October 19, 2004


Update: DCCC’s Slategate


By Savannah Blackwell, SFProgressive.com Editor


The saga over the local Democratic County Central Committee’s slate mailer continues -- with the Oct. 17 special meeting of the group called off on technical grounds, and one candidate threatening to sue if a new mailer is not printed.


The meeting, held Sunday on the sidewalk outside the offices of the state Democratic Party, took place as a result of 10 members’ request. The agenda called for discussion of the series of events that led to the issuance of a card that does not treat each endorsed candidate in the supervisorial races equally as the DCCC’s chair had initially promised, where the 165,000 cards are located, how they will be paid for, and to which voters they will be sent.


The matter has become one of considerable controversy, with one faction of the DCCC accusing the organization’s chair, Leslie Katz, of pulling a fast one with consultant Jim Rivaldo to benefit his clients’ interests. (Those DCCC members say they are upset the DCCC’s official procedures were not followed. Specifically, they have expressed concerned that the contract to produce the card was awarded without the consultation of a special slate card committee assigned to oversee all aspects of the card’s production to a consultant with other clients in the current election. They are also upset that the card’s design ended up benefiting those consultant’s friends and clients at the expense of other candidates and campaigns. (see DCCC:Doing it Dirty?)


The other faction, largely loyal to the DCCC’s endorsed candidates who the group ranked first and whose campaigns got better play on the cards -- is charging the first with holding up distribution of the card.


In addition, some candidates ranked second and third by the DCCC are also crying foul.


The special meeting designed to hash out the issue did not end up taking place, because a majority of the members present supported a motion offered by Michael Goldstein, the head of the Harvey Milk Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Democratic Club, to disband based on the grounds that notice of meeting did not comply with the DCCC’s provisions governing such proceedings.


Apparently, the notice failed to mention the names of the 10 who called for the meeting.


The committee voted 14 to 12 in favor of Goldstein’s motion – though amusingly, that did not stop Goldstein from complaining that those against it were still the ones at fault for holding up the slate card. The Milk Club has recommended Haaland for District Five supervisor.


At issue is whether there’s enough money to cover the cost of printing and mailing the card. According to records made available by DCCC staffer Melanie Nutter, the group is some $4,300 shy of soliciting (from various campaigns listed on the card) the $45,000 necessary to pay for the job.


Another meeting on the matter is planned.


Meanwhile, one candidate running for supervisor – union activist Pat Lakey, who is the DCCC’s second-ranked choice for District Seven supervisor – says what’s happened is “low down” and “dirty” and has threatened to sue if new mailers are not printed and distributed.


Lakey told the SF Progressive that Katz (who is in China) had assured him that all campaigns – regardless of whether they were chosen number one, two or three by the DCCC -- would receive equal treatment on the card, including a picture of each candidate.


He also said the amount his campaign paid for inclusion on the card was based on that agreement.


“I talked to (Katz), and she told me, `$1,500 divided between the two of you.’ I specifically asked her and she specifically told me I would get my picture and name – and all in the same type set (as that of incumbent Sean Elsbernd, the DCCC’s first ranked choice in that race),” Lakey told us. “So I went to the DCCC and gave them a check. Next thing I know, I get the mailer in the mail. I’m looking for myself. I don’t even notice the tiny writing, ‘look on back’ (for mention of the organization’s other choices in the supervisors’ races). Then I turned it over and did see my name in small print. It’s totally insulting.”

Committee member Catherine Dowd has sent an e-mail to other members suggesting the club print another round of cards just for voters residing in the three districts where the DCCC chose more than one candidate: one, five and seven.


The idea would be that this card would give “equal treatment” to each endorsed candidate regardless of rank and would also explain the instant-runoff-voting process to voters, committee member Bill Barnes told the SF Progressive.


Barnes, who is the DCCC’s third-ranked choice for District Five supervisor, says he won’t be satisfied, however, until committee member Robert Haaland, who is the DCCC’s first-ranked choice for the seat, “turns his cards back in.”


