Chairperson Mary Jung of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, a highly influential political body that governs the San Francisco Democratic Party, has come under fire for “misuse of funds” after authorizing the use of DCCC dollars to make calls to voters just before the June 3 election.
The funds in question, according to DCCC members who raised concerns, came out of a $25,000 check from billionaire venture capital investor Ron Conway, received by the DCCC May 30.
In a June 16 letter – signed by DCCC members Kelly Dwyer, Hene Kelly, Sup. Eric Mar, Sup. David Campos, Sup. John Avalos and Petra DeJesus – Jung is taken to task for directing $11,674.48 from this donation be used for phone calls placed to voters in opposition to Proposition B, which appeared on the June 3 ballot, just before the election.
As previously reported, a complainant cried foul on this action in a filing with the San Francisco Ethics Commission, because callers seemed to be intentionally misleading voters by implying that the No Wall on the Waterfront Campaign, which backed the measure, was opposed to it.
When we phoned Jung for comment on that complaint, she said she did not have the call script and could not comment on the charge that the calls were misleading. She also said Conway’s contribution was not necessarily put toward the No on B calls. Instead, she told us, she could not link any single donation with any single expenditure, because the DCCC had been conducting broad fundraising efforts leading up to the election.
In their letter to Jung, the dissenting DCCC members argued that her decision to authorize the use of funds for the No on B voter calls violated the organization’s bylaws, because “there was never a vote by the members to expend $11,674.48 to make calls for No on B.”
The letter points to an article within the board’s bylaws, stating that “Disbursements of SFDCCC funds … shall be authorized by a majority vote of the voting members present and voting at a regular meeting.”
In the end, San Francisco voters overwhelmingly approved Prop. B, which requires voter approval before building heights may be increased above established limits for new waterfront development projects. However, the measure was not popular among real-estate development interests.
In addition to being chair of the DCCC, Jung is employed as a paid lobbyist for the San Francisco Association of Realtors, making her professionally positioned at the center of the San Francisco real-estate community.
“The power that comes with being the Chair does not mean that you can circumvent Bylaws and advocate and raise money for causes that you happen to also work for,” the authors of the letter stated bluntly. “There is a serious conflict of interest here.”
When the Bay Guardian phoned the DCCC to ask if there was an expert on the organization’s bylaws who might be able to comment on whether the rules had been violated, we were directed to Arlo Hale Smith, a 30-year DCCC member and parliamentarian with a deep understanding of the bylaws.
Smith offered an interesting twist on the matter: He said these funds were indeed “properly expended, under the emergency provision.”
The emergency provision? Yes, Smith explained, the DCCC bylaws contain a provision allowing the DCCC chair and treasurer to authorize the use of funds without first calling a vote, “in the event of an emergency.” This provision has been used in the past, he said, to authorize last-minute expenditures when an election imposes a tight deadline.
Since the money arrived three days before the election, there was no time to call a meeting and vote on it, Smith clarified. That’s why it was perfectly legitimate for Jung to authorize the use of funds. He added that disagreement over the content of the calls warranted a separate conversation.
“Because of when the check arrived – it constituted an emergency,” Smith noted, confirming that he was talking about the check from Conway.
That would be the same check from Conway that Jung told us had nothing to do with the No on B calls.
Sounds like the DCCC is going to have lots to talk about on June 25, when the members who submitted the letter asked for a hearing on this matter.
Here’s the full text of the letter.