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Politics & Policy

Matt Haney’s boozy campaign fundraisers under investigation by state watchdog

A man with short hair and a beard is wearing a beige blazer over a cream shirt. He looks down thoughtfully, with his hands clasped in front of him.
State Assemblymember Matt Haney’s campaign is under investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission after a report on his frequent fundraisers at sporting events with family and friends. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

Matt Haney’s mixing of business with pleasure by holding boozy campaign fundraisers at San Francisco 49ers games, Broadway shows and other sporting events has run the state assemblymember into some hot water. 

The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) launched an investigation into Haney’s campaign this week after The Standard reported on the unusual fundraisers, which were frequently featured on Haney’s Instagram account as he snapped pictures with family and friends.

Haney spent more than $65,000 in campaign funds on 49ers tickets since the beginning of last year. His campaign also spent thousands on tickets, food and drinks while Haney watched the San Francisco Giants, Golden State Warriors and Broadway shows like “The Lion King.”

Many of Haney’s recent donors said they were not invited to the games, raising questions about who attended.

A spokesperson for the FPPC said the political watchdog’s enforcement division is investigating “alleged improper use of campaign funds.” Haney and his campaign treasurers, Stacey Owens and Denise Lewis, were named as respondents in the complaint.

Christopher B. Burton, assistant chief of the FPPC’s enforcement division, notified Haney about the probe in a July 8 letter, saying that it was a “commission-initiated investigation” into potential violations of the state’s Political Reform Act.

Investigators will review Haney’s Assembly campaigns for the 2022 and 2024 elections to determine if there was improper use of campaign funds as well as other expenditures associated with holding office.

“Assemblymember Haney’s campaign committees have fully complied with campaign finance laws, and we are confident that the FPPC will reach the same conclusion,” Amber Maltbie, Haney’s campaign attorney, said in a statement.

Haney, who represents the eastern half of San Francisco, listed all of his sporting event 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—if any.

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,” Ann Ravel, the former chair of the Federal Elections Commission, said in a previous interview. “I don’t go to a lot of football games, but this seems excessive.”

Elizabeth Power, a political consultant for Haney, defended his charges on sporting events, Broadway shows and a membership to the exclusive San Francisco social club The Battery in an interview last month.

“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 told The Standard. “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.”

The Standard contacted more than a dozen of Haney’s non-family-and-friend campaign donors around the time of the 49ers games this past season. No one said they were invited to attend a sporting event fundraiser.