Prominent leaders in the LGBTQ community are speaking out against new televised attack ads against San Francisco Supervisor and State Senate candidate Jane Kim. These false and misleading ads are funded through contributions from special interests including landlords, realtors and charter schools to Equality California Political Action Committee. We respect the work of EQCA to fight for the LGBTQ community, but are disappointed with their engagement in these attacks.
Longtime activist Cleve Jones, former State Senator Carole Migden, former State Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, former San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty and the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club have all weighed in to urge EQCA PAC to stop this attack on a longtime ally of the LGBTQ community. Thank you to all of these community leaders who have spoken out against these corporate-funded attacks.
Read the full text of their letters below:
September 7, 2016
Dear Board Members of Equality California,
We are greatly dismayed by recent actions taken by the Equality California Political Action Committee with regards to State Senate District 11.
As you may know, EQCA endorsed Scott Wiener in this open seat race; we have endorsed his opponent, Jane Kim. Both candidates have similar records on LGBTQ issues but we choose to stand with Jane as she has also been a fierce champion for working families, protecting tenants, building more affordable housing and expanding economic opportunity.
EQCA, of course, has every right to make another choice in this race but the actions of the PAC have gone well beyond EQCA’s traditional activities and have, sadly, delved into the sphere we normally associate with corporate PACs and not esteemed civil rights organizations.
First, EQCA took tens of thousands of dollars in contributions from corporate-backed PACs in the primary, including the California Apartment Association and California Association of Realtors. Notably, EQCA also accepted $70,000 from an organization that styles itself Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy. This group has received funding from the Fox Entertainment Group and Walmart – and its single largest donor this cycle has been Chevron which contributed $100,000 to the organization in 2015 and another $300,000 in 2016 according to publicly accessible records.
This largess from corporate entities is striking enough; it was even more striking when EQCA began running independent expenditure (IE) ads totaling about $250,000 in support of Scott Wiener. For comparison, over the last 12 years, EQCA has only spent about $84,000 on IEs in support of all other candidates combined.
It raised serious questions then that funding from Chevron, Walmart, Fox Entertainment Group, landlords and realtors was flowing into EQCA almost entirely to support Wiener.
Now things have gotten worse.
This week, EQCA began a six-figure ad buy attacking Jane Kim. The merits of the ad do not bear long discussion – the accusations are misleading and wrong. The ad accuses the candidate who passed some of the strongest tenant protects in the nation of being anti-affordable housing; says the person who authored the measure to increase San Francisco’s minimum wage to $15 an hour as against the middle class and claims that she shouldn’t have followed precedent and the city charter in considering the removal of an elected official.
But again, putting aside the substance, the story behind the ad is extremely disturbing. After the June primary, EQCA accepted three donations of $120,000 each from the California Apartments Association, the California Association of Realtors and the California Charter Schools Association Advocates, three groups that could hardly be characterized as progressive.
Is EQCA allowing itself to become a back channel for corporate special interests to promote their favored candidates? We should hope not but the facts are what they are.
We strongly respect EQCA, its historic mission and its Board Members and we believe these recent actions are not sanctioned by the Board. We support activities to promote LGBTQ equality and fully support EQCA’s efforts in this area. We hope that EQCA will abandon its attacks on a strong progressive ally and these corporate contributions and return to its primary mission of working towards “full and lasting equality, acceptance, and social justice for all people in our diverse LGBT communities, inside and outside of California.”
Former State Senator Carole Migden
Former Assemblymember Tom Ammiano
San Francisco Supervisor David Campos
Former San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty
Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club Executive Board
An Open Letter from Cleve Jones
September 6, 2016
To the Board and Leadership of Equality California,
We awake this morning to the shameful specter of Equality California taking special interest money from some of the most-right wing elements of California politics in order to launch a television attack on a progressive Democrat.
What is happening here?
To those Board Members who are not aware of what your staff is doing, here are the facts.
