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Cross-endorsements in San Francisco may violate campaign laws

The New York Times reports: San Francisco's introduction in November of a new municipal election system known as instant runoff voting has hit an unexpected snag with the city's Ethics Commission.

One of the most noted byproducts of the unusual system - cooperation among rival candidates in races for the Board of Supervisors - might be in violation of city and state campaign finance laws. The commission is scheduled to consider the matter on Monday in response to queries from several campaigns worried about the political fallout of possible ethics charges. ...

With the instant runoff in mind, some of the 65 candidates have been identifying their preferences for the second and third slots in their races. Rivals have also held joint fund-raisers, shared Web sites and printed campaign literature that identifies their ranked choices.

But several campaigns have been advised by the Ethics Commission staff that city and state laws appear to ban cooperation among candidates if it involves the expenditure of campaign funds. For example, a candidate can walk door to door with a rival and endorse the rival in conversations with voters, but the candidate cannot print and distribute literature that makes the same endorsement. -- San Francisco's New Election System Runs Into an Obstacle (New York Times)