At issue is the fact that Haaland’s campaign got possession of the cards and was able to distribute at least some before the flap over award of the consulting work on the card and its design could be resolved and before the committee had taken care of the bill.

Committee Tom Hsieh, Jr. told the SF Progressive on Oct. 17 that he had found 10,000 slate cards in Haaland’s headquarters. Rivaldo, who got the contract to produce the card, is also working on Haaland’s campaign. Hsieh, Jr. said he considered the cards to be “stolen property.”


Hsieh, Jr., who is a member of the DCCC’s slate card committee, said that he’s learned that 50,000 mailers have already been sent to absentee voters.


Andrew Sullivan, another candidate running for District Five Supervisor, said he received one of the mailers at an Oct. 13 forum.


  “I was handed a mailer on Wednesday," said Sullivan, who recently received the endorsement of Mayor Gavin Newsom. "I thought that was very interesting given I thought that all this was on hold."


I've included below an email exchange between District Five candidate Dan Kalb, who is the DCCC’s second-ranked choice in that race, and Katz over the matter of how each candidacy would get treated on the card.


Check out previous stories on DCCC corruption I wrote for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. (The Party's OverS.F.: Small Steps Toward ReformStruggle Begins at DCCC and The Party Rages On)

E-mail Savannah Blackwell at savannah.blackwell@gmail.com

Date: Tue, 12 Oct 2004 12:00:27 -0700
Subject: FW: SF Democratic Party Slate Card
From: Dan Kalb 

I've been hearing rumors from a couple DCCC members about the DCCC slate card and I wanted to check in with you regarding the design, etc. Below is a string of e-mails between Leslie and me that indicates a change in the design of card. I'm sending you this e-message because I was told that Leslie is out of the country.

I obviously don't have any say in this matter and, of course, I do have a self-interest here; but it appears that the slate card design process was changed rather suddenly.

Regarding the specific design, I would suggest that at a minimum, both sides of the slate mailer should list all three ranked candidates. Also, if only the top choice candidate gets a photo, that candidate should pay substantially more than the 2nd and 3rd choice candidates.

Anyway, I just thought I would call your attention to this matter to make sure someone on the DCCC is guiding the process.

All my best,

From: Dan Kalb 
Date: Tue, 12 Oct 2004 11:11:40 -0700
To: leslie katz 
Subject: Re: SF Democratic Party Slate Card

Hi Leslie,

Thanks for the update. 
Actually, my previous e-message was not a 'suggestion' per se--only a description of what I had thought was already decided upon by you all. 
I don't have a strong preference and I certainly respect whatever decision you make. I just want to make sure that the money raised is genuinely proportional to the placement/design of the card if the 1st choice candidates are getting significantly more 'play'. 
I'm fine if you decide to list all of us with the same font style and size, listing 1,2,3, as you indicated in your first message.

Thanks again,

From: leslie katz 
Date: Mon, 11 Oct 2004 11:30:09 -0700 (PDT)
To: Dan Kalb , melnut@earthlink.net
Subject: Re: SF Democratic Party Slate Card

Actually, we ended up taking your suggestion and accordingly are accepting larger contributions from the 1st ranked choice. We may do a doorhanger that will have the other pictures if we raise any additional funds that allow us to do so.

Dan Kalb wrote: 
Hi Leslie-

I understand what you've decided regarding listing all ranked candidates with the same size font (without any photos--or maybe all choices with photos). If that's the case, I will contribute my fair share. Please let me know what you ultimately decide. Obviously, I would expect all districts to appear in the same manner.

Thanks, -Dan

DAN KALB for Supervisor 5
912 Cole Street, #252
San Francisco, CA 94117


From: leslie katz 
Subject: Re: SF Democratic Party Slate Card

All three are going to be in the same type, no picture, etc. In reality, that helps a second ranked candidate. We debated over this and this seemed to be most fair. If you would prefer that we highlight Robert, utilize a picture only for him, and reduce the size of your name and do this only in district 5 we can explore that but I would posit that this seemed the fairest approach to the endorsement. Please advise asap as to how you wish to proceed.


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