Beware of the political victor who, having run scared in the election but is now empowered, suddenly wants to change the campaign rules. Supervisor Chris Daly of District 6 this week called for just such a far-reaching revamp. His fellow supervisors should resist its reformist allure.
Last fall Daly, the Board of Supervisors’ most ardent progressive, ran what was expected to be a close race against Rob Black, who was favored by business and law enforcement factions. The populist supervisor might have surprised even himself by winning handily, but that hasn’t stopped him from trying to outlaw the tactics that made his challenger viable.
On Tuesday during roll call, Daly asked the city attorney to draft legislation to tighten restrictions on independent expenditures. If his effort weren’t such a serious slap at political freedom, it would be hilarious to observe once again how a self-styled progressive reaches deep within his power-driven resources to thwart the sovereign energy of the people.
Daly wants taxpayer subsidies for candidates "drawing high levels of opposition spending from independent expenditures." And just who fits such a deserving profile? You should ask?
In his press release, the alarmed supervisor actually names those horrible people who rallied against him: "The organizations that took part in these massive independent expenditure campaigns included the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, the Police Officers Association, the Building Owners and Managers Association and San Francisco SOS, among others."
Imagine that. Each of these organizations stood to be impacted in costly or negative ways by Daly’s interventionist agenda. Mandatory sick leave pay; affordable housing set-asides; police foot patrols — does Daly really suppose he can push the enactment of such policies as he limits the resources of those who take the brunt?
Daly wants to fine them for resorting to such well-worn tactics as telephone "push polls," even though, up against The City’s legislative powers, they are the disadvantaged ones.
Sober students of politics will recognize Daly’s newest drive as an exercise in power consolidation. There is something both rich and troubling about his move, given the wide criticism of the supervisor for his political deployment of the non-profit organizations with which he is associated.
Here are the questions Daly begs: Was anyone in our fair body politic truly injured by these independent efforts, including the use of push polls and paid signature-gatherers? That is, anyone other than Daly himself?
You get the picture. If Daly truly wanted reform, he would closet his injured innocence and call for simple transparency, in which campaign contributions are publicly identified. Let’s stop insulting the intelligence of San Francisco’s voters.