What it does
Currently, those who hold elected public office in the City and County of San Francisco are prohibited from concurrently holding additional elected offices within the city and county, as well as in state or federal governments. This measure would extend that restriction against service on local political party county central committees.
In practical terms, this measure would prevent all elected officials, such as sitting members of the Board of Supervisors, from serving on or running for the county central committees of political parties. If this measure passes, all supervisors serving on an elected party committee would have to resign from those seats as of Jan. 21, 2011. In the event of a resignation, the president of the affected committee would select a replacement.
All statewide party nominees and officeholders would continue to hold seats and be able to appoint proxies.
Why it's on the ballot
Prop. H is an ordinance that could have been introduced as legislation, but the mayor placed it directly onto the ballot. The measure is the mayor's response to numerous current supervisors having won seats on the Democratic Central Committee.
The primary function and power of the central committee is to vote on endorsements for both political candidates and ballot measures. Because San Francisco has such a high percentage of registered Democrats, the endorsements of the Democratic Party Central Committee are among the most influential endorsements in the city.
Since 1990, when court rulings allowed local political party committees to make endorsements in local nonpartisan races (those in which candidates don't run as representatives of a party "” such as San Francisco races for mayor or the Board of Supervisors), the DCCC has become a focus of interest for those serving on and running for the Board of Supervisors. Many candidates use a run for the central committee as a springboard for running for the Board of Supervisors, building both name recognition and campaign funds.While there are legal contribution limits for donations to Board of Supervisors candidates, there are no such limits for donations to candidates running for party committees. Local party committees are governed by the rules of the state political party and are not subject to local election law.
Nine out of 24 elected members of San Francisco's Democratic County Central Committee are either current or former members of the Board of Supervisors, or are running for board office in November.
- This measure would close a campaign finance loophole that allows candidates seeking concurrent positions on both the DCCC and the Board of Supervisors to effectively raise unlimited sums for their Board of Supervisors race by simultaneously raising funds for the DCCC contest. This is because the DCCC is not subject to local campaign finance laws.
- Supervisors are elected to focus on the challenges of the city, not to lead the local political party. Allowing them to serve on both elected bodies dilutes their focus on the City issues and could split their allegiance, should there be a conflict between the two.
- This is a solution in search of a problem. Sitting supervisors have obvious and reasonable interest in the outcome of the endorsements of the local political party, so their presence on the local county central committee is entirely appropriate.
- This measure denies individuals' rights to participate in politics under the First Amendment. As a result, it may be unconstitutional.
- There are many sources of soft money to supervisors' races. Claiming that this measure closes a key loophole for soft-money contributions avoids the dozens of additional loopholes available to any candidate, not just those running for or serving on the DCCC.
- Preventing supervisors from serving on a central committee would not necessarily reduce their power over that committee's endorsement process. Supervisors are by definition a part of the local political system, and have strong interests in the outcome of both ballot measures and other local races.
This measure would clearly achieve its aims "” to keep current and future supervisors off the Democratic Party County Central Committee. To that extent, sitting supervisors would no longer be able to directly vote on the endorsements of that committee. But given that supervisors are political people, this clearly would not eliminate their ability to continue to influence the outcomes of those endorsements. Nor should it.
The strongest argument for the measure is that it would close a seeming loophole in local campaign finance laws whereby a candidate for both the central committee and the Board of Supervisors could raise unlimited sums because the central committee is not subject to the restrictions on local campaign contributions. But it would leave unchanged all other soft money opportunities that are available to anyone running for supervisor, not just those who jointly run central committee and Board of Supervisors campaigns.
Further, the measure would unduly limit an individual's rights and ability to participate in politics under the First Amendment. Supervisors are not limited from serving on other boards that make endorsements.
Ultimately, we find Prop. H to be largely just another part of the tired fight between the mayor and the Board of Supervisors rather than a measure that accomplishes an important policy purpose.
SPUR recommends a "No" vote on Prop. H.