SAN FRANCISCO– Just one week after San Franciscans began receiving their ballots, a local campaign reported that over $3 million in PAC money from the 1 percent— led by infamous Mitch McConnell backer William Oberndorf— is flooding into San Francisco for last-minute hit pieces attacking progressive candidates and ballot measures, including District 5 incumbent Supervisor Dean Preston. Oberndorf, a wealthy hedge-fund manager who has donated more than $1 million to the Republican Party to keep Mitch McConnell in control of the US Senate, is a strong supporter of charter schools, an ally of Betsy DeVos, and put almost $50,000 into the anti-homeless measure Prop. Q in 2016. Other backers of the PAC include bank executives, real estate developers, John Pritzker (heir to the Pritzker fortune and billionaire), Miriam Haas (billionaire and heir to the Levi Strauss fortune), tech billionaire Chris Larsen (estimated by Forbes in 2018 to be the fifth richest person in the world), and venture capitalists such as Sonja Perkins and employees at Sequoia Capital. The massive last-minute spending, which was driven by individual donations of upwards of $300,000, is unprecedented in San Francisco’s Supervisor races.
“The money coming in from billionaires is a blatant attempt to install corporate-friendly candidates that won’t fight for the working-class and people of color,” said Supervisor Preston, the first Democratic Socialist elected in 40 years. “They have seen what progressive Supervisors can do and they want to make sure San Francisco values don’t spread throughout California and the rest of the nation.”
The influx of money also caught the attention of National Democratic Leaders, U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Katie Porter, who weighed in on the District 5 Supervisors race during a fundraiser for Preston on Tuesday night. “Supervisor Preston is a fighter for things that matter to working-class people,” said Representative Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. “I’m proud to endorse him and condemn these big money attacks on his campaign.”
Representative Porter, who is up for reelection after winning against a Republican in 2018, also praised Supervisor Preston at Tuesday’s fundraising event. “The problems that are confronting us are not always problems that can be solved at the federal level and we need progressive leaders that stand up for the values of their constituents,” said Porter. “I am not getting involved in every race in this state, but I am getting involved in this one because of who Dean is— someone who has fought for the working class and people of color long before he ever decided to run for office.”
One of the most recent ads used by the Republican PAC to target Preston uses the likeness of former Democratic presidential candidate and US Senator Bernie Sanders to falsely claim that Preston supports Jim Crow housing laws. This despite Sanders’ long-standing endorsement of Preston’s campaign and Preston’s recent victory securing rent control for the Fillmore’s Midtown Complex alongside a plethora of Black and immigrant tenants. Republicans used a similar strategy to confuse voters: earlier this week, Trump used the likeness of Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, without his consent.
The San Francisco Berniecrats have since released a statement in support of Supervisor Preston’s work. “Since winning his seat, Dean has personally helped hundreds, if not thousands, of homeless individuals, find shelter during COVID-19. He is also leading the fight to cancel rent, build social housing, defund SFPD, and expand homeless services, and ensure the working class has a voice in City Hall.”