Our recent local elections have become more expensive. One reason is the post-Citizens United flood of money from political action committees (PACs) into campaigns at all levels of government.
Local ethics rules require that mailers and other advertising disclose their funding sources, but when PACs are the source of funds, voters don’t know who has funded the PACs. A PAC’s funding source may only be revealed months after the election has ended, making the existing disclosure requirements ineffective at providing true transparency.
Prop F closes this loophole. If this measure passes, campaign advertisements will be required to disclose the name of the top 5 contributors of $5,000 or more; if any of the top 5 contributors are PACs, campaign advertisements must also disclose the top 3 contributors of $5,000 or more to those PACs.
In addition to these expanded disclosure requirements, Prop F contains two more important provisions. It prohibits contributions from limited liability corporations and limited liability partnerships, thus expanding the current prohibition which applies only to corporations. It also prohibits individuals with a financial interest in a land use project from making political contributions to the city decision-makers responsible for approving the project while approval is pending and for a year thereafter.
A financial interest is defined as:
(a) Ownership of at least 10% or $1 million in the project or property under consideration; or
(b) President, VP, CEO, CFO, COO, Executive Director, Deputy Director, or Member of the Board of Directors of an entity with at least 10% in the project or property under consideration; or
(c) The Developer of the project or property under consideration.
Land-use matter is defined as:
(a) A request for a Planning Code or Zoning Map amendment; or
(b) An application that requires a discretionary determination at a public hearing.
Decision-makers include members of or candidates for the Board of Supervisors; the Mayor or candidates for Mayor; the City Attorney or candidates for City Attorney.
While the Citizens United decision allows wide latitude in political contributions, we should ensure that such contributions are documented and identified in a timely manner, so that people have as much information as possible when they vote. SFLCV urges a Yes vote on Prop F to increase transparency in local elections.
SFLCV’s mission is “to promote environmental protection through active participation in the San Francisco political system and to enhance the integrity of that political system…[W]e promote conservation and protection of natural resources, environmental justice, and sustainability, as well as good government issues and political reforms.” Prop F is a classic good government measure and therefore strongly aligned with our mission.