San Francisco Chronicle: Taking risks for greater good pays off

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Crusader to Candidate: No one has been a more fearless and relentless champion of clean money in politics than Ann Ravel. She was the former chair of the state Fair Political Practices Commission who exposed and fined shadow groups that had funneled $15 million against a measure to raise taxes (Prop. 30) and for one to restrict the use of union dues (Prop. 32) in 2012. She was the Obama-appointed member of the Federal Election Commission who raised holy hell when Chairman Don McGahn (yes, thatDon McGahn, later White House counsel for Trump) stymied any real enforcement.

The absurdity of the FEC’s fecklessness was highlighted in a “Comedy Central” segment featuring Ravel, and she had a prominent role in the 2018 documentary “Dark Money.”

Now Ravel is seeing the effects of big money up close and personal. She is running against two established Democrats in one of the hottest Senate races in the state. Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese has raised more than double Ravel’s contributions; and former Assemblywoman Nora Campos is getting a boost from an independent expenditure from oil interests.

Ravel has raised money from 3,000 contributors, with 70% of the donations being $50 or less. Still, for someone who has studied money in politics so extensively, she is struck by the degree to which a candidate’s viability is judged by her or his fundraising. “It’s even worse than we think,” she said.

One thing is certain: If Ravel makes it to Sacramento, it’s a good bet that campaign finance reform will be among her priorities.

John Diaz is The San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial page editor. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @JohnDiazChron

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