Get ready to party! Chicken John might get that 50 grand affer all.
By John Geluardi
Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched … (yikes, sorry about that) because mayoral candidate Chicken John Rinaldi is getting another shot at that $50,000 in campaign matching funds.
At its Monday meeting, the Ethics Commission unanimously reversed executive director John St. Croix’s Oct. 1 denial of Rinaldi’s bid for matching funds. That means Rinaldi will get one more opportunity to show he qualifies by having collected $25,000 in contributions from San Francisco residents before the Aug. 28 deadline, which Rinaldi’s attorney said will be easy.
“Their decision was important because it sets a precedent that you don’t have to be a political insider to run for mayor,” Rinaldi, an showman and artist, told a group of supporters outside the commission's chamber.
St. Croix rejected the application twice largely because he was unable to verify city residency for 60 percent of Rinaldi’s contributors who donated more than $17,000 through PayPal, a popular online payment company.
After the first rejection, Rinaldi convinced PayPal management to develop a format for providing residency information and resubmitted his contribution information only to have St. Croix reject it again for being $182.96 short of the $25,000 mark.
Rinaldi's attorney, Terry Gross, presented the commission with documents that showed St. Croix had disqualified valid contributions and that he refused to review other contributions that totaled more than $1,000.
Gross admitted Rinaldi's initial submission of documents a half hour before the deadline on Aug. 28 was sloppy, incomplete, and peppered with typos.
“Mr. Rinaldi is an artist and his campaign staff is new to politics and unfamiliar with all the requirements,” Gross told the commission. “But Mr. Rinaldi has demonstrated wide support in the community by collecting more than $32,000 to date.”
Rinaldi’s difficulty getting the PayPal contributions accepted has exposed how backward the city’s campaign contribution policies are. “The Ethics Commission didn’t tell me how to submit PayPal contributions because it’s not on their radar,” Rinaldi said. “Writing checks is an old technology. I know at least 75 people who don’t have traditional bank accounts anymore.”
Rinaldi’s campaign consultant Nieves Rathbun said the candidate might have caused himself problems with St. Croix when he announced how he would spend the $50,000.
“I suppose it didn’t help that he said he would use the money to pay for campaign art and for a nice dinner for all his supporters,” Rathbun said. “But he was just being honest. That’s exactly what everybody does, but you’re not supposed to admit it.”
Rinaldi is the only one of 12 candidates who applied for the matching funds. Rinaldi said he is aiming for second place against heavily favored incumbent Mayor Gavin Newsom.
Rinaldi heralded the Ethics Commission’s decision, claiming it will help open the door for more grassroots candidates if they have what it takes to deal with the city’s “Olympian” documentation requirements.
“I could be mayor in four years and so could you,” he said prophetically. “You just have to be willing to wade through all this fuckin’ nonsense.”