San Francisco, CA

San Francisco Board of Supervisors vote to support AB 20, ban corporate contributions to candidates statewide

Built in the Bay

(Thomas Lohnes / Getty Images)

By Ian Firstenberg

(SAN FRANCISCO) San Francisco's Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to support a resolution introduced by Supervisor Dean Preston, authored by Daybreak PAC Executive Director Jackie Fielder that would support Assembly Bill 20, which would prohibit a candidate from receiving a contribution from a business entity.

The revolutionary resolution would put California with 22 other states that have already imposed bans on corporate contributions to candidates campaigning for elected office and San Francisco has passed a similar ordinance locally.

During a press conference Tuesday, Fielder astutely brought up that in her 2020 challenge of incumbent State Senator Scott Wiener, she was able to raise over $700,000 dollars. Contrastly, Fielder noted that Uber, Lyft and other similar gig-worker supported companies spend over $200 million dollars in support of Prop 22.

Assmeblymember Alex Lee (D-25), who brought forward the bill in his first day in office, noted that this bill would actually bring California in accordance with federal law regarding corporate donations to political candidates.

"This is not a pancea," Lee said while noting that this step will help more grassroots candidates get involved.

Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-27) noted that he looks towards San Francisco as an example of what is possible.

"We know the status quo isn't working ... everytime we try to do somethign we get such feriocious push back. The reality is that each individual should have a say in the election process. This bill is in alignment with what we need to do as a nation," Kalra said.

Kalra brought up an astute point often brought up by smaller candidates that they are wary of giving up one source of funding if another potential candidate won't do so. This bill would help remove corporate controls from local and state elections.

"We know that corpoations exist to make a profit. Let's remove that from the legislative process," Kalra said.

Supervisor Preston and Supervisor Hillary Ronen spoke excitedly about the opportunities this resolution could support during Tuesday's press conference.

Preston noted that while San Francisco has been able to limit corporate donations to political campaign, that sentiment is much less universal in Sacramento.

"...That's not the case in Sacramento where it's far more controversial to push back against corporate interests," said Preston regarding the differences between representation at the local and state level ... Folks who run for state office have a different set of rules," Preston said.

Preston astutely pointed out that the money spent by corporations in California elections reflects a grim trend in national politics.

"This kind of money has real world consequences and it has no place in state elections," said Preston.

Supervisor Ronen noted the incredible power that corporate interests hold over elections locally, regionally and federally

"We all know that coporations get away with everything in this society," said Ronen, highlighting federal bailouts for banks and miniscule tax margins for corporate giants as examples of why AB 20 is so critical.

Supervisor Matt Haney also spoke on Tuesday, echoing many of the sentiments from other legislators, adding that so much of the political reality of California and of this country are dictated by corporate interests.

"It doesn't work at any level. It doesn't work when it comes to housing, worker protections, labor laws," Haney said.

Haney crucially pointed out that while the local resolution has been influential, to seriously combat corporate finance in politics requires attacking corporate funding at all levels.

Notably, local legislators Assemblymember David Chiu (D-17), State Senator Scott Wiener (D-11) and Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-19) have not authored support for AB 20.

Daybreak PAC is a corporate-free political action committee dedicated to electing corporate-free candidates to the California Legislature launched in 2021 by Indigenous organizer Jackie Fielder.

The Daybreak PAC has already done enormous organizing work for San Francisco's most vulnerable population, helping to identify nearly 400 seniors in Hunters Point in need of vaccinations through their phone banks.

"About 22% of people we speak with still need support accessing a vaccine," Fielder said. "For those facing complex barriers, we've been able to connect them to dedicated case management through their District Supervisor."

More than that, the PAC is immediately offering Californians a political option beyond the standard corporate water-carriers. Recently, the Daybreak PAC backed Fatima Iqbal-Zubair for Assembly.

This resolution follows a trend by grassroots organizers in the City of pushing back against the gargantuan corporate interests that often dominate politics in San Francisco and many other metropolitan areas. It offers a small respite from the political machine in California and provides working people with an opportunity to engage politically in a revolutionary way. While this resolution is just a step, it's a step that serves as a building block for more local candidates to get into political races in their neighborhoods.

On Tuesday, Representative Pramila Jayapal introduced a constitutional amendment to reverse corporate personhood.

Supervisor Preston noted that both of these resolutions reflect the broad sentiment by working people that corporations should not be donating directly to candidates.

"Corporations have a role in our society, but donating directly to political campaigns shouldn't be one of them," Preston said.

Granted, it is an uphill battle. Corporations like Wells Fargo, Alphabet and Amazon spend hundreds of millions of dollars in California elections every cycle because they understand that invesment will offer them hefty returns. This resolution and Daybreak PAC offer the workers of California a chance to take investment into their own hands and reap the rewards for themselves.

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