July 21, 2008
Copyright © 2008 Marc Norton
It was Eric Mar's turn
at the San Francisco Police Officers Association (POA) candidates forum, speaking about his run for Supervisor in the Richmond. For Sergeant Nelson Lum, this was an opportunity to lambast Mar for his vote, as a member of the San Francisco school board, to phase the military's Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) out of the public schools. Sitting with Lum was the venerable Republican Party leader Christopher Bowman.
Lum is one of the principal spokesmen for the campaign that put the JROTC initiative on this November's ballot. Lum is also a 30-year retired veteran of the SF police force, where he was a SWAT sniper and team leader. He was one of five police officials, all either Republicans or "decline-to-staters," appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to a state commission on police training shortly after Schwarzenegger's elevation from movie star to public official.
Chris Bowman, Lum's partner at the POA forum, is a long-time SF Republican Party official, currently the Vice Chair in charge of the local party's precinct operations. He is an Army veteran, whose specialty was Psychological Operations. The lead article on the local party's website whacks the SF school board for abiding by state law and removing physical education (PE) credit from JROTC. "The Stalinists win one," the GOP website proclaims.
Despite over 4,100 deaths of US soldiers since the start of George Bush's war in Iraq, there are still forces, even in SF, that want our public schools used as a recruiting ground for the military. Since Bush took office, federal spending for JROTC recruitment has more than doubled.
Wondering who is paying the piper for people like Lum and Bowman to sing this tune, I took a trip to the Ethics Commission office last week to check on the required filings from the JROTC initiative campaign.
DOWNTOWN PAYS THE PIPER...
What I found is that downtown has its hands all over this thing. The single largest contribution to date is $5,500 from the
SF Chamber of Commerce. Next is $2,500 from the
SF Association of Realtors, and another $2,500 from billionaire financier Warren Hellman. That's about half of all the contributions so far.
One theory making the rounds in SF political circles is that the JROTC initiative is less about preserving JROTC, and more about creating a vehicle for trying to beat up on Mar for his principled stand on getting military recruiters, including JROTC, out of our schools. Looking at the initiative's funding sources, my guess is that the Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Realtors have many things on their minds over and above any desire to preserve so-called "leadership" opportunities for high school freshmen and sophomores. Notably, the Chamber's former
Vice-President, Sue Lee, is running for Supervisor against Mar in District 1.
Still, there are some entities kicking in money with more military things on their minds. For example, there is $1,000 from the US Navy League San Francisco Council which,
despite its name, is based in Penn Valley -- a place I had never heard of until I found it on
a map on Highway 20 between Marysville and Nevada City. There is also $100 from the Reno Council Navy League of the US, also based in Penn Valley, and another $100 from the Marine Corps League in Redwood City. And another cool $1,000 from Nelson Lum's American Legion Cathay Post.
My favorite is $500 from the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, based in Walnut Creek.
And the proponents of this initiative claim that JROTC is NOT a military recruitment program. Oh, yeah, sure.
... AND THE CAMPAIGN PLAYS THE TUNE
The expenditure side of the JROTC campaign has a couple of items of interest as well.
Of course, there is about $9,000 to the required political consultancy, in this case
Johnny Wang, also known as JKW Consulting. Wang did public relations for the hotel bosses during their recent (and failed) battle with UNITE HERE Local 2. According to his website, prior to his political career, Wang "negotiated crude oil contracts and multi-billion dollar projects in the oil, housing and commodities industries."
Wang was also the lead consultant for last year's failed recall drive against Jake McGoldrick, the termed-out Supervisor for District 1 in the Richmond. In 2004, Wang
worked for District 1 also-ran Matt Tuchow. Wang's history of political work in District 1 on the conservative side of the fence suggests again that the JROTC initiative has a significant anti-Mar agenda.
The second largest campaign expenditure is to Quincy Yu, who also happens to be the campaign treasurer. Is that a conflict of interest? The money is listed as going for "petition circulating." Funny thing, the JROTC forces bragged that the petition was a "volunteer" effort by JROTC cadets. The truth is, as reported in the City Star, there were also "some paid staffers" collecting signatures, apparently including treasurer Yu.
Not to be left out, our Republican operative Chris Bowman is owed $200.05 by the campaign for parking expenses while
circulating the petition.
So much for the JROTC drive being all about what is best for "the kids."