In his heated bid for State Senate, Supervisor Scott Wiener raised more than $1 million by June, making the contest with Supervisor Jane Kim already the most expensive in the history of the seat. Kim won the Primary, taking the lead after a PG&E-backed PAC ad, which I invoke here just to point out that there is a lot (a lot!) of money, often from unexpected places, pouring into this campaign. One such group of benefactors that might seem like strange political bedfellows for Scott Wiener? Strip clubs. Yep, the Chronicle has learned that adult entertainment establishments — from the Gold Club to the Penthouse Club to Kink.com — are behind Wiener, having collectively given $30,000 to his campaign.
There's definitely something amusing about this, maybe because the nearest I can imagine Wiener — a relatively modest political moderate (by San Francisco standards) — getting to a strip club is in the above picture where he's swinging from a pole on Muni. And, as no one will let him forget, Wiener became the butt of nudity jokes thanks to the ban on public nudity he sponsored in 2012.
But political consultant Mark Mosher says there's no funny business regarding the donations from adult entertainment purveyors. “What could be damaging to your campaign in Grand Rapids, Mich., is not something that will bother voters in San Francisco" Mosher, who worked on Senator Mark Leno's State Senate and Assembly campaigns, tells the Chronicle. “If anything, it is representative of how our political and social history evolved. The two people who have held the state Senate seat before this received just as much money from strip clubs, if not more.” Leno, another gay politico, also received strip club cash for his campaigns.
But why Wiener? He gained popularity in local nightlife industry circles thanks to a 2012 call to tally up the economic impacts and benefits of street fairs and late-night businesses in order to counter the so-called War on Fun. Since then, he's followed up with a Late Night Transportation Plan. “Late-night entertainment is part of the heart of our city,” Wiener told the Chronicle. “This is a live-and-let-live city where people understand that entertainment is really important. That’s been the case for many, many years. It’s not a negative like it would be in some areas.”
North Beach strip clubs arguably invented the nudity biz, tracing its philosophy to the lawless Barbary Coast days in the same rough geographic area. Thanks to their long tenure, Broadway establishments know pretty well how to cover their asses, maintaining their reputation and currying community political favor. In 2013, area groups and businesses formed the Top of Broadway Community Benefit District, a nonprofit to share the burden of cleanup and safety in the area.
Joe Carouba, something of the head honcho in the San Francisco stripping business (he's president of BSC Management, which operates many of North Beach's clubs) puts it to the Chronicle this way. "If we are going to make money out of a community, we have a responsibility to give back... [because] of Scott’s keen interest in nightlife, he’s been thrown extra support.”
Just one question, Mr. Carouba. Was Wiener paid in singles?