Big bucks are flowing into March campaigns, but the clear leader—raking in over $1 million so far—is Proposition E, which would give San Francisco police more leeway in vehicle pursuits and surveillance technology.
Groups supporting Prop. E have raised $1.01 million to help pass the measure as of Sunday, according to the San Francisco Ethics Commission, making it the most expensive ballot measure in the March 5 election so far. A committee opposing Prop. E has raised $100,000.
Put on the ballot by Mayor London Breed, Prop. E would allow law enforcement to deploy security cameras and license plate readers, use drones to monitor specific crimes and make it easier for officers to chase suspects. The measure would also require the Police Commission, which oversees the police department, to gather community feedback when proposing new policies and consider how time-consuming its rules are for officers.
The measure is intended to empower police, and it’s attracted high-profile support from tech titans such as Ripple chairman Chris Larsen, who gave $250,000 to Breed’s committee supporting Prop. E. Other notable contributions include $100,000 from SV Angel founder Ron Conway and $50,000 from venture capitalist Jeremy Liew. Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear gave an additional $49,000 to the moderate political committee GrowSF to help promote Prop. E.
In a December interview, Larsen told The Standard that he’s supporting Prop. E because the police department should be allowed to leverage new tools in the face of a staffing shortage.
“The Police Commission has unfortunately not been very constructive when it comes to this balance between reform and public safety,” Larsen said. “There’s a little too much performative things going on there, and I think that’s a problem.”
Prop. E’s main opponent is the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which organized and contributed $100,000 to a committee to defeat the measure. The civil liberties group argues that Prop. E would roll back hard-won police reforms and weaken oversight of the San Francisco Police Department.
“It is a rash attempt to exploit voters’ frustrations with crime to distract from an unpopular mayor’s record and hand more power to the SFPD,” the group said on its website.
Daniel Lurie, a nonprofit founder who’s challenging Breed for mayor, also organized a committee supporting the measure.
Breed Opponent Lines Up Behind Prop. E
Setting up a committee allows Lurie—a prolific fundraiser and heir to the Levi Strauss fortune—to raise unlimited funds to support Prop. E while boosting his name recognition and casting himself as a champion of public safety. As long as he doesn’t explicitly mention he’s running for mayor in any ads, that’s all fair game.
In less than a week, Lurie’s committee has gotten a healthy haul. Donations include $250,000 from his brother, Ari Lurie, an artist; $50,000 from investor Jonathan Adam Gans; $100,000 from philanthropist Catherine Schwab Paige, and $50,000 from Alison Gelb Pincus, founder of the home decor website One Kings Lane.
While Prop. E may be the costliest March race so far, proponents of other measures have raised amounts well into the six figures.
Prop. B, which would urge the city to boost public safety staffing—contingent on a tax or other new funding—has support totaling $610,000, largely from labor unions. The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21 gave $200,000 to back Prop. B, while Service Employees International Union Local 1021 gave $400,000.
Prop. F, also proposed by Breed, would tie county welfare benefits to drug screening for some recipients. Proponents of that measure have raised $286,000, including $100,000 from Larsen, according to campaign filings. Larsen contributed another $150,000 to GrowSF to help promote Prop. F, according to a campaign spokesperson.
Prop. A, a $300 million affordable housing bond, has $335,000 from supporters, according to an Ethics Commission dashboard. Prop. C, which would waive the tax on transferring properties from office to residential uses, has $58,000 in funding.
Prop. D, which would tweak local ethics laws, has attracted just $2,300 from supporters. Proponents of Prop. G, which would urge the San Francisco Unified School District to reinstate middle school algebra, have raised $28,000.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated with additional details of donations in support of Prop. E and Prop. F.