Press Release – Public Announcement of Enforcement Action: Ethics Commission Fines Three Committees for Campaign Ad Disclaimer Violations During Local Elections
Date: September 26, 2017
Contact: Jessica Blome (415) 252-3100
For Immediate Release
The San Francisco Ethics Commission has fined three committees for their failure to provide full disclaimers on campaign literature as required by City law. In matters settled during the Commission’s September 25, 2017, regular meeting, the Commission has fined two primarily formed ballot measure committees, Affordable San Francisco for All, Yes on Proposition C, an affordable housing coalition sponsored by Yerba Buena Consortium and Great Schools for All with major funding from Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, LLC, Parents and Teachers, Yes on A for disclaimer violations during the 2016 election. The Commission has also fined the Rafael Mandelman for Supervisor 2018 Primary and Rafael Mandelman for Supervisor 2018 General committees for a disclaimer violation related to the upcoming 2018 elections.
Affordable San Francisco for All, Yes on Proposition C, an affordable housing coalition sponsored by Yerba Buena Consortium agreed to pay $500 for one violation of section 1.161 of the City’s Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance (“CRFO”). As detailed in a Stipulation, Decision, and Order, the committee failed to include the names of their top two donors of $20,000 or more on a campaign advertisement distributed during the 2016 election as required by City law.
In a separate Stipulation, Decision, and Order, Great Schools for All with major funding from Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, LLC, Parents and Teachers, Yes on A agreed to pay $1,000 for two violations of CFRO section 1.161 after the committee failed to disclose the names of their top two donors of $20,000 or more on two separate campaign advertisements also distributed during the 2016 election.
In the final enforcement matter, the Rafael Mandelman for Supervisor 2018 Primary and Rafael Mandelman for Supervisor 2018 General committees agreed to pay a combined fine of $500 for their campaign disclaimer violation of CFRO section 1.161. Due to the unique circumstances of the 2018 election for the District 8 Board of Supervisors, the Ethics Commission had previously advised candidates to form two separate committees for each election—primary and general—with distinct names clearly identifying in which election each committee is operating. In the related campaign advertisement, the full committee name was not listed, resulting in confusion as to which committee had distributed it, and the public was not informed that “Financial disclosures are available at sfethics.org.”
To help provide transparency about campaign fundraising and spending in City races, since 2015 City law has required notice on campaign ads that campaign disclosures are available on the Ethics Commission’s website, sfethics.org. City law also requires that primarily formed ballot measure committees include the names of their top two donors of $20,000 or more on campaign advertisements to provide the public with the names of the largest contributors to these committees.
“Transparency about how campaigns raise and spend money is core to accountable elections,” Ethics Commission Executive Director LeeAnn Pelham said. “Disclaimer requirements for campaign ads help ensure the public’s right to be informed is effective in practice.”
On the Commission’s website, the public can research campaign statements, which reveal who funds campaigns and how campaigns spend their money. In addition, overviews and real-time analyses of campaign data disclosed by committees are available via campaign dashboards that help visualize campaign data for easy reference. The public can also review the guidance offered to candidates for the District 8 Board of Supervisors on the Ethics Commission’s website as well.
Copies of the three stipulations can be obtained on the Ethics Commission’s website or by contacting the Commission at (415) 252-3100.
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The Ethics Commission, established in November 1993, serves the public, City employees and officials, and candidates for public office through education and enforcement of ethics laws, including the assessment of fines through its administrative enforcement authority. Its duties include: filing and auditing of campaign finance disclosure statements, lobbyist and campaign consultant registration and regulation, administration of the public financing program, whistleblower program, conflict of interest reporting, investigations and enforcement, education and training, advice giving and statistical reporting. We invite you to follow our work at www.sfethics.org.