July 21st update: Rachel Swan wrote about this complaint for the Chronicle, which includes a short, unsatisfying response from Stearns.
August 3rd update: The FPPC has responded that they need a few more weeks to judge whether they should pursue a claim. The letter indicates that Stearns has lawyered up.
To whom it may concern at the California Fair Political Practices Commission,
Jim Stearns, a political consultant in San Francisco, has evaded laws governing independent expenditures by coordinating with a political candidate and laundering money through a Slate Mailer Organization (SMO). To my knowledge, this is a novel means of avoiding coordination restrictions that typically govern external spending on candidate campaigns. Normally, independent expenditures like PACs are expressly forbidden from communicating with a campaign.
This piece also ran as part of Heather Knight’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle on May 23rd, 2017. A point that I should correct is that 501(c)(3)s actually do pay payroll tax. However, the nonprofit entity itself does not pay federal income tax, and of course donations are tax-deductible for donors, which is the main benefit.
To the IRS and the public,
48 Hills is an independent publication run by the San Francisco Media Center (SFMC). Its editor and executive director, Tim Redmond, writes about San Francisco current events and politics. SFMC is also an IRS-approved 501(c)(3) nonprofit entity, which not only exempts SFMC from paying taxes on Tim Redmond’s salary, but also grants a tax deduction to any donor who contributes to 48 Hills. This would all be well and good if it weren’t for the fact that 48 Hills routinely engages in one of the acts expressly forbidden to a 501(c)(3): electioneering.
I wrote an opinion piece for the SF Chronicle. They ran it with some great edits for length, so I figured I’d put my original, longer, and worse version here for posterity’s sake.
San Francisco is one of the most progressive cities in the nation, especially when it comes to national immigration. We believe so much in the natural right of people to join us here in America that we fought to keep our status as sanctuary city even in the face of being federally defunded for it. We pride ourselves in our rejection of plans to tighten immigration controls and deport undocumented immigrants. Yet take that same kind of conversation to the local level and all bets are off. City meetings have become heated, divisive, and prone to rhetoric where we openly discuss exactly which kinds of people we want to keep out of our city.
In November of last year, I was invited to give a fairly informal talk on the
topic of my choice at Dropbox. I decided to go with the mildly controversial
topic of advocating Dropbox employees to consider making side businesses.
They were gracious enough to furnish me with a recording of the talk, which you
may also enjoy below. It’s got a few nuggets about how I think about running a
small business and some mistakes you probably want to avoid making.
If you’ve tried to make a Google Hangouts app, you probably already know that it
sucks pretty badly. Famously terrible documentation, crazy bloated
can craft a URL to open a new hangout without any of the bloat like so:
But what if you want to make a hangout with your app and set its app_type to
ROOM_APP so that your app is loaded for everyone by default?