to pick a path to victory this time around, and Stearns’s firm — which handled the No on B campaign last year, David Chiu’s bid for supervisor in 2008 and did some work for Jerry Brown last year, too, all winning efforts — has racked up over $171,000 in expenses billed to the Yee campaign, including $57,000 in unpaid bills.

Stearns Consulting, it should be noted, was also paid $215,000 for consulting services during Yee’s largely-uncontested bid for reelection to the state Senate last year, as well.

Successful machines cost money, especially when they provide health care to their staffers (whether they can find time in the 80-hour workweeks to visit the doctor is another matter). And in a sign that, if it were up to us, we’d probably pick Yee’s campaign over Joanna Rees’, staffing costs ran the Yee effort another $70,858, with only five different staffers’ names listed. Biweekly payouts there ranged from $1,750 on the low end to $2,500 on the high end.

Other payouts: $20,000 to Social Stream, and $18,500 to an Oakland-based firm called HSC (the only listing for HSC in The Town is a firm that makes boilers — is the Yee campaign… in hot water? We slay us).

Other unpaid bills: $37,800 to Sutton Law Firm, $21,000 to M2 Consulting of Texas.

Want more news, sent to your inbox every day? Then how about subscribing to our email newsletter? Here’s why we think you should. Come on, give it a try.

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!
  • supertamsf

    Great article Chris, full of interesting bits.

  • supertamsf

    Great article Chris, full of interesting bits.