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Politics & Policy

Lawmaker spent $75K in campaign cash on 49ers, Giants, Warriors tix

A smiling Matt Haney with a cigar is depicted with a football player body, holding burning money, at a vibrant outdoor event with people in red jerseys and team banners.
Assemblymember Matt Haney spent roughly $65,000 in campaign cash to attend San Francisco 49ers games since the start of 2023. | Source: AI Illustration by Jesse Rogala/The Standard: photo by Camille Cohen for The Standard

Matt Haney had one hell of a weekend in late January. The state assemblymember and avid sports fan partied Saturday evening at Cavana, a beautiful rooftop bar in Mission Bay that specializes in Colombian cuisine and fruity cocktails. Haney dropped a few hundred bucks on food and drinks and also watched LeBron James and Steph Curry duel it out at Chase Center in a double-overtime thriller. 

The next morning, Haney got $158 of booze at Tenderloin Liquor and headed down to Santa Clara to watch the San Francisco 49ers battle the Detroit Lions for a trip to the Super Bowl. He pregamed at a tailgate party outside of Levi’s Stadium, smoking a stogie as he took a picture with Supervisor Shamann Walton.

In the leadup to kickoff, Haney walked onto the field to hang within reaching distance of the Niners players as they warmed up—an expensive perk. 

After taking more pictures on the field, including one with Robert Rivas, the speaker of the California Legislature, Haney went into the stands and watched the game from lower bowl end-zone seats, cheering the 49ers on to victory with his dad and some of his oldest friends. Haney made sure to enjoy himself responsibly, racking up $148 in Uber charges that day.

Matt Haney and his dad, Craig, in red jerseys, with the number "16" visible on one, stand in a crowded football stadium filled with fans wearing red.
State Assemblymember Matt Haney poses with his father, Craig, at the NFC Championship game between the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions in an Instagram post on Jan. 28, 2024.

All of this would make for a pretty baller weekend, but even better for Haney—none of the costs came out of his pocket. Instead, he used funds from his state Assembly campaign for every one of these purchases. In fact, Haney has spent more than $65,000 in campaign funds on 49ers tickets since just the beginning of last year. Haney’s campaign donors have also picked up the tab on thousands of dollars worth of tickets, food and drinks while Haney watched the San Francisco Giants and Broadway shows like “The Lion King.”

Haney, who represents the eastern half of San Francisco, listed all of these expenses as “fundraisers” in his campaign disclosures with the California Secretary of State. But it’s unclear who attended and how much money was raised. Multiple campaign experts said that Haney’s frequent use of sporting events as fundraisers—including events attended by his friends and family—was unusual.

“You can’t use your campaign money for vacations or ball games for yourself or your family, that is absolutely not legal,” said Ann Ravel, the former chair of the Federal Elections Commission. “I don’t go to a lot of football games, but this seems excessive.”

Haney did not respond to multiple interview requests and questions sent by text.

Elizabeth Power, a political consultant who works for Bearstar Strategies and counts both Haney and the 49ers as clients, defended the charges but declined to disclose who attended Haney’s purported fundraisers. She also declined to say how much money he raised as a result of the sporting events.

“Hosting a fundraiser at a sports event is no different from hosting a fundraiser at a restaurant, bar, or other venue that is rented out,” Power said. “It’s common for elected officials to host fundraisers at sports events and other cultural events in their district, and these fundraisers are often successful because people enjoy attending these events.”

Power initially said that Haney did not purchase field passes for the Niners-Lions game on Jan. 28, and he was invited down to the field by Rivas. However, a source with knowledge of the speaker’s activities that day said that was false. Power followed up a short time later to correct her original statement. It’s unclear how Haney got access to the field.

Four men pose on a football field during a game. The stadium is full of spectators, many wearing red jerseys. The scoreboard and upper stands are visible.
Assemblymember Matt Haney posted this Instagram photo of him and Speaker Robert Rivas, second from the right, after attending the NFC Championship game between the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions on Jan. 28.

David Latterman, a longtime political analyst in San Francisco, said that ballgames doubling as fundraisers isn’t unheard of, but the number of events and the amount of money Haney spent on Niners games is stunning.

“You get perks being an elected official, but that’s a huge number,” Latterman said. “It could be a boondoggle if he’s just inviting friends and family. I’m unclear why they need to be there for a fundraiser.”

Jay Wierenga, a spokesperson for the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission, declined comment for this story but pointed The Standard to rules on how campaign funds can be used.

“Campaign funds may not be used to purchase entertainment and sporting event tickets for use by the candidate or officeholder, or staff of the committee, unless attendance at the event is directly related to a political, legislative, or governmental purpose,” the state law reads.

