To nobody’s surprise, it seems Temporary Mayor Ed Lee, backed by powerful financial interests and a shadow campaign that has yet to see sunlight, is running for mayor. And again, as the unofficial press spokesperson, the Chronicle once again provides cover for their candidate.
Today we read about how St. Ed is not taking public money for his campaign, instead relying on the aforementioned shadow campaign, and whatever private money he chooses to take. This contrasts with others who participated in the public matching funds/spending limit program provided by the City of SF. The Chronicle, naturally, uses this to somehow distinguish St. Ed from his opponents. It’s a nice hit for Ed, but it’s just the latest in a line of articles that the Chronicle has written that basically promote Ed. That’s fine, but if I wanted to read a dying medium’s political endorsements sold as news, I’d read the Guardian (which I don’t).
However, putting that aside, the article also starts to rattle off how much consultants have made off the other candidates, again implying that they were all “subsidized” with tax dollars. There are several problems with the reporting on this piece of news.
First, the matching funds are only awarded if a candidate has raised money from a lot of private donors, who can ONLY live in San Francisco, and they have to have significant disclosure as to who donated. There is also a cap on how much campaigns can get from the city, and the majority of their funding is private, despite the Chronicle’s insinuations. Moreover, there is more disclosure than there ever was for the shady “Run Ed Run” campaign which denies helping the Mayor even though it was helping the mayor.
Second, the amounts. I’ve yet to meet a reporter that understands how the political consulting business works, especially when it comes to the actual business of running such an operation. So when I read about “fees” for consultants in the Chronicle, my first question is how this amount is computed.
Naturally, the Chronicle wants to provide an image of these “consultants” raking in the big bucks on the poor taxpayer’s dime, and so on. What the Chronicle doesn’t seem to understand is that just because a campaign handed over a big bundle of cash, the consultant doesn’t necessarily keep all the money, depending on the arrangement.
For example, I used to work for A Big National Consulting Firm That Shall Not Be Named a few years ago. Our company was working on a Big Campaign, and if you looked at the disclosure forms, you’d think we were raking in the big bucks. However, what the disclosure statements didn’t point out was how much of that was going right out the door to pay for printing, letterhead, campaign staffers we administered payroll for and other products the campaign elected to purchase. Out of about $180,000 or so in “moneys” we got, we kept maybe $5000-$7500 that could be considered a fee.
Another example: some campaign consultants don’t take more than a modest retainer at the start, and then charge no consulting fees at all, and mark up things like TV ads, direct mail (printing/production, not postage!) and other items at the standard industry rate of 15% to cover their overhead costs (taxes and staff and a modest profit). So looking at the gross amount isn’t very realistic.
There’s also another thing about San Francisco campaigns that no one in the press corps seems to understand – working in SF politics is no way to make a living in the consulting business. Even with a well funded campaign, with campaign donation limits, as well as the “consultant tax”** and other unique requirements for campaigns in San Francisco, you won’t be netting a large landslide of cash. Supervisor races make very little for anyone involved as well.
That’s not to say they pay so little no one will work on them, but with all the limitations, being a consultant for city candidates isn’t a great way to make a living. Consultants are better off working for either a labor union(s) or other organizations, or working in jurisdictions Not In San Francisco. When I was working in the business, most of my work was out of state. Not only did it pay me as a freelancer fairly well, it was also a lot easier.
I’d expect the gaggle of New Yorkers working for the various chain-owned online entities to get this wrong, but I’d expect more from the supposedly Old School Journalistic Entity located here for over 100 years. I guess when you keep on firing the people who make the product you’re supposedly selling, mistakes happen.
**The “consultant tax” I refer to is a profoundly bone-headed attempt by the Board of Supervisors, ages ago, who hated a certain consultant, and decided to clobber him a little with this law. The intent was to make consultants pay a special “consultant tax” and disclose for whom they were working for. This is stupid for several reasons. First, the “tax” they impose also applies to campaign day to day workers. Ironically the big companies and out of town companies can pay this no problem, but the poorly paid, day to day overworked staffer ends up paying proportionally more than the Big Companies.
Second, the disclosure as to whom people are working for is already done in the campaign finance reporting that is required for every candidate. So once again a typical SF Progressive FAIL: More rules that hurt the lowest paid people, and duplicate efforts elsewhere.
- California Life
- California Politics
- Campaign Tactics & Analysis
- Debunking Politicos Pundits + Spin
- Democratic Party Chatter
- Gov. Doofinator's Follies
- Instant Runoff Voting FAIL
- Links of Interest
- Los Angeles Politics
- Political Direct Mail Archive – 2006
- Political Direct Mail Archive – 2007
- Political Direct Mail Archive – 2008
- Politics of Political Reform
- Pop Culture & Society
- San Francisco Politics
- Website News