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Why is Samuel L. Jackson Calling San Francisco voters?

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You won’t believe who called me the other day, Samuel L. Jackson, yes, the famous Hollywood film actor.  Well, he didn’t exactly call me but the robo-call I received from him urging me to vote for the incumbent supervisor of District 5 may have been illegal:

Most of us know by now that with every election comes a sudden influx of campaign phone calls urging us to give money to this campaign or to vote for that candidate or to stop a ballot measure from passing. Many of these calls have real human beings on the other end of the line, and those calls are perfectly legal. Under the law, campaigns are allowed access to the master voter file, which includes the phone number and addresses of every registered voter.

But the robo-calls and their unwanted monologues are far more legally dubious. Sections 2871-2876 of the California Public Utilities Code ban robo-calls under almost all circumstances. While schools and local governments are allowed to use robocalls for community alerts and some companies are allowed to use them to reach their paying customers, everyone is required to initiate all robo-calls by a human being who is required to ask if you consent to hearing a pre-recorded message.

Technically, it’s possible that the voice mail I received from Samuel L. Jackson may be legal as at least one company that’s providing this service seems to have figured out a way to leave a voice mail without my phone ever ringing. Over the past few weeks I’ve mysteriously discovered a few voicemails that suddenly appeared despite my phone having been on and in-service beforehand. Each time it has been from the same number: (900)999-9999, and each time the voice mail has been a political advertisement.

Both Jane Kim and Scott Weiner’s campaigns have left me voicemails through a number of local voices including Deepa Varma, the executive director of the San Francisco Tenants Union who left a voice mail on behalf of the Kim campaign and John Man of the San Francisco Medical Society on behalf of Weiner’s. Even Weiner himself recorded a message for his campaign. Unfortunately, I totally forgot to ask him about the questionable legality of this tactic when I ran into him campaigning on Thursday morning at my local Muni stop.

But Samuel L. Jackson is a strange choice to deliver an endorsement message. While San Francisco is no stranger to celebrity endorsements, the celebrities typically have close ties to the Bay Area or are least bonafide politicians, such as when Al Gore and Bill Clinton lent their support to then Mayoral-candidate Gavin Newsom.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 05: (L-R) London Breed, President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and Ron Conway of SV Angel speak onstage during the TechCrunch 8th Annual Crunchies Awards at the Davies Symphony Hall on February 5, 2015 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

Ron Conway is one of Breed’s big supporters. He is also a pro-development tech investor who bankrolled Ed Lee’s Mayoral Campaign.  SF Progressives are working to defeat London Breed.

Jackson, however, is not a politician, nor does he appear to have a strong connection to San Francisco. A quick internet search suggests he has homes in Los Angeles in New York, and he may have met Breed when he was shooting a movie in San Francisco called Coach Carter.

A quote Sam Jackson gave to Ebony in 2012 may offer some possible clues as to why his endorsement for Breed may be less political and more simplistic.

“I voted for Barack because he was black.  Cuz that’s why other folks vote for other people – because they look like them,” Jackson told the magazine. “That’s American politics, pure and simple.” – Samuel L. Jackson

sam jackson

Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction, 1994

In the interest of disclosure, the author would like readers to know that he lives in District 5 and is a volunteer for the Dean Preston campaign, Breed’s opponent.

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Josh Wolf

Josh Wolf

Josh Wolf is a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker who teaches in the Journalism Department at San Francisco State University. He is also the founder of Breaking Bread, a web site that creates friends out of strangers by sharing a meal.