District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, a brown-skinned woman with long dark hair, wearing a purple blazer and white shirt.
District Attorney Brooke Jenkins. Photo from campaign website.

In the days after this story was published, two more contributions of $25,000 and $10,000 went into the DA’s committee, bringing her total above $300,000. The original story is below.

Big-money players are giving six-figure sums to a committee promoting District Attorney Brooke Jenkins ahead of the November election, deftly bypassing San Francisco campaign finance limits in an apparent effort to plaster the DA’s face and name on flyers and mailers across the city.

A new committee, named “SF District Attorney Brooke Jenkins Ballot Measure Committee for Yes on Prop 1,” was created on Feb. 7 and raked in $272,500 in its first six days, according to state campaign finance filings. The money was, almost exclusively, donated in large chunks by a handful of tech executives. 

Even while this campaign will bolster Jenkins in her quest to be reelected as San Francisco DA, it is, technically, backing a ballot proposition — and at the state level. As such, candidate campaign-funding limits — and any San Francisco donation restrictions — do not apply. 

Donors to Jenkins’ committee, which is directly controlled by the DA and must legally feature her name, are not bound by any contribution ceilings, and corporations can donate, too.

In San Francisco candidate races, on the other hand, prospective office-holders can only receive individual donations of up to $500.

State-level committees are, “oftentimes, soft-money vehicles where elected officials not only try to pass the ballot measure, but they get their name out there,” said Jim Sutton, a campaign finance lawyer with decades of experience in San Francisco. 

Sutton pointed to several past examples: In 2017, Mayor Ed Lee controlled a committee for two measures; in 2013, Dennis Herrera, then the city attorney, controlled two committees.

“It’s tried and true,” Sutton said. “It happens all the time.”

Proposition 1 is a $6.4 billion bond that would allow the state to build residential treatment facilities for people with mental health issues. It would also shift some existing funds towards housing for people struggling with mental illness or addiction, a move some critics say would defund a bevy of homelessness-prevention programs.

In a statement, the DA’s campaign spokesperson said Jenkins was “proud” to back the measure, because the current system is not set up to “treat mentally ill people who are incarcerated.” Jailing those with mental health issues, the statement read, “undermines long-term public safety by increasing recidivism.”

“California spends over $100,000 per person to incarcerate 150,000 people with mental illnesses each year,” the statement read. “Prop. 1 will instead direct these individuals to health facilities where they can be treated at far less cost and with far better outcomes.”

Six donors, six-figure sums

All of the money sent to Jenkins’ state-level committee comes from just six individuals.

Chris Larsen, the chairman of cryptocurrency exchange Ripple, and Ron Conway, a venture capitalist who was the preferred financier for the late Mayor Ed Lee, have each given $100,000 to the committee. Jeremey Liew, another tech venture capitalist, has given $37,500; Diane “Dede” Wilsey, a major Republican donor and San Francisco socialite, gave $25,000.

Two others, Brian and Courtney Giraudo, a pharmaceutical executive and nurse, respectively, gave $5,000 each.

Larsen is one of the world’s wealthiest people, and a top giver to San Francisco politics this year. He is the single largest donor to races in the March 5 election, putting up some $830,000 to various measures and candidates, and has given another $301,000 toward issues on the Nov. 7 ballot. 

Larsen, however, was also one of ousted DA Chesa Boudin’s biggest supporters, and donated heavily against the effort to recall him; Jenkins was the recall’s chief spokesperson and was tapped for the top prosecutor post by Mayor London Breed after Boudin’s recall.

Larsen’s support for Boudin, however, was atypical, and most of his giving has been aimed at bolstering law enforcement. He is one of the chief donors to Proposition E, which would loosen police policies to allow for more surveillance cameras across the city, a pet project of Larsen’s. He has said there was an “overcorrecting against the police” in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.

Conway has been a major political donor in San Francisco for over a decade, the major financier of the late Mayor Lee and a heavy backer of Mayor Breed. He is also a top donor in this year’s elections, contributing $168,000 so far.

Donors part of big money network

Both are part of a large network of affiliated public pressure groups, deep-pocketed donors, candidates and staff working in concert to influence city politics. Individual donors and advocacy groups have given tens of millions to — in the words of some of the biggest donors — reshape San Francisco and undo progressive overreach.

