'Bush-o-meter' ranks SF mayoral candidates

On November's ballot, there also are expected to be five candidates for district attorney and five candidates for sheriff -- and not an elected incumbent in the bunch.

How are voters in the Left Coast city supposed to sort all that out?

CitiReport, a news website that covers San Francisco politics, offers an unusual tool: the "George-Bush-o-meter."

For each candidate for citywide office, CitiReport has compiled a list of political donors -- everyone who contributed more than $99.

Then, CitiReport tallied how much those same donors gave to former President George W. Bush, a Republican who is anathema in heavily Democratic San Francisco.

As writers Oliver Luby and Marc Salomon put it:

"To examine whether or not the financial interests supporting this year's San Francisco candidates share the values of the voters whom the candidates are courting, we thought it would be interesting to create federal donor profiles of the campaign contributors for each San Francisco candidate."

So far, the hottest reading on the Bush-o-meter has been registered by Joanna Rees, a venture capitalist and political newcomer who is running for mayor. Over the years, donors who gave Rees money also gave $45,000 to Bush. They include James Herbert, CEO of San Francisco's First Republic Bank ($500 to Rees, $1,000 to Bush); Margot Pritzker, president of WomenOnCall.org, a Chicago-based Internet guide for women who want to volunteer at nonprofits ($500 to Rees, $1,000 to Bush); and Donald Dixon, venture capitalist with Trident Capital in Palo Alto ($500 to Rees, $2,000 to Bush).

In the early going, Sharmin Bock, an Alameda County prosecutor who is running against appointed District Attorney George Gascón, registers No. 2. Her donors gave the former president $35,250. Among them: San Francisco philanthropists Theodore and Phyllis Swindells (each gave $500 to Bock and $1,000 to Bush); Helen Schwab of Atherton, wife of financier Charles Schwab ($500 to Bock and $4,500 to Bush); and Stockton developer Greenlaw Grupe ($250 to Bock and $1,000 to Bush.)

Third is City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who is running for mayor. He registers $27,985 on the Bush-o-meter. His overlapping donors include Kevin Ryan, whom Bush appointed as U.S. attorney in San Francisco ($250 to Herrera and $3,500 to Bush), and James Fuller, head of the California office of the Baytree Capital Associates merchant bank ($100 to Herrera and $1,000 to Bush).

Not registering a flutter on the Bush-o-meter: Sheriff's Capt. Paul Miyamoto, who is running to replace retiring Sheriff Mike Hennessey, and "Run Ed Run," the independent committee that was electioneering for Lee before he decided he would run for the office to which he was appointed last year. Neither has any donors who gave to Bush.

The rankings will change as the campaign unfolds, said CitiReport Editor Larry Bush, who is not related to the former president. He said the Bush-o-meter may be useful to voters.

"Sometimes contributions are about ideology, and sometimes they're about business," he said. "It's up to the public" to sort that out, he said.

Story courtesy of our media partners at California Watch (A Project of the Center for Investigative Reporting)

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