San Francisco has long been on the front lines of advancing campaign finance reforms. The city boasts an impressive public financing program, and has been recognized as a leader for its disclosure requirements. Still, outside money has poured into local elections at increasing rates since the federal appeals court decision, SpeechNow v. FEC, opened the floodgates for unlimited contributions to super PACs. Further, the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC opened a dangerous loophole that allows foreign governments and nationals to funnel money through corporate holdings to influence U.S. elections. On July 31, Free Speech For People and a number of civic leaders in San Francisco filed a proposal with the Ethics Commission to address both of these issues.
Big money has been causing big rifts in San Francisco political circles in recent years. In 2015, spending on San Francisco’s local elections reached a record high, and the 2016 and 2018 election cycles broke spending records yet again. The vast amounts being spent by tech companies raised concerns about what exactly they expected in return for their investment. Without a doubt, this is a national problem, but local political will and innovation can provide solutions even as federal lawmakers turn a blind eye.
The proposal is modeled on a groundbreaking ordinance passed by the City of St. Petersburg in 2017. It would work alongside existing San Francisco campaign finance laws to enhance the effectiveness of the public financing program. There are two key components to the proposal: (1) a limit on contributions to super PACs, and (2) a ban on spending in local elections by foreign-influenced corporations and foreign nationals.
To learn more about the details, review the proposal here.