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Who’s Foolin’ Who?

Apr
1
2005

It would be nice to say that the ethics and campaign spending legislation that’s been proposed here in San Francisco by Supervisor Sophie Maxwell is an April Fool’s joke.
Sad to say, it’s not. It’s just poorly thought out. And even more clumsily drafted. And it has a history. A not very pretty one.
Some, like my colleague at the Personal Democracy Forum, Michael Bassik, are screaming that the legislation would regulate blogs and bloggers. I’ve read it and I’m not so sure. And I’m someone who’s on record as favoring full disclosure of payments made to anyone during a campaign. If you blog for bucks on behalf of a candidate, you should disclose that. So should the candidate. I’m not going to hit the hysteria button. Not just yet.
But I am going to point a few fingers. San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors are reacting to a nasty bit of business that was transacted during this late election. Two members of the board were targeted for defeat by the city’s business community – specifically, loudly and with no-holds-barred — by SFSOS and its founder Democratic activist Wade Randlett.


Randlett, who has made a name for himself in national politics by being the go-to guy for folks looking to tap the Bay Area’s young and tech rich – the folks who put Gavin Newsom in office – apparently decided that it wasn’t enough to have a business-friendly mayor in City Hall. No, the city’s business community needed to get rid of two members, union-friendly Supervisor Jake McGoldrick and business critic Supervisor Geraldo Sandoval. So SFSOS launched campaign after campaign against the two, much of which was outlined a few weeks ago in the SFWeekly by its political reporter Matt Smith.
Randlett’s campaign – run in part on the web with the very large database he’s collected from his other organization, Bay Area Democrats – was completely out of proportion to the stakes at hand. And it didn’t have any impact in Sandoval or McGoldrick’s districts which are filled with Asian, Fillipino, Chinese and Hispanic voters. These are not people anxious to help the city’s affluent, tech-rich whites – most of whom are on Randlett’s extensive mailing list. Making the whole strident campaign even more foolish? Term limits. Sandoval and McGoldrick leave the board in four years. All Randlett did was breed a few more enemies for downtown and its allies, the city’s new tech folks. All this in a city of just over 450,000 registered voters.
That’s the local political landscape. More important to this conversation about regulating on-line communication – the backbone of SFSOS’s efforts – is that Randlett got widespread credit in the city’s political circles for a particularly nasty mailer that appeared just before the election. It accused Sandoval of being anti-Semitic, repeating some dumb and ugly threats he made in a meeting with city business representatives several years ago. That wasn’t enough mud, however. The mailer featured a swastika asking “Are San Francisco Supervisors Doing Enough to End Discrimination and Violence?”
The mailer was paid for by a still-unknown – although Randlett has taken credit in some circles — third party. Reached Friday, Randlett denies any involvement. “I didn’t pay for it. SOS didn’t pay for it,” he said.
Regardless of who backed it, third-party slime campaigns like this are the sort of things Maxwell’s legislation attempts to address. Geraldo Sandoval may be a stark-raving anti-Semite. But he’s not a Nazi. And he shouldn’t be called one. This is the sort of over-the-top-rhetoric that leads…well, it leads to legislation like the kind Sophie Maxwell is trying to pass. Politics is a game of action and reaction and in a variety of ways, Randlett has bought himself and his organization trouble they didn’t need. It’s no wonder that SFSOS co-founders Sen. Dianne Feinstein and financier Warren Hellman have stepped away from the organization.
Randlett, of course, has a different view saying the board of supervisors is crafting legislation aimed at shutting down his organization’s lobbying efforts. “They’re using the legislative process to attack us. Richard Nixon never had it so good.”

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 11:53 AM | Permalink

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