In the past few months EQCA PAC has received major contributions from conservative groups such as the California Association of Realtors, the California Apartment Association and the Charter Schools Association Advocates. These contributions represent 100% percent of the total reported receipts between the primary and June 30 (the filing deadline for the last public reports.)
In fact, each of these organizations gave EQCA an astonishing $120,000 – that we know of. Contributions received after June 30 have not yet been reported and these six-figure donations are likely just the beginning.
EQCA, an organization that ostensibly is working to “create a fair and just society,” is instead spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to attack Jane Kim, a candidate for State Senate.
Kim is running against fellow San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener. Wiener is gay and many will say that that’s reason enough for EQCA to support him. But that’s not the full story – not even close.
In the past ten years, EQCA has run only had handful of candidate independent expenditures (IEs). In fact, aside from supporting Wiener in the primary, EQCA had only spent $89,882.12 total – TOTAL – for candidates over the last 12 years. In that time, I’m confident that dozens of LGBT candidates ran for office. In fact, I know of one – David Campos – who ran a highly contested State Assembly race in 2014. He received no IE support from EQCA.
And in this race, we look at Wiener’s record and Kim’s record and see virtually no difference in their support for LGBT equality issues.
But there are major differences – Kim has a clear record standing up for working families, fighting evictions and pushing for more affordable housing. Wiener, to put it mildly, does not.
Is it any wonder realtors, landlords and special interests would back Wiener? He has always backed them.
But they know they can’t form their own IE to support it. It would raise too many questions. So these corporate interests are funneling their cash through EQCA. And a civil rights group becomes the tool of corporate special interests for this blatantly false ad.
The lies in your television ad are so transparent to every San Franciscan that you are not hurting Jane Kim – but you are destroying your own credibility.
To take hundreds of thousands of dollars in landlord money and then to falsely attack the single strongest elected renter advocate is beyond shameful.
To become a front for Sacramento special interests and then attack Jane Kim’s advocacy to lift poor families into the middle class shows how far EQCA has fallen from its mission.
To pretend to be a civil rights organization and then attack Jane Kim for standing up for due process under the law is ethically bankrupt.
Now the televised attack ad on Kim is a new wrinkle but this actually continues a pattern established in the primary. Then, EQCA spent more than $244,000 in support of Wiener – twice as much as they’ve spent in support of all other candidates combined since 2004.
This funding came from a number of sources but one of the biggest players was another so-called independent expenditure group called Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy. Their money comes from such illustrious sources as Chevron, Fox Broadcasting and Walmart (and of course, the California Apartment Association and California Association of Realtors).
In the past few months the corporate candidate in the race for State Senate, Scott Wiener, has repeatedly refused to sign a clean campaign pledge and refused to sign Elizabeth Warren’s People’s Pledge, which would have prevented this program to funnel outside landlord and special interest funds into this race.
EQCA has apparently decided its new mission is to be the friendly face for corporate special interests in California.
You should be ashamed.
To the EQCA Board Members, this is being done in your name. Your reputations, integrity and accomplishments have been touted on EQCA’s website and materials – and they are taking your goodwill to sink into the very worst of our campaign finance swamp, where unlimited amounts of money are used to tarnish someone who has been a steadfast supporter of LGBT rights. But more importantly someone who has dared speak up against the corporate special interests that currently force families from their homes, send housing costs through the roof and make it harder for low- and middle-income Californians to get ahead.
I’m not going to be silent in the face of this corrupt system. When we see these dirty tricks and dark money, we need to speak out. Allowing these activities to continue only emboldens the corporate special interests behind them.
Scott Wiener has let it be known he will support their agenda, so they are supporting him with these baseless attacks on Kim.
But it is utterly amoral to do this in the name of a supposed civil rights group.
And it must end now.
You are destroying a once- proud organization by letting yourself become a puppet for special interests and using their funds to attack our allies.
Please wake up, shake your organization up, and stop this shameful behavior. Stop being the tool of corporate special interests.