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Preston Picus Thinks He Can Beat Nancy Pelosi for Congress

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When I was running for mayor of SF I went to the US Conference of Mayors to try and stir things up. I failed at that, but I did get to see some important people speak including Barrack Obama and Nancy Pelosi. A funny thing happened when Pelosi spoke though. She closed by saying how we need to get money out of politics. This was of course ironic because the conference was sponsored by companies like Wells Fargo, Google, Uber, Walmart and Comcast, and she was followed by the head of Kaiser Permanente and a VP of Salesforce.

Preston Picus doesn’t have time for that shit. He so tired of corporate corruption and bribery ruining our political system that he’s decided to fight back by running for Congress. And honestly, he’s got some very good ideas. In fact, he might just be able to beat Nancy Pelosi herself.

Picus is a public school teacher and author who wrote a book called Send Our Reps To Rehab which diagnoses Washington’s money addiction. As a Progressive Independent, he’s proving that one can run a tight campaign without taking huge donations from corporate interests. In fact, he’s only taking donations of $540 or below. And to top things off, he thinks we can save San Francisco.

Read our exclusive interview with Preston Picus below and then go to to donate, get involved, and learn more about his campaign.


Who are you?

I’m a guy that thinks our broken political system is the number one thing threatening our society, our future and our children’s future. I’m a public school teacher for the last 10 years. I’m an author, two novels and a political work about campaign finance reform and corruption. I’m a proud Californian and San Franciscan. I dabble in physics and philosophy and I surf whenever I get the chance out at OB. And at the end of the day I’m a fighter. I’m the guy you want to put in the ring with this corruption. I can knock it out.

What are you running for and what the hell does that job do?

I’m running for Congress, specifically the US House of Representatives. In California we elect 53 of the 435 member of the House, and one of those is elected here, in San Francisco, also known as California’s 12th Congressional District.

The US House, the people’s House of Representatives, is supposed to voice the will of the people through lawmaking, budgeting, oversight, and constituent service. The structure and the powers of Congress are outlined in Article I of the constitution and most legal scholars argue that it is the most important and powerful body in our federal government. Everything our Congress does is supposed to be open to the public and in the interests of our people.

Why are you running?

I’m running because Congress isn’t doing it’s job. Not one bit. It is secretive, corrupt, and dangerous for regular Americans like you and me.

Because our Congresspeople care more about getting big cash donations and bribes than they care about doing their jobs, Congress has become one of the most destructive forces in the lives of regular Americans. There’s a great book on this called Winner Take All Politics that shows how the infection of corruption encourages Congress to steal money from middle income and lower income Americans and give it to the wealthiest 0.01%. Now, because of Congress, our basic economic structure rewards criminal behavior so long as it is on a grand scale and punishes poverty, punishes humanism, punishes being a good person so long as you make less than $10 million a year.

“Our Congresspeople care more about getting big cash donations and bribes than they care about doing their jobs”

What’s your background in politics?

For the last several years I’ve been travelling the country talking about Campaign Finance Reform, or Bribery. I’ve been working with tons of people from dozens of groups who all believe that money has ruined our political system and we have to fight back. So I wrote a short little book called Send Our Reps To Rehab in 2012 in which I argued that Congress is killing us because Congresspeople are addicted to money, because Congresspeople are addicted those campaign bribes, and we need to get them unhooked.

For the last several years people would read the book and then email me and say “Great stuff, but what do we do now?” And I’d say, “vote for small-money, anti-corruption candidates!” And they’d say “Show me one.”

Well, we didn’t have one here in San Francisco, so my wife and I decided we’d take a few years and we’d be that candidate for the people of San Francisco. Even further, we are recruiting talented and motivated anti-corruption candidates across the country to join us.


What’s your strategy for beating Pelosi?

Let’s put the first thing first.

First I have to beat a Republican in San Francisco. That’s right. A Republican in San Francisco. In California we have a top-two open primary, which means on June 7th we hold an election and the top two vote getters move on to November. For the last several years it’s been a contest between Pelosi and a Republican to see who represents the people of San Francisco. What a joke.

When I beat the Republican in the primary and face Congresswoman Pelosi in November it will be a fairly straightforward campaign. We have the numbers. We have the confidence of the people. We don’t take bribes and we aren’t for sale.

And they will have tons of money.

So we get the same fight we’re seeing all over the country: a popular, motivated, small-money campaign of the people fighting against the mechanisms of the political elite and the 0.01% of Americans who fund them.

