More than 80 percent of respondents are concerned with reported behavior of former Mayor Ed Lee, billionaire donor Ron Conway
A poll commissioned by the good-government group Friends of Ethics indicates that San Francisco’s voters would prefer this to be a more ethical town — and might support stricter political ethics measures than the city has chosen to pursue.
An overwhelming number of the 513 respondents to the March 28-29 phone poll additionally claimed they were ill at ease with purported heavy-handed pay-to-play politics practiced by former Mayor Ed Lee and Ron Conway, reported in Mission Local and elsewhere. A supermajority of them claimed they supported a proposed Ethics Commission investigation of it, “using subpoenas if necessary.”
The poll was undertaken by the outfit Public Policy Polling, which also formulated the questions. “They are a reputable firm, and I paid them reputable money,” said Larry Bush, the founder of Friends of Ethics. You can view the poll, in its entirety, here.
His motivation, Bush says, is to cajole the Ethics Commission and Board of Supervisors — which will hold their first-ever joint meeting Tuesday — to adopt stricter ethics rules rather than milder ones.
To wit, 58 percent of respondents felt that San Francisco “should ban [political] appointees from fund-raising or contributing to candidates for election to City Hall offices.” (The city currently has no such prohibition, meaning appointees can donate to the elected official who appointed them, and also donate to the candidates of that official’s choosing.)
A full 78 percent of respondents agreed that San Francisco should “ban developers from contributing to officials who approve their building requests.” (The city currently has no such prohibition. Lobbyists and contractors aren’t allowed to make donations, but contractors are permitted to bundle others’ money.)
Those are pretty straightforward queries, but the 14-question poll quickly veered into a potential political minefield when it brought up the dearly departed Mayor Ed Lee and his preferred financier, Ron Conway.
“It was recently reported that developers, union leaders and others seeking city approvals were told to contribute to a specific candidate and not to contribute to another candidate by then-mayor Lee, with the participation of his top staff and top city Board of Supervisors members, and that ‘we will be watching,’” read the preamble to Question 4.
Sixty-two percent of the poll-takers said this gave them “very serious concerns.” Another 21 percent felt “somewhat serious concerns.”
“At the same meeting,” begins the follow-up question, “billionaire City Hall insider Ron Conway also said that if the developer donated money to the mayor’s favorite candidate, Conway would make a donation in an equal amount to an organization supported by the developer.” Fifty-six percent of respondents said this gave them “very serious concerns.” Another 24 percent registered “somewhat serious concerns.”
This meeting — which took place in 2015, and was reported on at the time — was recounted in a recent Mission Local article, reporting emails revealing Conway had, last December, brokered an introduction between then-acting Mayor London Breed and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in a mayoral race he has claimed he’s “too busy” to participate in. Both Breed and Mayor Mark Farrell attended the 2015 meeting.
This article caught the attention of Ethics Commissioner Quentin Kopp, who called for the commission to investigate that meeting. “I ask that staff begin an investigation … which I believe should be the subject of a special hearing by this commission,” Kopp said on March 16. “The San Franciscans who are voting on June 5 should have the benefit of the results of the investigation of the allegations contained in this article.”
This investigation was approved by 73 percent of those polled.
Bush said he’s “hopeful” a majority of supervisors will favor strict ethics rules of the sort he’d prefer — but less hopeful that these rules will be approved by the eight supervisors required to overrule a mayoral veto.