Once More With Feeling
By Benjamin Wachs
It’s like a game of “telephone”, if “telephone” had a $50,000 prize.
Last week the city’s Ethics Commission denied public funding to mayoral candidate “Chicken” John Rinaldi (running under the slogan “Nuisance ’07” ) because most of his eligible donations came in through a PayPal account – and PayPal hadn’t demonstrated to the commission’s satisfaction that these donors were San Francisco residents.
This was just the latest twist in the comic soap opera that has been Chicken John’s quest for matching funds. Ethics Commission staff confirm that he has more than enough donors, and more than enough money, to qualify for public campaign dollars … but that he’ll have to prove the donors live in San Francisco to get it.
So Chicken John talked to PayPal, and PayPal talked to the Ethics Commission, and the Ethics Commission talked to Chicken John … and nobody’s actually sure if they solved anything.
A spokeswoman for PayPal says they’ve made adjustments that will meet with the city’s approval, but couldn’t explain exactly what they were.
“I don’t know that anything’s changed, I think we just explained to the city how PayPal’s accounts worked, and were able to clarify with them how this is sufficient information,” said PayPal spokeswoman Sara Gorman. “We have a verbal commitment from the commission that this should be sufficient, and my understanding is that this issue is resolved.”
Chicken John says PayPal’s given him new information to turn in … but he isn’t sure what they did either.
“They moved some stuff around, but honestly it all looks pretty much the same to me,” he said. “I can’t really tell the difference. Hopefully, PayPal and the Ethics Commission worked this out and when I turn it back in it will make sense to somebody.”
He said he’ll have the documents in on time today.
The Ethics Commission confirmed they’ve spoken with PayPal, and that Chicken John will still be eligible for matching funds if the paperwork he turns in today is acceptable, but they won’t comment on PayPal’s new approach (whatever it is) until they’ve had a chance to review all the documentation.
All in all it sounds pretty much like business as usual for an election in Belarus.
It would be hilarious if at least $50K of the public’s money – not to mention Democracy – weren’t at stake. You’d think that the city that invented e-commerce would have worked the kinks out by now. But on the other hand, maybe in this era of easily hackable voting machines, slow and deliberative is exactly the way to go.
Just so long as the end result makes sense, which is kind of a problem if you’re playing “telephone.”