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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Who's Behind the "Don't Run Ed" Facebook Ads?

Posted By on Tue, Jul 26, 2011 at 2:25 PM

click to enlarge GREG DEWAR

Mayor Ed Lee has not yet declared his candidacy, and already the countercampaigns have begun.

Jim Stearns, political consultant for state Senator Leland Yee's mayoral campaign, made a YouTube video, "Promise," which highlights Lee's previous remarks that he would not be running for mayor in November. Stearns tweeted about the video last Thursday, saying, "If I were to make a video about Run Ed Run, it might look something like this."

Today, an "Ed Don't Run" ad turned up on Facebook, which also reminds voters of Lee's promise not to run. Coming so soon after the video, some assumed that Stearns/Yee was behind it, but Stearns was quick to debunk this theory via Twitter, "I can tell you definitively that we are not buying fb ads of any kind."

There's no way of knowing who's behind the ad since Facebook was granted an exemption by the Federal Election Commission so that political ads on the site do not need to include the sponsor's name. In theory, the link beneath the image should lead you to the sponsor, but in this case, the ad links to the mayor's website.

Somehow, we seriously doubt it's Lee himself.

So what should we make of all this? As Facebook becomes a more and more popular platform for political candidates, we can expect to see a proliferation of these anonymous ads, which are not transparent -- but, even worse, can lead to unfair assumptions about who is behind them.

"One of the biggest problems we have in our campaigns is it's increasingly difficult --  or even impossible -- to track where the money's coming from," says USF politics professor Corey Cook. "It's not so much that these groups are being unethical, but voters want to know where the money's coming from, and they can't hold candidates accountable."

So, whodunnit? We have no idea, and it's unlikely that anyone will ever know.

Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF and @SFWeekly. 

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Caroline Chen

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