Leno, Kim Issue Fair Campaign Promise in Mayoral Race

The pledge eliminates some of political races' dirtier tactics, but not every candidate is on board.

The eight qualified candidates for mayor were announced Tuesday, and the race is officially on. Already, two candidates have set the tone for how their campaigns will play out — Mark Leno, Supervisor Jane Kim and Amy Farah Weiss pledged to “publicly denounce, renounce and reject” independent expenditure funds spent on their campaign from outside parties. Called a Fair Campaign Promise, it also blocks funding from super PACs, independent committees with a vested interest in one player who may raise money from corporations, unions or individuals to advocate for or against candidates.

These funds are often used for dirty campaign tactics — of which the candidate is absolved since the money and ads are being run by an outside group. And, they offer wealthy donors the chance at anonymity, as money is often funneled through several sources before it is used to fund mailers or TV commercials. 

In a city ruled by wealthy technology businesses, the pledge to avoid this type of funding is a bold one. Tech mogul Ron Conway controversially voiced his support for Acting Mayor London Breed during former Mayor Ed Lee’s funeral, and has long played a financial hand in San Francisco’s politics; he funneled more than $200,000 into an independent expenditure fund to slam Kim during her senate race against Scott Wiener. Called “We Can’t Trust Jane Kim,” the campaign — which featured videos posted on YouTube — warped Kim’s vote to support Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, into a domestic violence issue.

Having been on the other end of these dirty campaigns, it’s not surprising that Kim hopped on Leno’s pledge. “I enthusiastically accept the Fair Campaign Promise,” she wrote on Facebook Wednesday. “One of the greatest challenges in our nation today is the unscrupulous amount of money funneled into our elections and the disproportionate effect a few wealthy Americans have in determining our representatives. As more dark money floods our campaigns, the income gap widens between the super rich and everyone else as money-backed politicians dismantle our health care system, public education, infrastructure and social safety net while continuing to give huge breaks to corporations and the wealthiest individuals.”

Kim further proposed that mayoral candidates adopt a People’s Pledge. Coined by Senator Elizabeth Warren, the pledge requires all candidates who take it to ask outside groups not to run advertisements on their behalf. If a group proceeded anyway, the candidate would have to donate half of the ad’s value to a charity chosen by their opponent. 

Mayoral candidate Amy Farah Weiss has also signed on to the Fair Campaign Promise. “It probably goes without saying that I would,” she said, commenting on Leno’s post, despite not being tagged in his call to other mayoral candidates. “I’d love to meet with you and your team to share ideas for supporting local businesses, low-income residents, and artists through campaigning. It seems like such a waste to spend hundreds of thousands to millions on campaigns when we have an encampment and affordability crisis.”

Breed and mayoral candidate Angela Alioto did not respond to requests for comment by publication time on whether or not they’ll adhere to the Fair Campaign Promise, or People’s Pledge.

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