Politics wasn’t just a job for Chamberlain. He saw political activism not as a vocation but a calling. He entertained visions of how things ought to be in this city and grand plans of how he could lead it there.

But Chamberlain’s employers had starker tasks in mind for him and his particular set of talents. A number of erstwhile political allies and enemies alike independently hit upon the identical analogy when asked to describe Chamberlain’s role in this city: There is, on every hockey team, one player assigned the primal tasks his daintier associates can’t or won’t undertake — to deliver that bone-shattering blow. To force the opponent into an ugly place. To pound him where it hurts, again and again. To execute the coach’s strategy at the expense of one’s own ego, reputation, and longevity.

Ryan Chamberlain was the enforcer.

While on the run, Ryan Chamberlain accused the feds of grandstanding: "Nothing they're reporting is true. ... No car 'rigged to explode,'" he posted. The bomb squad took no chances.
Jessica Christian
While on the run, Ryan Chamberlain accused the feds of grandstanding: "Nothing they're reporting is true. ... No car 'rigged to explode,'" he posted. The bomb squad took no chances.
HazMat-suited federal agents broke down Ryan Chamberlain's door on May 31. They did not find what they were anticipating.
Mike Koozmin
HazMat-suited federal agents broke down Ryan Chamberlain's door on May 31. They did not find what they were anticipating.

”I have no doubt,” says a longtime political adversary, “that Ryan sacrificed himself a great deal churning out the stuff those campaigns wanted to have out there.”

Chamberlain’s sacrifices helped render this city politically toxic, while rendering him politically radioactive. But, in doing so, he helped usher in our current, business- and development-enthralled era. His former taskmasters are thrilled with the ultimate results.

Politically, this city now looks a lot like what the man in the tangerine jail attire might have wanted it to. But its political structure has no place for him.

He was cast down and set on a dark path. Its course is unwinding still.

Nothing they’re reporting is true. No “stashes.” Not “armed and dangerous.” No car “rigged to explode.” I explored some ugly websites ... I let Walter White get to me.

In 2006, residents of SoMa and the Tenderloin discovered something unpleasant dangling from their doorknobs. It was a campaign mailer belittling their incumbent supervisor; it featured photos of a bottle of urine and a pile of human excrement. In goofy Comic Sans font, it read: “the number 1 reason to dump chris daly ... IS number one (and number two).”

There was never a pristine political era in San Francisco, a city spawned by lust for gold and sustained by lust for everything else. But this transcended the bounds of good taste and fair play to an almost comical degree.

People were angry. They wanted to know who put shit on their doors.

Fingers pointed at Ryan Chamberlain. Four years later, he swore to SF Weekly that the attack ad produced by the political outfit for which he served as field director was not of his design and did not feature his photos. But he purportedly boasted to other journalists that it was his design. They were his photos.

As is the case with so much regarding Chamberlain, the truth is difficult to know. But, among San Francisco’s political class — the people who worked alongside Chamberlain and could’ve seen fit to employ him in recent years — it’s viewed as a certainty that he was the guilty party behind the urine-and-feces ad.

To Chamberlain’s chagrin, this episode encapsulates his political existence in this city: Years of hard work, much of it behind the scenes, was obscured by bizarre, attention-grabbing spectacles serving to reinforce his reputation as “a zealot,” “a hatchet man,” “a bomb-thrower.”

”Ryan had the stomach and the appetite for this,” says a political adversary. “But he would not have been allowed to get away with it but for higher-ups giving him the green light.”

But whether he was acting independently or delivering an ordered hit, the residue of Chamberlain’s actions stuck to him and him alone.

Getting left out of the Newsom win was hard. But I was always able to override it by forcing some common sense onto my brain, knowing I had lots of years ahead of me, and toughing it out. And every time I would crawl out of it. But every time it would somehow come back. It’s happening again?!? Again?!? What did I do to deserve this!?!

Chamberlain got his political start in this city like so many others: He showed up. After volunteering at Gavin Newsom’s mayoral headquarters every day in 2003, he was hired to be field organizer in District 1 — Newsom’s man in the Richmond.

This is not a trifling assignment. The Richmond is perceived as San Francisco’s swing district — and, to Chamberlain’s credit, Newsom thumped Green Party opponent Matt Gonzalez there. “All good field organizers — and Ryan was a good one — have a following,” says Newsom campaign manager Jim Ross, who hired Chamberlain. “They’re almost surrogate candidates in and of themselves. And Ryan had a following. He was very good at bringing people into the campaign and managing them once they were in the campaign. He’s charismatic. Likeable. A good guy, right?”

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"Malcolm soon received a cryptic response from “Kelly”: a complaint that the abrin “did not work.”

Just what the hell this is supposed to mean cannot be known at this time."

Of course it "can be known" if you think about it, just a tiny bit. It means he tried it out, administering it to someone or something, and that person or creature didn't die. Come to think of it, police should see if they can link him to the cases of poisoned meatballs left around town over the last couple of years. Perhaps he was doing test runs with rat poison, to later ramp up to killing people with what he believed to be "untraceable" poisons. Poisoners are sneaky, devious people. He seems to fit the profile.

topjobsman topcommenter

Don't see that Chamberlain is damaged as much as he is ambitious. Ambitions can catch up with you.


Mr Chamberlain cared to much while to many don't care at all. But he crossed over the line from being passionate about a cause, to believing he had the right to use force, to make his point.

We see the same scenario being played out all over the world, when one opinion, faith or ideology thinks their way is the only way and they force others with a different opinion  conform to their belief. 


The truth is that Ryan Chamberlain is just the guy that worked in SF circles, there is at least one like him in every city and in most important campaigns. Local, statewide and national campaigns all have political hit-men; he was just one that was self-destructing in SF.

Trust me, with Ryan gone there's a new kid in town...


Huh. Well, if the meandering Facebook message quoted throughout is any indication, I think I might know why nobody wanted to work with Mr. Chamberlain: he's a whiner.

Also sounds like something of a narcissist and a drama queen. Of course, it might not be fair to judge a guy off his suicide note (which he now says was not, in fact, a suicide note, but whatever), but I'd guess most people grit their teeth a little bit whenever Mr. Chamberlain's needy voice butts into any story about him.


A friend was one of Ryan's volunteers for District One in that Newsom campaign for mayor. Friend showed me stickers that read "Liar" and  "Asshole" and that Ryan had given them to him with the instruction to slap them on Gonzalez campaign posters.

mblaircheney topcommenter

Jack Davis and Jack Daniels come to mind as I read this article. There is a dirty underbelly to San Francisco politics, very few want talk about it or admit it. Scraping the bottom of the barrel in an attempt to get some sort of an advantage with the voters.
Because the payoff is huge in terms of clout in determining projects, contracts and appointments within the city. Rumors, however placed into the public offerings, carry the old adage "Where there is smoke there must be fire"... This description usually being offered by the arsonist.
Because it works so well and there is no shortage of people willing to carry it out. It does appear that San Francisco may have dodged a bullet here, the man is in custody without bail and is no longer a danger to himself or others. But as this article tries to uncover, who kept pushing him from behind and whispering in his ear... "Good job!"

joe.eskenazi topcommenter

@ReadingIsFundamental Thanks for reading. What you have written is excellent conjecture, but not anything close to "knowing." 

I think the most important part is "at this time." Time marches on. 

All the best, 


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