‘Recall Chesa’ Campaign Hit With Ethics Complaint Over Alleged Ad Violations

20 JANUARY 2022/SF POLITICS/JOE KUKURA (SFist.com)

The Recall Chesa Boudin campaign’s $16,000-a-month spokesperson is the only person who appears in their latest glossy mailer, and the local Democratic party has filed a complaint that this is a campaign violation.

SFist found it a little odd last November when the Recall Chesa Boudin campaign put out a television ad that primarily featured its own campaign staff. In particular, the ad’s primary speaking role went to an Andrea Shorter, whom SF Ethics Commission filings show the recall campaign is paying $16,000 a month (!) to act as its “spokesperson.” The ad did not disclose that Shorter is a paid campaign staffer.

48 Hills noticed something similar when the recall campaign’s most recent glossy mailer (seen below) featured Shorter very, very prominently, but describing her as “victims’ rights advocate” rather than “person being paid $16,000 a month to do this.” And now the local Democratic party is crying foul, as the Chronicle reports they’ve filed an ethics complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission, noting that the law is clear that paid staff have to be disclosed as such on political advertisements.  

Image: Safer SF Without Boudin

Looking at the flyer, we see Shorter along with the quote “I have fought for criminal justice reform and victims’ rights in San Francisco for over 20 years,” and “Chesa Boudin’s refusal to do his job is devastating our city.” Shorter is described in the ad as “victims’ rights advocate” and “a fighter for San Francisco women for over 20 years,” and it is not acknowledged she is being paid beaucoup bucks by the campaign.

State campaign law requires that paid campaign ads “shall include a disclosure statement stating “(spokesperson’s name) is being paid by this campaign or its donors” in “highly visible font shown continuously if the advertisement consists of printed or televised material.”  

Screenshot: Safer SF Without Boudin TV ad

“Here in California, we have really strong rules for transparency and campaign advertising rules that are supported by our local Democratic Party,” said Keith Baraka, second vice chair of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee that filed the complaint, in an interview with The Chronicle. “By breaking these rules, the recall committee is showing they have little respect for fair elections or for the voters.”

According to the Chronicle, “Any violation of the Political Reform Act can carry a penalty of up to $5,000 per violation.” That’s frankly not much of a deterrent to a recall campaign that’s raised nearly $1.5 million. The recall campaign’s website still lists Shorter as “Advocate & Community Leader,” so it’s not like they’re furiously covering their tracks on this.

Image: Safer SF Without Boudin

But this is political malpractice to make your paid campaign spokesperson so prominent in the advertisement. Above we see an entire page of that four-page ad is devoted entirely to proclaiming the accomplishments of one Andrea Shorter. She’s previously served on a London Breed Super PAC in the 2018 mayoral campaign, and had been dinged for failing to report income as required by law while serving on the city’s city’s Commission on the Status of Women.

It’s going to be awkward going forward for the recall campaign to describe themselves as a Democratic-led effort when the local Democratic party has filed state ethics charges against them. But it’s even more awkward for them to use “Uphold the law” and “No consequences” language when they’ve now apparently broken the law.

Related: Washington Post Calls Out ‘Inaccurate’ Reporting by Chesa Boudin’s Local Media Critics [SFist]

Images: Safer SF Without Boudin

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