Oh No, Ed Lee! Bogus “Run Ed Run” Committee to Get Called On The Carpet on August 8th, 2011

Oh, it’s on. It’s on the agenda for the next meeting of the San Francisco Ethics Commission:

Consideration of the Status of “Progress for All,” an entity registered as a General Purpose Committee in San Francisco. This organization is responsible for the “Run, Ed, Run” campaign and claims its primary purpose is to convince Mayor Ed Lee to run for election to the office that he currently holds. The Executive Director has instructed Progress for All to refile as a “Primarily Formed Committee” as its independent expenditures have the effect of promoting an Ed Lee candidacy to the voters. As a matter of policy, the Commission will discuss the status of Progress for All and possibly determine what, if any, policy and regulatory changes are necessary to address similar situations in the future. The Commission may also discuss whether to redraft, withdraw or update a prior informal advice letter to the Progress for All Committee. (Discussion and possible action.)”

It turns out that some of these unenthusiastic people were getting paid $11 an hour? That would explain a lot:

Click to expand

The gritty nitty:

“During the current Mayoral election cycle, two committees formed with the stated
intention of convincing Mayor Ed Lee to run for the office which he now holds. The
first, called “Progress for All” registered as a committee on May 18, 2011 (and refiled
on June 23) and is the sponsor of the “Run, Ed, Run” campaign. The second, called
“Support Drafting Ed Lee for Mayor 2011” registered as a committee on July 19. A
third group was also formed, but reportedly did not raise or spend any money and
therefore did not qualify as a committee.

State and local law provide definitions of types of committees and their filing
responsibilities. Initially, the scope of the activities of these committees was unclear.
In an informal advice letter date May 17, 2011, the Commission answered a
hypothetical question from Enrique Pearce, who would become a hired consultant for
Progress for All. However, the question posed in that letter is only tangential to the
policy question before the Commission. While it is clear that the citizens expect
political activity, particularly fundraising and spending, to be regulated, under which
state and local regulations are committees such as the two mentioned above most
appropriately placed?”

It goes on and on…

“The Progress for All Committee appears to be the more active of the two, reporting
fundraising of $49,000 and spending of $71,000. The Support Drafting Ed Lee for
Mayor in 2011 Committee reports raising $6,700 and is late in filing its semi-annual
report due August 1, 2011. Progress for All has stated on more than one occasion that
it is a multi-purpose committee that, while focused on convincing Ed Lee to run for
Mayor, also participates in “community events” such as voter registration and voter
education on Ranked-Choice Voting.

Among Progress for All’s activities were the distribution and display of posters
throughout the City; circulation of buttons, signs, t-shirts and stickers; an internet
campaign including banners in news and other outlets; Facebook advertising; internet links; and a
website. There were unverified reports of phone banking or phone polling. Some of the internet
banners featured the names of other candidates in the race. The Draft Ed Lee Committee has not
filed its financial disclosure report, but appears to have spent funds on ads directing people to a
web site that connects to its Facebook account. The Draft Ed Lee Committee had a fundraiser
scheduled as recently as August 2. Also on August 2, the Progress for All Committee is reported
to have stated that it has now disbanded.

In assessing the activity of these campaigns, and in particular Progress for All, it became
apparent that whatever effect the campaign might be having on Ed Lee, it was also having a
material effect on potential voters. Independent Expenditure Committees have fewer restrictions
on them than candidate committees, but their activities are still regulated. I advised Progress for
All, through its consultant Enrique Pearce, that it was required to register as an independent
expenditure committee. Mr. Pearce stated that they wanted to be cooperative and follow the
rules, although he disagreed to some extent that his committee had such filing obligations.
Progress for All registered as a General Purpose Committee. Under state law, General Purpose
Committees “exist primarily to support or oppose more than one candidate or ballot measure.” I
subsequently directed Progress for All, via Mr. Pearce, to refile as a “Primarily Formed
Committee.” Mr. Pearce was not pleased with this instruction but indicated that the Committee
would comply. It has not. Under state law, a Primarily Formed Committee exists “to support or
oppose any of the following:
a) A single candidate.
b) A single measure.
c) A group of specific candidates being voted upon in the same city, county or multicounty
d) Two or more measures being votes upon in same city, county, multicounty or state

The Support Drafting Ed Lee for SF Mayor 2011 registered as a Primarily Formed Committee.
During the period in which Progress for All was active, its stated purpose was to get the attention
of Ed Lee to convince him to run for Mayor. However, the citywide campaign that it managed
arguably has had a material effect on the voters’ opinions of Ed Lee as Mayor, particularly given
the highly positive message indicated in many of Progress for All’s campaign materials. As
such, even though Ed Lee has not officially entered the race, Progress for All’s efforts result in
the promotion of a single candidate in the public arena.

Lacking more specific guidance for the particulars of this case, and confident that the voters
never intended campaigns to function in a vacuum outside of the law’s political regulations, I
determined that the proper designation for Progress for All is that it is indeed a Primarily Formed
Committee. Although the filing obligations for Primarily Formed Committees and General
Purpose Committees are identical, there is a finely stated distinction in law between the two
types of committees as a matter of informing the voters of the nature of their primary activities

In addition, in its informal advice letter to Mr. Pearce dated May 17, 2011, the Commission
stated that Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance section 1.115 could apply in this situation,
“such that expenditures made by the committee might be considered coordinated expenditures,
depending on the facts.” Now that facts have presented themselves, it is clear to me that any
personnel involved in the Progress for All Committee, including campaign staff, contracted staff
or volunteers, would presumptively violate section 1.115 if Ed Lee were to become a candidate
and Progress for All personnel become involved in the Lee campaign in any fashion. Personnel
of the Support Drafting Ed Lee for SF Mayor 2011 Committee are similarly situated.

These issues are brought to your attention at your request for an update. As part of a policy
discussion, you may determine whether existing law has been sufficient to manage this situation
or if new proposals are called for at this time.”

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