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Politics & Policy

Tech money fuels effort to defeat Democratic Socialist Supervisor Dean Preston

Chris Larsen, Dean Preston and Garry Tan
A committee nicknamed the “Dump Dean PAC” raised almost $300,000 last year to oust San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston, middle. Top funders include Ripple co-founder Chris Larsen, left, and Y Combinator CEO Garry Tan, right. | Paul Kuroda for The Standard | Source: The Standard ; Courtesy Photo

A political committee designed with the sole purpose of removing progressive San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston from office raised almost $300,000 last year, with a third of that money coming from crypto billionaire Chris Larsen and under-fire Y Combinator CEO Garry Tan.

Newly filed campaign records show that GrowSF—the moderate political group behind a committee nicknamed the “Dump Dean PAC”—has tapped into San Francisco’s increasingly influential tech scene to oust the supervisor of the Tenderloin, the Haight and other neighborhoods.

Larsen, the founder of cryptocurrency company Ripple, has become the most active political donor in the city, giving $50,000 to GrowSF. Meanwhile, Tan, who has been under intense scrutiny since he posted a tone-deaf tweet last weekend jokingly calling for the death of progressive supervisors, gave the same amount in late July. The tweet by the influential head of the tech accelerator Y Combinator led some elected officials to file police reports and additional death threats were mailed to supervisors’ homes.

Dean Preston
San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston is the target of a committee nicknamed the "Dump Dean PAC," which raised $300,000 last year. I Paul Kuroda for The Standard

Sachin Agarwal and Steven Buss, the co-founders of GrowSF, told The Standard last summer that the committee had hit the $300,000 mark from about 300 donors. Newly released reports, which detail political activity in 2023, confirm that total donations were in that dollar range. The number of donors found in reports was less than half of 300 individuals, according to GrowSF, because contributions under $100 are not required to be listed.

“We’re focused on winning March 5, and then November,” Buss said in a statement Wednesday. “Dean Preston has continued to ignore the needs of his constituents and we’re eager to kick off a campaign for new leadership for the district.”

Other notable contributors to the committee included: $50,000 from Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear, who was listed on campaign forms as a partner at Y Combinator; $50,000 from Jessica Livingston, a co-founder of Y Combinator who was listed as unemployed; $15,300 from Gustaf Alströmer, a group partner of Y Combinator; and $10,005 from Hilary Shirazi, the head of corporate development at Notion.

The Building Owners and Managers Association of San Francisco also gave $20,000, according to filings.

Preston did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

GrowSF’s close connections with Y Cominator is bound to draw scrutiny as the fallout to Tan’s apparently drunken tweet is still unfolding. He deleted the tweet and said it was a bad joke in reference to a 2Pac diss track from the ’90s, but in his apology, he noted that there is “no place, no excuse and no reason for this type of speech and charged language in the discourse.”

A threatening message with an image of Garry Tan's deleted tweet,
This message was sent to Supervisor Aaron Peskin after Y Combinator CEO Garry Tan sent out an expletive-filled tweet that has since been deleted. | Source: Courtesy Aaron Peskin

Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Connie Chan filed police reports as a result of Tan’s tweet. Both Peskin and Preston said they received threatening letters at their homes saying Tan’s tweet was right along with the message: “I WISH A SLOW AND PAINFUL DEATH FOR YOU AND YOUR LOVED ONES.”

Chan told The Standard that she filed a police report because she has been physically threatened by a staffer employed by the campaign of her reelection challenger Marjan Philhour, whose candidacy is supported by Tan.

Records with the San Francisco Ethics Commission show that Larsen, the founder of Ripple, has now contributed $1,081,000 toward this year’s two elections, spreading donations across a variety of ballot measures and candidates for the Democratic County Central Committee.

The only other person who comes close to that spending amount so far is Mimi Haas, the mother of mayoral candidate Daniel Lurie, who threw down a million dollars to an independent committee supporting her son’s challenge to Mayor London Breed.

GrowSF has another committee designed to oust progressive Supervisor Connie Chan, and records show that committee raised almost $72,000 last year.