I’ve already talked to more than 35,000 San Franciscans, and not a single one has said that they enjoy the status quo, that they think Congress is doing a great job and they hope things stay the same. Now it’s our work to convince them to give me a chance, to send me to DC and see what I can do to make Congress listen to the People again. We’ve got more than 30 people actively working with the campaign, another 70 or so that have committed to giving us some time when we get closer to the election. We will contact every single person in San Francisco to deliver our message.

What would it look like to have a progressive in that seat?

Tremendous change. We won’t do business as usual. We will introduce legislation immediately that addresses the overwhelming concern of our citizens to reform a corrupt government, we’ll introduce legislation to make real progress on saving the environment, legislation to address the catastrophic levels of wealth inequality, legislation to do more for folks that make less than $10,000,000 a year and can’t afford to buy a politician.

We won’t take lobby money; we won’t spend time in private jets with Wall Street cronies. We’ll spend our time doing real oversight, following the corrupt actions of folks in Congress, bringing the concerns of our people in San Francisco, regardless of the size of their bank account, to the mechanisms of power in Washington.

Further, with any luck we’ll see Bernie Sanders elected President this year and we’ll be a major supporter of the initiatives he’s bringing to this country. President Sanders will need some support in the House, and we’ll be there for him.

What issues are you most concerned about?

To me, the number one thing is our broken congress and the corrupt system of bribery that subverts our government.

Pollution is out of control, but oil companies spend millions bribing our officials so they won’t do anything about it.

Wall Street is incredibly unregulated and makes massive gambles with money from the American people, but we won’t change that because there are 4 Wall Street lobbyists in DC for every member of Congress.

We need better health care, better education, we need to do better with social services, we need to make sure all of our people are treated equally under the law, but none of that is going to happen when the top 0.01% (people making more than $10,000,000 a year) own almost all of the Congresspeople on both sides of the aisle. The Supreme Court finally got something right with marriage equality, but I won’t rest until all citizens, regardless of color of skin, sexual identity, religion, nationality and wealth are treated equally under the law.


What’s this $540 limit thing?

Did you know that you can just walk into a Congressperson’s office, give her a check for $5,400 and tell her whatever’s on your mind, and it’s not considered a bribe? It’s a donation! That’s just crazy to me.

The median household income in San Francisco is a little more than $70,000, but after taxes the takehome is more like $54,000. That means a ‘regular’ household would have to ‘donate’ more than 10% of their takehome pay just to have the chance of whispering in the ear of our Congresswoman. And that’s without mentioning Super-Pacs!

I don’t want to be beholden to big money, so I limited myself to just 1% of the average household take home, or $540 and I refuse ANY Super-Pac money. Sure we have a lot less money than we could, but it’s been a really good thing to do and I believe we should make this the rule, rather than the exception.

Look, when we fundraise, we know we’re going to need a lot of people to donate a little bit, so we work to get our message out to the people of San Francisco, broadly. When you’re trying to get a bunch of $5,000 donations you change your message and you tailor it to those wealthy enough to afford that kind of big check. That’s where the problem starts. Our Congresspeople, right out of the gates, are much more worried about the needs of the 0.01% than they are about the needs of the rest of us.

I’m not beholden to the super-wealthy,  and I never will be.

What kind of dirt do you wanna put out there about yourself before Pelosi’s camp does it to you?

Oh geez, there’s too much. I was rowdy in college. I was rambunctious until I met my wife and settled down and had my daughter. I’m sure without too much trouble people can find really embarrassing things about me. But I’m not going to address them. I’m tired of politics as reality TV. It’s gone too far. It’s how we got a reality TV star like Trump running for President. The easiest way for the wealthy and powerful to discredit our populism is by pivoting the conversation away from corruption and the needs of the people to a reality-TV circus. I’m sure they’ll be clever about it, but even if it costs me the election I won’t address it. This election has to be about what’s right for our people, about changing our course before these corrupt politicians destroy our city, our state and our country.

Can we save San Francisco?

Absolutely. Look, every day I go to another meeting, another rally, another function where I see 20 or 50 or 200 folks working in solidarity against the corrupt mechanisms trying to shred the fabric of our daily existence. If we could just get all of those folks to come together on some common ground, if we could put these things together and make one big group of thousands, then I think we have a chance. Bernie Sanders is doing this nationally with his candidacy, and I’d like our campaign to do something like this in San Francisco. Our people in this city are a lot more alike than we know, and the systems of corruption and injustice are a lot more vulnerable than they seem. The progressive revolution is coming. I’m just proud to be a part of it.


I wrote this article independently and the facebook ad boost was paid for by the Picus For Congress Committee

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle , "an SF cult hero": SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.