San Francisco ethics officials are set to probe Jane Kim’s campaign for supervisor after an independent expenditure committee with apparent ties to her retained consultant, Left Coast Communications, sent leaflets to residents on Kim’s behalf, an apparent breach of campaign regulations.
This week, leaflets produced by the political organization “New Day for SF” — featuring photos of Kim and information about her background and campaign platform — began to arrive at homes in District 6, where Kim is a leading candidate in one of the most hotly contested races in the city. Her campaign is directed by Left Coast Communications, a company headed by local consultant Enrique Pearce.
According to disclosure forms covering the period July 1 to Sept. 30 filed this month and reviewed by The Bay Citizen, “New Day for SF,” a general-purpose committee, specifies Brent Robinson, a student at the University of San Francisco, as its treasurer and only officer. Robinson’s listed phone number matches the front desk number at Left Coast Communications and he provided an e-mail address under the company's Internet domain.
The leading donor to the committee, which has raised a total of $9,200, is “Willie Brown” of San Francisco, who contributed $5,000, the documents show.
Under campaign regulations at the federal, state and local levels, candidates’ campaigns are prohibited from coordinating political activity with independent expenditure committees, which — unlike political campaigns — are not limited in how much money they can receive from donors and spend on a candidate's cause.
Kim said Thursday that she believed Robinson had interned with the campaign over the summer but added that she did not know whether or not he was ever employed by Left Coast Communications.
When contacted by The Bay Citizen, Pearce, the principal of Left Coast Communications, said that his company had broken off communications with Robinson.
Pearce said he had “just learned today of this mailer piece, so I don’t know what’s going on.”
“When it became clear that Jane Kim was going to be somebody that New Day was going to be supporting, our office severed ties with New Day,” Pearce said.
John St. Croix, the head of the city’s Ethics Commission, said the circumstances appeared to warrant an investigation but could not offer further comment. City officials are not allowed to comment on specific cases under investigation.
The “New Day for SF” mailer also appeared to break other disclosure rules, such as failing to specify the total cost of the mailer, as is required by local regulations.
“Whenever a third party makes an independent expenditure for candidates, there are certain requirements for disclosure, and one of them is the cost of the mailing,” said Shaista Shaikh, an assistant deputy director of the city's Ethics Commission.
According to New Day’s disclosure forms over the last quarter, the committee’s expenditures included payments totaling $8,000 to Sara Powell of San Francisco for “field work.” Expenses that were as of yet unpaid by the campaign included a $1,000 bill for pamphlet designers in Brooklyn, N.Y., and a $744.60 bill for printing services by Spotlight Design and Printing in San Francisco.