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Friday, September 14, 2007

City to Chicken John: 'Pay your own way, pal'

Posted By on Fri, Sep 14, 2007 at 12:52 PM


San Francisco to Chicken John: we don’t take PayPal

By Benjamin Wachs

By the time the city’s Ethics Commission got through with the Chicken John for Mayor campaign, only $5,000 of $25,000 in donations was deemed eligible for matching funds.

“That’s gotta hurt,” the candidate acknowledged. “It turns out you can stop Rock and Roll. I had no idea.”

What went wrong for Chicken? Well, you see, apparently the city of San Francisco doesn’t accept PayPal.

That’s not an official policy, according to an employee at the Ethics Commission who would only speak on background … it’s just that all credit card contributions need to be verifiable, and the city won’t take Pay Pal’s word that contributors live in San Francisco.

To qualify for matching funds, a candidate needs to raise $25,000 from no fewer than 250 city residents, none of whom can have more than $100 counted towards the total.

The Chicken John campaign swears it has that … but can’t prove it if PayPal’s word isn’t good enough for city hall.

“(The Ethics Commission) said PayPal’s receipts are not going to cut it because on the PayPal receipt, where it lists the words name and address, above it appear the words ‘shipping address’ and for purposes of establishing residency, a shipping address is not adequate,” said Chicken John for Mayor campaign manager Lev Osherovich. “So we thought about this and went and talked to PayPal, and they said their policy is not to reveal billing addresses to anyone but the customer. But they do have a system internally for verifying that a shipping address corresponds to a credit card billing address, and they would provide that documentation to us. And we went back to the ethics commission and told them that, and they said no, that still won’t cut it.”

The fantastically ironic result: the city of e-commerce just doesn’t trust people who do business on-line.

The city has given Chicken John until Wednesday to prove that hundreds of people who paid through PayPal are in fact city residents … without using PayPal data.

A PayPal spokesman could not be reached for comment, despite almost 45 minutes on hold … after which a “Senior Customer Service” employee refused to give me a phone number for their corporate spokesman but promised that someone would get back to me. Either PayPal finds this hugely embarrassing and doesn’t want to talk about it, or they have the best protected spokesmen in America.

Chicken John said he’s willing to try and meet the city’s requests … calling them “not unreasonable” … but thinks that he should be given more time. “I’m the first candidate who’s raised funds this way. This is a situation that no candidate has ever been in before,” he said. “If it were another candidate, there would be lawyers called in at this point – I make a great test candidate.”

The debacle is also certain to make his stump speech.

“This is exactly what I’m talking about when I discuss the resistance our city has to innovative thinking. We like verifying that contributions are from San Francisco residents. The part that we don’t like is when tough rules become so unreasonable that they keep people from trying new things. I think, if they won’t accept PayPal’s reassurances, that they should give me ample time to write people letters so they can send in copies of their drivers licenses or whatever the committee wants.”

“It’s not a done deal,” he added, “but it’s not looking good.”

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David Downs


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