This year’s elections will offer a test of that network’s organizing and fundraising prowess, a rare chance for the groups and donors to sweep progressives from some of their last seats of power.

Politicians often use ballot measure campaigns to bolster their political standing while evading candidate contribution limits. Both Breed and mayoral challenger Daniel Lurie, for instance, have fundraised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Prop. E, allowing them both to feature their visages on literature to voters. The proposition has become one of the most expensive on the March ballot.

Jenkins has another local committee, too, which is limited to the $500 campaign contribution limit, and which she also personally controls. That committee has received some $217,000 in contributions to date, according to local filings.

Jenkins’ only opponent for the November race so far is Ryan Khojasteh, a former prosecutor in the DA’s office who was fired by Jenkins when she cleaned house after Boudin’s ouster in 2022. Khojasteh, who declared his candidacy in late January, has no declared contributions as yet.

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Joe was born in Sweden, where half of his family received asylum after fleeing Pinochet, and spent his early childhood in Chile; he moved to Oakland when he was eight. He attended Stanford University for political science and worked at Mission Local as a reporter after graduating. He then spent time in advocacy as a partner for the strategic communications firm The Worker Agency. He rejoined Mission Local as an editor in 2023.

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  1. I don’t think it’s fair to say Chris Larsen or other donors to Prop E and Brooke are supporting “law enforcement.” Larsen says efforts to control the police swung too far, and that Prop E is a corrective. Not true (you expect someone like Larsen to tell the truth?). When has the use of force policy impeded the cops from doing their job? When have the policies signed off by three separate independendent reports including one prepared by the DOJ and the SFPD themselves hobbled the cops from preventing property crime, or turning their backs when they see a Union Square store looted? Prop E has nothing to do with law enforcement and everything to do with tearing down provisions to make the SFPD more accountable to the public they are said to serve. In supporting these measures, they are supporting the Police Officers Association, which has been rabidly anti-transparency anti-accountability for the SFPD. Brooke has been from the beginning, no more than an opportunist poster girl for their show.

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  2. Campers, SFPD is more like that Mob Army in ‘Blazing Saddles’ than a real Police Force. They put 10 Officers on Foot Patrol out of 2,300 and brag about their Foot Patrols. They told Police Commission Vice President Max Carter-Oberstone that getting him some data he asked for would take 3 months and he sat down and hammered available Public Records on Google and got the stuff in 20 minutes. Worse thing is that they very recently stopped arresting felons (I’d call beating a 14 Mission Bus driver bloody a ‘felony’) standing right in front of them to make Chesa Boudin look bad. Cause their Union told them to. They don’t listen to the Chief. He was appointed by the Mayor and is an LA Out-of-Towner who didn’t attend a Catholic San Francisco High School and Gascon laughed and didn’t believe it when he heard that’s how they picked Command Staff then found out it was true. They are like a 2,300 Student High School that lasts for 30 to 35 years. They need an Elected Police Chief to get this directionless gang running around carrying guns. I walk through 16th and Mission at least couple times a day cause I’m a Local at 14th and Valencia and nosey and the cops should establish a Home Base even if it’s just a car and then one stand there and the others fan out in different directions for a block each around the BART Plaza and meet people. They all just stand around like a bunch of ducks quacking to each other. I know some of em and they are nice dedicated guys and gals. And, for gods sake they don’t know any better. They are poor led. Don’t give them or the Mayor any more power. I’m trying to get Lurie to offer to give up the Mayoral power to appoint the Police Chief if he’s elected and work for a Charter Amendment to make the position one responsible to the People at the Ballot Box. So far, he hasn’t taken any of my ideas but he’s leading in the polls so there’s that. No on E for so many many reasons, most of which because it gives the ‘Blazing Saddles’ gang more power. What’s that line ? Yeah … “Badge !!??!! I don’t need no STINKING Badge !!??!! Speaking of Lateral Transfers with Violent Pasts is another story … No on EEEEEEE Yes, on the Giants. Spring Training going yet ? h. 1 0 0 votes. Sign in to vote

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  3. Can we go back to the old rules where SFPD command staff had to, you know, live in San Francisco? I agree with SEIU that the city needs its workers living here.

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