Republican who wants to overturn rent control pumps $200,000 into district elections

Pub date October 22, 2010
WriterSarah Phelan
SectionPolitics Blog

Thomas J, Coates, a big time investor in apartments and mobile homes, has dropped a total of $225,000 into five independent expenditure committees that are trying to push conservative-friendly candidates and measures over the victory line this fall.

Coates, a 56-year-old Republican (he donated $2,000 to George Bush in the 2004 presidential election) and yacht racing enthusiast, was the biggest single spender in the November 2008 election, when he contributed nearly $1 million to Prop. 98, a statewide measure that sought to repeal rent control in California and limit government’s right to seize private property by eminent domain.

And with only 11 days until the election, Coates has given local Republican war chests an enormous last-minute boost: He plunked $100,000 into Common Sense Voters, a committee in support of Mark Farrell in D2. He plunked $10,000 into the Alliance for Jobs and Sustainable Growth’s committee in support of Scott Wiener in D8. He plunked $45,000 into the Alliance’s committee in support of Theresa Sparks in D6. He dropped $45,000 into the Alliance’s committee in support of Steve Moss in D10. And he dropped another $25,000 into San Franciscans for a Better Muni, a committee in support of Measure G, which attempts to reform Muni by focusing on transit operator wages.

As the Guardian previously reported, this Alliance has received thousands from the SF Police Officer’s Association, the Building Operators and Managers Association, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, and SEIU-United Healthcare Workers, which supports a mega-hospital on Cathedral Hill.

But Coates’ donation raises questions about his choices’ commitment to rent control. As Coates told the Chronicle in an interview in 2008, “There is a reason why 35 of 50 states expressly prohibit rent control by law – and the reason is it doesn’t work.”

Coates, who is a principal in Jackson Square Properties, which specializes in apartments and mobile homes, is also the founding partner of Arroya & Coates, a commercial real estate brokerage and investment firm whose clients include Walgreens, Circuit City, and J.P. Morgan Investment Management. And as campaign disclosures show, he’s dumped a large part of his money into the same conservative alliance that has already collectively spent almost $170,000 on Moss, Sparks and Wiener.

So far, labor has countered the Republican money by spending $70,000 in support of Debra Walker in D6 and $90,000 on Mandelman in D8, and the SF Tenants Union has spent a total of $20,000 on mailers opposing Moss, Sparks and Wiener. But collectively the downtown money, which is also being funnelled into several other independent expenditure committees, continues to massively outweigh the progressive bucks.

Coates’ phone line continues to register a “busy” signal, making it impossible to leave him a message, but I’d be happy to include his comments here, if and when I talk to him.

But Gullicksen said he was disturbed by Coates’ heavy spending on the supervisors’ races.

“Coates is the main funder of Prop. 98, his property is in Southern California, he’s pumping a lot of money into supervisors and he clearly has an agenda that we fear Moss, Sparks and Wiener share, which is to make the existence of rent control an issue the Board will take up, if those supervisors are elected.”

It will be interesting to see if Moss, Sparks and Wiener are prepared to pledge that they have no intention to attack rent control….so, stay tuned.

Meanwhile, labor is organizing a protest outside Coates office at 500 Washington Street at 5 p.m on Tuesday, Oct. 26.

“Be there or be evicted!” labor warned.