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Alice LGBT Dem club fined for 2016 campaign material mistakes

by Matthew S. Bajko

One of the mailers the Alice. B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club sent out in 2016.
One of the mailers the Alice. B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club sent out in 2016.  

An LGBT political club in San Francisco is being fined $4,500 for mistakes it made with its slate cards and billboards in the 2016 election.

The Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, the more moderate of the city's two main LGBT political groups, was hit with six $750 violations by the San Francisco Ethics Commission for not including the required language on its slate cards and three billboards it paid for in September of that year ahead of the November election.

According to a report released Friday afternoon by the ethics office, all of the campaign materials failed to include the disclaimer, "This advertisement was not authorized or paid for by a candidate for this office or a committee controlled by a candidate for this office."

The materials also did not include the notice that the "financial disclosures are available as (sic) sfethics.org," according to the ethics office report.

One of the billboards was in support of gay City College of San Francisco Trustee Alex Randolph, who is inaccurately referred to as Alex Rudolph in the ethics staff report. A longtime Alice club member and leader, Randolph was seeking a full four-year term on the oversight body for the community college.

He had been appointed to fill a vacancy in 2015 on the college board and had won the special election to fill out the term that November. He went on to win a full term the following year.

The other billboards the Alice club's political action committee paid for were in support of three supervisor candidates in 2016. Two of them featured Joshua Arce, who lost his bid that fall for the District 9 supervisor seat.

On one of the billboards, according to the ethics report, Arce was included along with London Breed, who won re-election to her District 5 seat, and Ahsha Safai, who was elected that year to the District 11 seat on the board.

Alice leadership opted to resolve the issue through a negotiated settlement with LeeAnn Pelham, executive director of the ethics commission, rather than fight the violations. The ethics commission is expected to approve the fine at a special hearing Monday, May 7.

In an emailed response to a request for comment from the Bay Area Reporter, current Alice club co-chairs Eric Lukoff and Gina Simi, who took over leading the political group after the 2016 election, said the club inadvertently used the wrong language for the disclaimers on the slate cards and billboards.

"Although we certainly do not feel our disclaimer misled voters in any way, we recognize it did not satisfy the Ethics Commission requirements," wrote the co-chairs. "The disclaimer we used was unknowingly outdated, and it was human error that it had been copied and pasted from previous materials. While we take our role very seriously, we make mistakes like everyone else."

They disclosed that the club consulted an attorney and did challenge the proposed stipulation in "a lengthy exchange with" Ethics Commission staff. But in the end the club leadership determined it would be best to simply settle the matter.

"After reviewing previous settlements with other campaigns, we believe ours is disproportionately large," wrote Lukoff and Simi. "While we disagree with the size of the fine, we did not feel it was financially prudent to litigate the matter and are eager to put it behind us. We acknowledge our mistake and have agreed to settle the matter."

The hearing will take place at 1 p.m. in Room 408 at City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place. A copy of the staff report on the Alice club's fine can be downloaded online at https://sfethics.org/ethics/2018/05/agenda-may-7-2018.html.

To contact the reporter email m.bajko@ebar.com.

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