Campaign reform is like a game of whack-a-mole: Knock down a special interest's ability to influence an election and it pops up somewhere else — in the form of an independent expenditure committee, for example, that doesn't contribute directly to candidates but nonetheless mounts a costly effort on their behalf.
Measure H would ban bidders for city contracts larger than $100,000 from contributing to candidates for city office. "Bidders" would include the chief officers of a company and those who own more than a certain percentage in it. Yet there would be ample wiggle room around its provisions. A company might, for instance, put off any new bids until after the election, or it might form an independent expenditure committee to back a candidate indirectly; courts have ruled that these committees have more leeway in how they spend their money. What's more, Measure H's reach is limited. Current city contractors could contribute as long as they do not have a bid before the city for a new or renewed contract. Unions, which regularly have business with the city, also could donate as long as they are not in the process of bidding on a contract.
In other words, the city would still be a long way from removing conflicts of interest from campaigns. Yet Measure H deserves a yes vote because it takes one significant step in that direction. If there is a group whose contributions present the single biggest potential conflict for city candidates, it is the people or companies that stand to receive direct financial benefits from the decisions that those candidates would make once they reach office.