Over the last year and a half, Haney has posted numerous photos on social media of himself and friends at professional sporting events paid for by campaign funds. One photo from the Jan. 28 game that sent the 49ers to the Super Bowl shows Haney with friends he called his “Day1s,” meaning from back in the day.

But after The Standard contacted Haney for this story, timestamps on Instagram show that he went back and edited the post multiple times.

Power said that Haney only changed the caption on the photo after being contacted for comment because he thought it “may be misleading since he was not actually seated with the friends in the photo.” She added that he watched the majority of the game with supporters who attended his fundraiser.

Four men dressed in San Francisco 49ers gear, including jerseys and hats, pose together in a stadium filled with cheering fans. They appear to be celebrating.
State Assemblymember Matt Haney poses with friends at the NFC Championship game between the 49ers and Detroit Lions in an Instagram post on Jan. 28, 2024. He changed the caption on the post after being contacted for this story.

James Middleton, a Photoshop expert whose work helped establish that photos of Kate Middleton released by the Royal Family had been altered using AI, told The Standard that the image in Haney’s post appears to have been manipulated. He pointed to unusual markings around the man seen second from the right.

“It is a real, unedited photo,” Power said.

It wouldn’t be the first time Haney has tried to cover his tracks on social media. Following public rape accusations in 2021 against once-rising political star Jon Jacobo, Haney deleted photos of the two hanging out.

Haney’s campaign filings show the state legislator not only enjoys mixing business with pleasure, but he also has a taste for the finer things in life. Last year, he stayed at 5-star luxury hotels including the Santa Monica Proper Hotel and Downtown LA Proper Hotel. In three short trips, Haney racked up almost $5,500 in charges.

Anthony Schlander, an events promoter in San Francisco, and Haney’s father, Craig, have each given money to Haney’s campaign and were seen at 49ers games. Haney’s father has given five contributions totaling $10,000 over the last year and a half.

Schlander gave $1,000 and was seen in social media posts at the 49ers’ playoff games on both Jan. 20 and Jan. 28. However, Haney’s campaign filings also note that Haney paid Schlander almost $660 late last year for a staff hotel stay in Sacramento for the state Democratic Convention.

Schlander did not respond to requests for comment.

A group of nine people is smiling and posing for a selfie at a sports stadium. They are wearing 49ers gear, and the stands in the background have scattered fans.
Assemblymember Matt Haney posted an Instagram photo with his father, Craig, and Anthony Schlander (front left) after the Jan. 20 game between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers.

Campaign fundraisers for state legislators are usually documented in a daily digest called the Capitol Morning Report. These reports show that Haney charged $3,500 a ticket to the 49ers’ playoff games against Detroit and Green Bay (the cost for two tickets to the latter game was trimmed down to $5,500). Haney and state Sen. Ben Allen apparently co-hosted a fundraiser for the Warriors-Lakers game, with the cost of a $5,000 ticket to be split evenly between the two campaigns.

Campaign records do not show anyone contributing $3,500 to Haney’s campaign around the time of the football games. 

The expenses have also piled up here at home in San Francisco. After winning a 2022 special election to move from the Board of Supervisors to the state Assembly, Haney used campaign funds to purchase an annual membership to the exclusive social club The Battery. Total charges for the club over a year and a half—including just one billable meeting with a potential donor—came to more than $7,600.

Power said that Haney used the social club as a campaign office, but multiple campaign experts told The Standard that most state legislators do not have campaign offices unless they are in the final months of a competitive race. Haney is up for reelection this November, but he is not expected to face a serious challenge in deeply blue San Francisco from his Republican opponent, realtor Manuel Norris-Barrera.

Haney has usually been adept at reading the political winds, moving from the Board of Education to the Board of Supervisors before public backlash on the renaming of schools—an idea Haney championed. A dyed-in-the-wool progressive, he switched allegiances to join the Democratic Party’s moderate wing as the housing crisis rose to the top of voters’ concerns. He then defeated David Campos in a special election in April 2022.

During his time in the Legislature, Haney has cast himself as a humble renter. In his first year, Haney and two Assembly colleagues formed the Renters Caucus—they were the only state legislators who were non-homeowners and paying rent—and he continues to receive press coverage for his “overpaid executive tax” ballot measure that voters passed in 2020. Meanwhile, he posts photos of himself at the biggest games in sports and hanging out with celebrities like Kim Kardashian

Haney received a $128,000 salary last year as a member of the state Assembly. That’s more than the median salary in San Francisco, but hardly enough to afford the kind of lifestyle he has been enjoying courtesy of his donors.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly said that Haney’s sister attended a 49ers game.