For many years, San Francisco moderate political operative Ryan Chamberlain
claimed his reputation was being ruined via salacious material available on the Internet. "Whenever someone is Googling me for political purposes, I know that pops up," he told us in 2010
The issue: As field director for the pro-Downtown, Don Fisher-backed outfit SFSOS
, Chamberlain was accused of masterminding an eye-catching political mailer meant to upend Supervisor Chris Daly's 2006 reelection campaign.
Chamberlain swore to us that "it's not my design and not my photo." Other folks, however, claimed that Chamberlain boasted to them that it was
his design and was his photo. In any event, he's got more to worry about today -- and turd-enhanced political mailers have tumbled far down the Google rankings as a result. Chamberlain is currently on the lam from the FBI
, which considers him "armed and dangerous" after purportedly finding explosives during a weekend raid on the politico's Russian Hill apartment.
If you were seeking a bizarre political sequel to Sen. Leland Yee and city political consultant Keith Jackson purportedly attempting to mastermind a plot to purchase shoulder-fired rockets from a shadowy international arms dealer and sell them to Filipino jihadis
-- well, there you go.
While quotidian city politics have grown almost impenetrably dull these days, the alleged outrageous acts of individual politicos rival those of their 1970s-era forbears: "What is the third shoe that's going to drop around San Francisco politics? Is a high-ranking department head going to turn out to be a Russian spy?" muses Clemens. "We are approaching Florida-level absurdity."
Chamberlain was not a fringe or obscure figure in San Francisco politics; other news stories referring to him as a "self-professed political junkie" imply he was some sort of poser or wanna-be operative in this town. That's far from true. Chamberlain, per his former employer Clemens, has "been involved on behalf of one candidate or another pretty much every election cycle. He is regularly working for campaigns. He's right there in the middle of the mix."
And, while knuckle-dragging blogs have referred to Chamberlain as a "dangerous leftist," the truth is that his base of operations was to the center and right of this city's political spectrum. He was a former member of San Francisco's Republican County Central Committee -- and was drafted onto that body in order to drag it back toward political moderation and sanity.
Chamberlain worked on Gavin Newsom's successful 2003 mayoral campaign. The now-defunct SFSOS targeted city progressives; the organization was funded by Fisher, Walter Shorenstein, Dianne Feinstein, and Warren Hellman.
Its former president, Wade Randlett, is a pillar of the Democratic establishment and a top Obama fund-raiser.
Chamberlain ran social media campaigns for the San Francisco Chronicle,
instructed a course as an adjunct at the University of San Francisco,
and, per his own website
, is the guy who helped turn Lombard Street into a big Candyland game.
In short, Chamberlain was well-known in city political circles, was an established professional, and gravitated toward this city's establishment moderates -- though, when one is accused of amassing explosives by the feds, any sort of political affiliation on a municipal level is pretty much irrelevant.
Our calls and messages for Chamberlain have not yet been returned. Political and social acquaintances were, unsurprisingly, shocked at this turn of events -- up until this most recent saga of his life unfolded, he was still penning clever posts on Twitter and Facebook. He was the guy who liked politics and Arcade Fire and wrote fun things about @HiddenCash.
Chamberlain's Twitter account -- @poliholic
-- is still active. His work website -- also poliholic
-- is still up. On it one can find a rousing endorsement from Alex Clemens.
"Oh, Ryan is a smart and capable guy," says Clemens. "I wouldn't change my perspective on that just because of allegations by the FBI of terrorism."
Anyone who bumps into Chamberlain is urged to dial (415) 553-7400. Or 911.