Executive Director’s Report – December 10, 2020

Date: December 10, 2020
To: Members of the Ethics Commission
From: LeeAnn Pelham, Executive Director
Subject: Agenda Item 10 – Executive Director’s Report for December 2020

Summary

This report provides various programmatic and operational highlights since the last Executive Director’s Report.

Action Requested

No action is required by the Commission, as this item is for informational purposes only.

Public Financing Program

Under City law, the last day for candidates to submit requests for public financing for the November 2020 election was December 3. As of December 9, the 16 Supervisorial candidates who received public financing in their campaigns together qualified to receive $3.45 million in public funds. As you know, candidates’ public financing disbursements can be viewed on the Commission’s campaign finance dashboards, which were highlighted on the homepage of our website through the month of November. With the public financing review and disbursement process now complete for the 2020 election, eight of the 16 participating candidates, or 50 percent, reached the maximum amounts of public financing under the law for their races. Another three candidates qualified to receive more than 90 percent of the maximum allowed amounts, while two more qualified to receive more than 70 percent of the maximum amounts.

As reported last month, in the four weeks prior to the November 3 election, roughly $1.1 million in reported third-party spending in these Supervisorial races triggered the lifting of spending limits for 14 of the 16 publicly financed candidates in four Supervisorial districts. Just over half of the third-party spending was made in opposition to a candidate, with just under one half made to support a candidate.

As is the case after every election in which candidates receive public funds, Commission staff will issue a report on the public financing system. In addition, the committees of all candidates that receive public funds are required to be audited by the Commission. That analysis and initiation of these mandatory audits are scheduled for this spring following the filing of candidates’ year-end campaign disclosure reports for the 2020 election, which are due on January 31, 2021.

Legislative Matters

The Board of Supervisors Government Audit and Oversight Committee met on November 19 and, in part, discussed the BLA 2020 performance audit of the Ethics Commission that was issued on August 10, 2020 under Committee Agenda Item 10 (BOS File No. 201158). The Committee heard a presentation by the BLA on the audit findings and recommendations, and I was present to provide a brief presentation to the Committee and to answer questions. No public comment on the item was received and the Committee took action to File the Item.

As detailed in our departmental response that was included in the August report, our office is in full agreement with the report’s recommendations and is continuing to implement them as outlined in our written response.  A status report on progress through December 31 of this year will be provided at the Commission’s January monthly meeting.

Separately, the meet and confer process for the City’s biennial review of its Form 700 filer lists was completed on Monday December 7th. The ordinance will be considered at the Rules Committee on Monday December 14th. If the Rules Committee positively recommends the ordinance to the Board of Supervisors, the full Board will need to consider the ordinance at two Board meetings. The ordinance will likely become effective in January 2021.

There are no legislative updates on the behested payment ordinance sponsored by Supervisors Haney and Peskin. The Commission voted unanimously at its last meeting to support the ordinance, subject to amendments that would apply it to all City officers and all employees who file the Form 700 and to expend the set of persons who constitute interested parties. Since the last Commission meeting, Staff has met with aides from other Supervisors’ offices to discuss the ordinance with them and to seek support. But the ordinance has not yet been scheduled for a hearing at the Rules Committee.

Hiring Plan Update

I am very happy to report that over the past month we made significant progress on our FY21 Hiring Plan.

We have now placed detailed position announcements on our updated Jobs webpage. Recruitments are now underway to broadly share these announcements and applications to join our Staff team are now being accepted. Each position announcement includes a direct link to the Department of Human Resources online job portal where all applications and requested documents must be submitted to be considered. Applications for the posted positions are due by January 8, 2021, and we anticipate scheduling interviews beginning soon thereafter.

New Campaign Finance Search and Data Visualization Tool on the City’s Open Data Portal

In the lead up to the November 3, 2020 election, staff collaborated with colleagues at DataSF to release a new campaign finance search and data visualization tool that is integrated into the City’s open data portal. This tool allows the public to visually explore contributions to candidate and ballot measure campaigns in San Francisco using an intuitive and easy to use interface. Via the internet, anyone can use the tool to search candidate and ballot measure names and see aggregated contributions, top contributors, fundraising totals, a map view of contribution locations, and a graph of fundraising totals over time. This new application is made possible because the Commission maintains campaign finance disclosure records as open data on the City’s open data portal.  The new campaign finance search tool on the open data portal is available at data.sfgov.org/campaign_finance.  More information about the application can be found on the DataSF blog.  Tyler Field will be on hand to briefly demonstrate the application during this agenda item at the December meeting.

Revenues Report

The table below shows the revenues received by the Commission during the fiscal year that began on July 1, 2020, as of December 9, 2020.

Summary of FY20-21 Revenues

FY 20-21 Budgeted AmountFY 20-21 Receipts as of December 9, 2020
Lobbyist Registration Fees$85,000$12,500
Lobbyists Fines$2,000$1,000
Campaign Consultants Fees$7,000$4,100
Contact Lobbyist and Other$2,450$0
Statement of Economic Interests Filings-Late Fees$1,250$850
Campaign Consultant Fines$2,000$0
Campaign Finance Fines (includes late fees and forfeitures)$50,000$9,275
Ethics, Other/ Administrative Fines Levied by the Commission$7,500$3,025
Major Developer Fee$0$500
Total$157,200$31,250

I look forward to answering any questions or providing further information at the upcoming Commission meeting.

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