Very little is off-limits or too outrageous for political campaign ads. But using images of battered women to score political points on the issue of domestic violence? That's over the line, a group of Domestic violence survivors said Wednesday.
At issue are a series of ads, sent via the mails and seen on Facebook, that urge voters to support Board of Supervisors President David Chiu for Assembly. The ads point out that Chiu, unlike his fellow candidate Supervisor David Campos, voted to oust Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. The mailers feature women who have had family members murdered by abusers.
Controversial. Edgy. Risky. And backfiring with at least 16 female domestic violence survivors, who picketed Chiu's Castro District campaign headquarters on Wednesday in an effort to get Chiu to “stop playing politics” with domestic violence.
[jump] Will their protest work? You'll have to ask LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman and usual suspect Ron Conway, who paid for Chiu's mailers and campaign.
The domestic violence card has been played repeatedly in the David vs. David campaign. It came up as recently as Tuesday when a caller to KQED's Forum asked Chiu personally to put a stop to the DV imagery.
Chiu dodged the question, which only fueled the woman on the other line, San Francisco resident Trisha Fogleman, to organize today's demonstration.
Fogleman, a District 5 voter whose supervisor was Ross Mirkarimi before he was elected sheriff, says linking Campos's vote not to remove the sheriff from his job after he plead guilty to false imprisonment is dishonest.
“It was a vote. He didn't shelter a batterer or say [Mirkarimi] shouldn't be prosecuted,” said Fogleman, a DV survivor who says says she's in no way connected with the Campos campaign.
“It lessens the issue of domestic violence, and for many people that I know it's a trigger that really upsets a lot of people,” she says. “When I read stuff like that, it takes me to a bad place. I don't like someone using that to get elected.”
In fairness, it's not Chiu exactly who's using it — it's a third-party independent expenditure committee funded by a pair of tech billionaires. The ads are funded by $500,000 from Reid Hoffman, CEO of LinkedIn, and legendary friend of Ed Lee Ron Conway and his wife Gayle, who gave about $100,000, records show.
Efforts to reach the brain trust behind the ads were not successful. The contact information on the ads is the address and phone number of The Sutton Law Firm, which houses prominent campaign lawyers. A man who answered the phone there declined to say who was running the campaign, but said he'd get back to us.
Nicole Derse, a Chiu campaign consultant, noted that the Chiu campaign has no involvement and added that “San Francisco voters deserve to know that David Campos voted to let Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi keep his job after pleading guilty to domestic violence. “
That's not going over well with some women.
The DV imagery has earned Hoffman an open letter from the National Organization For Women, asking him to put a stop to it and calling him out in very plain language for being “nowhere” on other women's issues.
And on Wednesday, they delivered to Chiu's headquarters an open letter with 53 signatures from DV survivors asking Chiu to put a stop to it.
“If he can't get his supporters to behave, we won't be able to trust him in the Assembly,” said Amber Straus, one of the women on hand Wednesday.
It's also worth noting that Mirkarimi's wife, who was the victim in that case, is also outraged by the mailers. Eliana Lopez, who by all outward appearances is still happily married to her husband the sheriff, also called out Chiu for bringing up the DV issue on the radio.
— Eliana Lopez (@Elilopezu) October 13, 2014
It was hard to argue with her and the other survivors' moral outrage. But in San Francisco politics, is anything off-limits? Not so far, it would seem.