A new dark-money group with GOP support seeks to raise crime fears

A misleading mailer attacking the record of DA Chesa Boudin hits the streets—but who paid for it?

By TIM REDMOND SEPTEMBER 22, 2021 (48hills.org)

A new dark-money organization is sending out mailers that seem to encourage people to support the recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin—but it’s not part of any formal campaign and it’s impossible to figure out who is funding it.

The group is called Stop Crime Action, and its mailer went out across the city last week. I didn’t get one, and most of my progressive friends in Bernal Heights didn’t either; we are apparently not the targeted audience.

But those who got the mailers saw an image of what looks like a broken car window and a message that says “crimes are rising in our neighborhoods.”

It lists (misleading) data on the rise in crimes in the city:

So I went to the site that the mailer uses as its source. You can do the same thing, too. It’s right here.

Over the past eight months, the data shows, rape is down, 13.5 percent. (And, under Boudin, rape prosecutions are up.) Robbery is down, 7.0 percent. Arson is indeed up, 6.1 percent – but there’s not a whole lot of arson in San Francisco. The numbers went from 231 to 245, which means 14 more instances.

Yes, murder is up in San Francisco. It’s also up across the country, and across California. But in fact, the increase has been much lower in San Francisco than in most other big cities in the state—and much lower than communities with tough-on-crime prosecutors.

This stuff is, in fact, the new normal: The local news media, particularly the Chron and the TV stations, have consistently run factually inaccurate, biased stories about Boudin’s record.

The interesting element of this is that the mailer was produced by a group called StopCrimeAction, which has a fairly rudimentary website that talks about a mission to “educate the public about crime and what is being done to address it” and “organize residents to engage elected officials.”

But records on file with the Secretary of State show that the group has only been around since July 9. It’s filed as a public benefit corporation (which means it’s a nonprofit, but contributions are not tax exempt since it’s involved in political campaigns).

There are three named officers: Frank Noto, Thomas Ostly, and Marie Hurabielle.

Noto is a political consultant who says he specializes in “overcoming NIMBY opposition” to real-estate development. He was a big supporter of Nancy Tung for DA. He’s the one running the organization.

Hurabielle is a Trump appointee to the Presidio Trust who ran for City College Board in 2020. She is also, according to data on file with the Federal Elections Commission, a donor to national and statewide Republican campaigns.

Thomas Ostly was a prosecutor in the DA’s Office until Boudin took over. He’s a big supporter of surveillance cameras in the Castro.

So here’s where it gets interesting.

Since this is a 501 c 4 nonprofit, it is under no obligation to release its donor list. This is how dark-money groups get around campaign-finance laws.

I asked Noto if the organization was supporting the Boudin recall. He told me:

“We are not taking a position on either of the Boudin recalls.”

But the mailer clearly parrots recall-campaign talking points. And it the group isn’t working with the recall folks, it’s not at all clear to me why it exists and what it’s doing. Why put out that mailer if there’s no political point to it?

I asked Noto who paid for the mailer, and he said: “Stop Crime Action paid for the mailer.”

Yes, I get that. But who are the donors to Stop Crime Action?

He has declined to answer that question.

So what we have here is yet another unaccountable dark-money group playing in the often-GOP-led world of attacking the record of an elected progressive prosecutor in this era of recall madness. Why should I be surprised?

Tim Redmond Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

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